Posted by SuperWooper on 19 October 2019 with categories: Currently Watching:, Hoshiai no Sora

Hoshiai no Sora picks up where Mix left off in terms of character-driven sports dramas. Between those two and Kaze ga Tsuyoku Fuiteiru at the start of the year, we’ve had a strong representative for the genre at all points during 2019. Though it’s just two episodes old, Hoshiai has the potential to be the best of the lot, thanks to the steady pace of its character writing and the lack of shortcuts in its athletics animation. While this episode didn’t have a bombshell ending to match the final moments of the premiere, it pulled its weight by deepening the show’s cast, among several other improvements. This was one of my most anticipated series of the fall, and things are looking good so far, but to put it in tennis terms, it’s still early in the first set.

The major plot this week is Maki’s introduction to the soft tennis club, and to the game of tennis itself. He’s got tons of stamina, and develops a well-formed swing with lightning speed, to the point that I’m doubting whether he’s truly a novice. He goes through the steps of learning from Toma, and asks appropriately amateurish questions along the way, but the fact that he’s immediately better than everyone else on the team is telling. Thinking back to the first episode, he demanded money from Toma to sign up for the club – knowing he had tennis experience in his back pocket might have been the insurance he needed to make such an outlandish bargain. Additionally, he admired Toma’s older brother Ryouma as a child, and we know that Ryouma once played soft tennis himself. Maki’s good conditioning might come solely from his habit of bounding up and down the stairs of his apartment complex, but it’s not hard to imagine that such endurance could stem from elsewhere.

The endurance and stamina I keep mentioning, of course, are on display during the running scene close to the start of the episode, where Maki and Toma assert dominance over their out-of-shape clubmates. All the boys end up collapsing in the same spot and officially welcoming Maki to the group, but his obvious athleticism sets the stage for their resentment in the second half. The way he antagonizes the less talented members of the group leads Toma to believe that it was an attempt at motivation, but I’m not sure about that. The beating that Maki received from his father in the previous episode (he still had a bruise on his cheek at the start of this one) is still fresh in his mind, and his power play at school may be a means of reclaiming dignity in his mind.

Maki isn’t a rotten apple, though – this show is too dedicated to its young characters to label any of them as antagonists. He’s got an unexpected sensitivity to him, as seen in his offer for gay classmate Yuta to become the tennis club’s manager. Maki claims it’s for all the usual reasons, but it seems he wants to give Yuta a chance with Toma. He also sports a visor during the tennis scenes, an article typically worn only by girls. The athletes aren’t the only ones in focus during this episode, however, as gloomy nerd Kanako gets one of its best scenes. In addition to spying on Maki and enduring the teasing of her classmates, we see her at home in her bedroom, sneering at the positive comments her art is receiving on Twitter. This superiority paints a loathsome portrait of her character, though it’s clear she’s shy and lonely, which is part of what drives her to act that way even in private.

As a matter of fact, Hoshiai no Sora has begun to construct a diverse middle school ecosystem for itself. There’s a gay character, a couple of heavyset girls (including the student council president, who busts a move during the dance-tastic ED), an arrogant artist, a flock of bullies, a spirited girls’ team, and a bunch of distinct guys in the soft tennis club. Their conversational interplay was much better this week than last, I found, since it did more than set the table for the series going forward. This time there was a real meat and potatoes plot for them to get involved in – Maki joining the team – and it became clear what kind of temperament each one possesses. Other improvements over the previous episode include the use of music, especially the show’s signature piano arpeggio track (it plays a lot better over tennis rather than dialogue), and animation (the increased focus on athletic form gave the animators a chance to strut their stuff).

There’s even more that I could write about this episode, but I’m tired and I want to go play Link’s Awakening. Next week I’ll be covering both Hoshiai and the long-anticipated return of Chihayafuru. Sports anime all day, baby! See you then.

2 Responses

  1. Avatar Manabu says:

    I kept expecting Maki and Touma to point out that the other team mates haven’t done the full 20 laps… On the other hand, this episode ED surprised in a different way than the first.

    • Avatar SuperWooper says:

      Yeah, the ED was fun! One of my favorites of 2019 so far, along with Kedama no Gonjirou’s and Hitoribocchi’s. Also really liked Mix’s first ED, though it was just a slideshow. What are some of your favorites of the year? (I’m trying to bone up on stuff I’ve missed before I have to vote in three months.)

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