It’ll be more then half-way when this gets posted, but my feelings still stand. I feel like I’m the only blogger still keeping up with this series. I know a fair amount of people back in Fall 2019 gave this series a spin, seeing it was one of the two major sports anime of that season. Most people who were taste testing “Ahiru no Sora”, and “Hoshiai no Sora”, ended up dropping Ahiru in favor of Hoshiai. Or ultimately dropped both, which you know, is fair given personal tastes and things within the community.
Given that I don’t typically do things like first impressions, episodic/weekly impressions, or even seasonal/cour commentary, I wouldn’t be surprised if most people had largely forgotten a) this series exists and is still airing and b) that I am watching it.
To be honest, I didn’t know if I was going to be able to commit to a 50 episode series like this one. I generally shy away from anything too long, simply due to intimidation of time being poorly spent. Or what generally has happened with me and longer running, multiple season sports anime, is that I stop watching after a particular series for whatever reason.
Because despite loving sports anime with all my heart, there’s a lot of reasons that the long term stuff just isn’t my thing. When I look back specifically as to why I stopped watching “Kuroko no Basuke” (KnB), there’s one major reason. It was too damn long for me to sit through three seasons of anime, multiple specials, plus conclusion movies. Instead, I just started reading the manga, eventually overtook where I was in the anime and ‘finished’.
Which is why, a lot of things actually working out for me with “Ahiru no Sora”. The first being, that this anime isn’t being spliced into a billion twelve/thirteen or even twenty-four/twenty-five episode seasons. It’s just full tilt a 50 episode series. How they are going to fit seventeen years worth of manga (the series started in 2003 just fyi), into 50 episodes is beyond me. I’m not particularly worried about that detail yet. I’m excited to see how far we can go in the episodes currently allotted. We’ll have to see when it wraps if another mammoth second season comes out.
Secondly, is pacing. There are a lot of sports series that do not get the chance to properly pace themselves. With such a large episode count from the start, “Ahiru no Sora” hasn’t run into that problem. There are some ‘slow’ or ‘cumbersome’ episodes, which at that point many people made the choice to drop the series. What many of those viewers missed out on was that those slow episodes, later fed into some really great character development milestones. Personally, there’s a lot more satisfaction in seeing a character slowly change over a course of 5 episodes, then having it hammered into them one episode and never talked about again.
Thirdly, the team coming together. Ahiru no Sora does something I have not seen in a long ass time. The team does not magically come together within three to five episodes. Hallelujah! I can not tell you the frustration of watching these teams magically coming together in mere weeks. Forming a team, especially at a school that isn’t seeded or actively recruits players for that sport, can take months, sometimes even years to finally get an even semi-decent combination of players together. Ahiru no Sora doesn’t even have an official basketball team at the start of the story, so trying to magically find a combination of five players, plus reserves was going to take some time. And time it did take, since it’s only in episode 24 that we have our final potential starter. However, there is such satisfaction in finally getting this guy because of the next point…
Established characterization, and character development. This is a big one because I know for a fact this was a huge issue for many at the start. Point blank, a lot of people didn’t like Chiaki because he was the ‘stereotypical pervert’, and on top of that lazy as well. I get it. It didn’t help he’s shown trying to steal women’s underwear, and he’s peeping on the girl’s team. He’s not exactly endearing to a viewer.
(Trust me, rolled my eyes so hard at that too.) Similarly, a lot of people got annoyed with Sora because he’s ‘just another genki boy with the power of believe it on his side’. You’re not going to be surprised by this, but I am here to tell you they do change. Obviously. Just not as quickly as I think many viewers are use to.
While Chiaki doesn’t suddenly become a puritan, he does show that there’s more to him then meets the initial viewing. The man does have some crazy amount of in-born talent for being a point gaurd. Showing it through the frame of being a womanizer pervert isn’t the greatest, but it does catch you off gaurd. It not only establishes something outside basketball for him, but that his talent is real and usable in multiple situations on and off court. Is it tasteful? Perhaps not. Is it a lot of interesting then the boring set-ups reused over and over again (think ball flying at someone’s head type of stuff)? Absolutely.
Similarly, Sora isn’t just another genki boy. He gets hit over, and over again with the reality of his circumstances. It isn’t just from the opposing teams either, Kite
(admittedly my favorite character so far) whose one of the later arriving skilled team mates, regularly makes cutting comments about Sora’s situation. Kite’s not just phrasing it roughly either. Out of all the characters, Kite has the closest exposure to being on a seeded team. So of all characters, Kite has the facts to hit Sora with when the situation calls for them.
It’s one thing to hear it from an opposing team and dismiss it as trash talk. It’s another to know your teammate, how close they got to what you want, and have them ground your ass in reality. That’s way more cutting then the former teammates trash-talking that comes and goes in sports anime.
Another point is the female characters in the series. Madoka, is yes a primary love interest of several players. They’re in high school. They’re in the same sport team, it’s actually normal and natural that this happens. She is way more then that, and even manages more then once to school the team. Even Nanao, who looks like the cutsie type of girl, absolutely schools everyone on the team, when it comes to equipment, training, strategy, and data gathering. The series, surprisingly upon a little double checking, even does what most sports anime fails to do, is pass the Bechdel test between Madoka, her sister (forgot name, but does have one), Yuka Kurumatani, and Nanao, if that’s the sort of thing you’re interested in.
I’d love to talk the inclusion of our newest player, since he’s so good. Like holy fuck, wow, haven’t seen a character type like him in several years of sports anime, but this is getting a bit longer then I intended as just a mid-point series… commentary?
The point of this post, is that I think a lot of people have dropped Ahiru no Sora by this point. Admittedly, it doesn’t start on the best foot forward and trips up a bit early on. Then again, this is the beginning of a team that’s starting from literal ground zero; no established team, no history. Therefore, there’s nothing to lose in and everything to gain by dusting it off and picking up where you left off.