Review of AOKANA: Four Rhythm Across the Blue

Well honestly, all I can think about is getting up there and flying again. I've said it before but I really think the answer is up in the sky.
-Asuka Kurashina

Let me start by saying that this anime entirely betrayed my expectations. In a very good way. When I first saw this anime on Anilist, I thought: "Awesome! One guy and 4 other girls as main characters. Another love comedy which I can delve into and find a great waifu and some wholesome moments!" Oh boy was I wrong. Don't get me wrong, I always welcome romcoms, because they really are great in my opinon, even if they feel lacking in terms of writing. But this anime felt so refreshing to watch. The reason is because there was no romance in it!

This VN adaptation felt right compared to the other VN adaptations I've watched. I have to say: massive respect to the production community! They were given 12 episodes to cover a whole VN's worth of story. Now, I haven't read the VN so I can't compare it to that, but the original VN surely had romantic plotlines which haven't appeared here. Why? It's simple: because a VN can have multiple endings while in an anime, this is hard to achieve. You could follow an omnibus format like Amagami SS did but that's a bit hard to pull off. You could bridge this gap by showing MC-kun having romantic moments with the other heroines but then the viewer would lose this feeling of fulfilment as there would be no conclusion to the romantic plotline. And adapting only one route would be bad, because the main reason this anime was created is to pull in potential readers who would love to try the VN, so showing off every heroine's lovely side is really a must at this point.

They instead chose to focus on a main message, which you can guess from the quote I put up there, all the while using every heroine to their full potential and showing how amazing each of them is. They brilliantly showed off what mindset to have when you're competing with someone. And that brings us to the story of AOKANA. Be aware, from this point on I will litter some spoilers here and there to back up my claims!

Characters/Story:

Now, I'm really only looking at two things when watching a show:

  1. How well the writer treats his/her characters
  2. The message it conveys

If you watch this show with the same expectations as I did then you might think: Where the heck is MC-kun -or Masaya? He was almost completely absent throughout the show and barely made any impact. This was in my opinion the show's greatest weakness. They got so caught up in showing off every heroine that it felt like they just forgot about him. Which is really sad as I imagine he had a really interesting story to tell too. But such is the cruelty of having to deal with a humongous story in 12 episodes. So I won't be too harsh on them for this. He was great, mysterious and dependable when it was needed so he was a cool guy all in all.

On the other hand, one thing they did amazingly is how they dealt with the main heroines. Each of them had their moments, maybe the only exception would be Rika but that too can be blamed on the limited time the studio was given. Although she did catch my interest when she was helping Mashiro get through her slump so there's that. But nothing more unfortunately.
The dynamic they established with the main trio (Asuka, Mashiro and Misaki) was lovely to watch. They helped each other grow as a person and the love between them was palpable even to the viewer. It was all fun and games until problems rose to the surface as each of the three's worries became the show's main focus by showcasing their feelings in great detail. These worries clashed together (especially Misaki's and Asuka's) and at the end, they reached a conclusion which then became the main message of the story. This way of showcasing their struggles and all their efforts while showing their emotions behind their every action is something I truly adored and as such, I came to love every character.

A lot of competion focused anime tries to tackle the dilemma of the main message: How can it be conveyed? How can one bring about such conclusion all the while also having the viewer experience a sense of closure?
This is, in my opinon, the ultimate hurdle which decides the fate of the show whether it'll be forgotten or revered for ages to come. The message of "never giving up", "having fun" and "always giving it your best" is so common in anime that it's almost a cliché. So conveying it in a way that is unique to the show while also making it believable is not an easy task. But surprisingly, AOKANA managed to pull this off pretty great, I think. They did this by, as I mentioned earlier, showcasing the feelings of each character and having them reach an answer by helping each other. The characters realized their problems and obviously each of them had a different approach to dealing with them. Neither of them were perfect, but by sharing their thoughts and coming to truly understand each other, they found the light, leading them to the conclusion. Other than being lovely to watch them care for the other, it was truly impactful and made my experience that much better. It felt like after all these years, finally, I truly took this message of having fun while doing my best to heart.

Conclusion:

AOKANA is a great anime that betrayed my expectations completely and felt great to watch. The dynamic between the characters and message it conveyed was really beautiful. So just because I'm really, really biased, I will give it a perfect score of 100. If you're thinking of watching AOKANA, then do it, what are you waiting for? It's damn great.

Thank you for taking the time to read my review!

100 /100
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