Is this the hinge episode, where all anime comedies start transitioning to becoming More Serious?
Sora no Manimani is this season’s sleeper show. Aside from a burst of initial fangirling, there hasn’t been much written about it on the blogosphere; for the most part, it’s because the dynamics of the show haven’t changed much so far. Also, fansubs seemed to have slowed considerably, which suggests the show is losing steam popularity-wise. In a way, it’s understandable. The show would never win any awards for uniqueness, with its standard love triangle setup and slapstick comedy. The glomping and facial expressions are lively, and still funny to me, but I can see why some may tire of them.
The backyard amateur astronomy is perhaps the only thing special about the show, a matter on which I am biased: I love stargazing, and am just as enthralled in real life as the characters as they gaze at the animated cloud of the Milky Way. There was definitely some care taken in making sure the basic details are accurate, such as the need for the eyes to adjust to the dark, covering a flashlight with red paper, even the position of constellations at certain times of the year. More importantly, the show effectively captures the wonder of stargazing, and it would be no surprise to me if, in the same way various instrument companies sponsored K-ON! and Nodame Cantabile, telescope companies sponsored this show too. (Tip: you don’t even need a telescope to get started. A star map, an inexpensive pair of binoculars, and a place with low light pollution are enough.)
Anyways, on to the episode itself. The episode proceeds in the usual manner for romantic comedies that are transitioning more toward the romance and away from the comedy: a tense “confession” scene, a wistful dialogue under the night sky, some quieter moments. Earlier, in a previous episode, we had a hint of something up with Mihoshi when she reacted strangely to a request to say hello to her parents. My favorite character continues to be Hime, however, though her cause is certainly hopeless. She’s the one demanding some level of emotional honesty between Mihoshi and Saku; she’s the one who is actually slowly learning to appreciate the night sky, something being in the astronomy club is supposed to be for. Her facial expressions are hilarious. As for the other main girl, the Literature Club president, I had no idea there were still so many readers left in high schools, though I am not entirely surprised that almost all of them are girls. It’s been shown that the majority of novel buyers are women.
The problem with these kinds of shows is that the character arcs are often mindnumbingly predictable. The president’s heart will eventually soften, and most likely turn to love, for Saku. Hime will feel pain but eventually give up and pair up with someone else. The main couple will realize their feelings for each other, which is plainly obvious to everyone else and the audience from the get-go. All while under what is, really, the fairly conventional romantic setting of the starry night sky. Only the specificity of that setting is unique. Of course, these “easy to watch” shows aren’t meant to challenge; they’re supposed to be familiar and comforting, with perhaps the main point being the silliness and glomping and the shipping.*
So, with my melancholic frame of mind, it would asking too much for them to show the other reaction that some people, especially our forebears, had to the stars: a feeling of lostness and even fear at “the eternal silence of these infinite spaces” (Pascal). Then again, the show’s translated title is “At the Mercy of the Sky,” which in English at least portends something darker than this fun and peppy show might suggest. Our ancestors often saw omens in the constellations and signs of both doom and luck. That’s not a foreshadowing of this show’s eventual outcome, right?
Somehow I doubt it. And frankly I’m getting tired of anime that pulls that trick. I prefer the honesty of a Tokyo Magnitude 8.0 these days over the switcheroo plots of Trigun or School Days or Shuffle!. To me it’s become a crude device and a play for unearned sympathy. Yes, real life can turn on a dime–something happened today at work that showed me how true that is–but it’s rare to see anime handle the transition well. Sometimes I just want, to nick a phrase from another show that did it right, light and fluffy time. Sometimes the only mercy I want is mercy from dying of laughter. No, this show hasn’t come to that level, yet. But at least it’s in the same ballpark.
*Is it really the glomping that’s so adorable? I have this potentially offensive theory that Mihoshi is popular not just because she’s cute and childlike, but also because she resembles the platonic ideal of fangirling behavior: glomping, squeeing, etc. Especially at cons, and over not just a guy but practically anything that tickles the fancy. Amirite? If I’m not, or maybe especially if I am, please don’t kill me :)