AOKANA: Four Rhythm Across the Blue

AOKANA: Four Rhythm Across the Blue

img_4119.jpegThe Kunahama Institute is one of the first schools in the world to give out special anti-gravity footwear to its students. This invention has effectively changed the way people in the world function, altered their daily routine. Students can now fly across the sky to get to school, getting places faster and easier. There is also a new sport based on the invention of these so-called Grav-Shoes named ‘The Flying Circus’. Cue the arrival of new student Asuka Kurashina, who has always dreamt of being able to fly. Finding herself quickly mixed up with students who seem to have mastered this particular ability already, Asuka is determined to overcome all barriers as she tried to integrate and thrive in this new environment with her fellow students.

img_4120.jpegBeginning with pastoral flashbacks of Asuka’s, we see her as a lonely yet determined girl whose biggest dream is being able to fly just like she sees the birds do. We also have the classic ‘hand reaching towards the sky’ shot to further hammer home those wistful aspirations. Then, switching back to the present day, we see Asuka dashing to her first class at the Kunahama Institute. She drops her keys in her rush and, while she frantically searches for them, Masaya Hinata appears on the scene in order to introduce himself as the male protagonist (not literally, but you get the idea). He’s accompanied by schoolmate Misaki Tobisawa, a girl who struggles with mornings and has a curious quirk of ending many of her sentences with nyan. I’m guessing this is to make her sound more cat-like. When Asuka finds her keys, the three aim to start flying to school, but there’s only one problem – Asuka has no idea how to. Cue Asuka having to be dragged through the air by Misaki and Masaya in order to prevent her from being late.

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Misaki and Masaya find themselves appointed to teach the clueless Asuka how to fly. After she gets over her initial fear and becomes accustomed to the Grav-Shoes, she starts to get the hang of it. No sooner has she mastered the very basics than Reiko Satouin from a rival school literally flies in acting superior, talking down Kunahama Institute and bragging that she is the best Flying Circus player on the scene. Of course, having no idea who this girl is (or what Flying Circus is, for that matter), Asuka challenges Reiko to this strange new game in order to maintain the good name of her school as if she were some kind of cliche shounen protagonist. Idealistic newbie versus seasoned expert – who will win?

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Well, Reiko does, but Asuka somehow manages to pull back a point by performing a complex move on Reiko which makes Masaya wonder if the klutzy Asuka really might have some potential as a Flying Circus team member. So far, the episodes have mostly been school-life interactions and new characters alongside going into more depth about Flying Circus, how to use Grav-Shoes and Masaya’s past.

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Even after the first episode I saw that Aokana had its own kind of charm. We have an instantly loveable group of characters that offer up slice-of-life school time alongside sport and potential drama/romance. The very nature of the anime lends itself to some beautiful vistas and intricate animation sequences that I couldn’t help be impressed by. The soundtrack is solid and I really appreciate the details in the character designs. I always notice (and enjoy) when characters change outfits and hairstyles. It shows a certain dedication to realism and an acknowledgement of the fact that teenage girls don’t just have one outfit or hairstyle – even if they are Japanese schoolgirls and spend a lot of time in uniform.

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The only thing I would point out is there is a bit of an information dump on you in the first couple of episodes where the characters struggle to explain the concepts and rules of Flying Circus enough that you can understand it without impacting on the pace too much. I still don’t completely understand it myself. But though I found myself distanced from this anime by that at first, I was quickly drawn back in by the characters and the fantastic animation and flying scenes. They truly have set up a great world and introduced a concept that would appeal to many people. After all, who wouldn’t want to be able to fly if they were able?

Aokana was rumoured to be one of the big hitters of this season, so I’m keen to see what new ideas and concepts are brought in later on in the season alongside new rivalries, higher stakes and a potential love interest to keep me completely engaged.