About Me

Newfoundland, Canada
I've been a big anime fan for about 10 years or so now. My five all-time favorite animes at this point are, in no particular order... Puella Magi Madoka Magica, El Hazard: The Magnificent World, Love Live!: School Idol Project, The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, and Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha. However, there are hundreds of anime shows that I like. The main purpose of this blog is to provide meta-commentary on anime, and the anime industry - to try to cast a critical, though appreciating, eye upon this entertainment genre that I believe has tremendous potential, but can also be easily wasted. I have always been a fan of animation in general - in the 80s, I grew up on western cartoons like He-Man, She-Ra, Transformers, and G.I. Joe. Through out the 90s, I was a hardcore comic book fan, for the most part. I'm also a big fan of Star Trek. Right now in my life, though, anime is my principal entertainment passion.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sola Review: Part 1

0utf0xZer0 was right. I have already begun to soften on True Tears a bit. So much so that I very recently asked 0utf0xZer0 if he could recommend any other anime to me that was very similar to True Tears. And, amongst a few other titles, he pointed me into the direction of Sola.

One way in which Sola compares favorably to True Tears for me, is that I strongly doubt it will leave me loathing the eventual resolution of a love triangle. I like both of these two characters about equally well:

And it is these two characters that seem to have the greatest likelihood of winning over our airheaded male lead Yorito Morimiya. And I don't say "airheaded" in an entirely derogatory sense here, but largely as a reflection on how Yorito's "head" is constantly focused on the "air" above him. In other words, he is thoroughly enamored with the sky itself, and loves taking pictures of different sky settings.

To completely grasp how deep Yorito's obsession with the sky runs, it is useful to ask "What is Yorito focusing mostly on in this scene?":

Most guys would take notice of the cute girl staring down at him with the puzzled look on her face. But for Yorito, there's nothing as pleasing to the eye as that curvaceous cumulus cloud up there, and the sun peaking out over its cleavage. ;)

And Yorito's love of the sky on days without rain is a constant point of reference in this anime, at least after six episodes in. And, as with my last two series reviews, this one is also done in two parts: Part 1 after six episodes, and Part 2 after the full series. So when reading this review, please keep in mind that it is only for the first six episodes, and that I have yet to see the entire series. Again, I kindly request any comments left in reply to this blog entry to refrain from spoiling me on post-Episode Six developments in the anime. ^_^;;

So, what do I think of Sola so far?

Sola starts up a bit slowly, as many animes of the slice of life or school life variety tend to do. But in Sola's case, this slow start at least adds to the overall sense of mystery and intrigue that gradually grows through out the anime. The slow start also serves well to introduce us to the seven central characters of this anime, and to flesh out four of them: Yorito Morimiya, Matsuri Shihou, Mana Ishizuki, and Koyori Ishizuki.

As of episode six, the other three central characters of Aono Morimiya, Takeshi Tsujidou, and Mayuko Kamikawa are still somewhat shrouded in mystery. Episode six makes some startling revelations pertaining to Aono, and her connection to Matsuri. As such, it is also episode six that managed to perk my interest back up in the overall plot line of Sola.

Sola's plot, in the early going, proceeds at an almost meandering pace, it has to be said. The anime expects patience on the part of its viewer. Thankfully, the characters are intriguing enough that I do not find it particularly difficult to summon forth that necessary patience. It certainly helps that you get a couple of cool combative confrontations between Matsuri and Takeshi early on in the anime.

As far as I can tell, Takeshi is a modern day Simon Belmont, and Matsuri is a "woe of the night", which apparently is meant to indicate that she is not a human, but rather is a little bit like the western conception of a vampire. Matsuri has yet to bare her fangs or feed on human blood, but she sure does love that tomato juice which Yurito thinks tastes horrible. Makes me wonder if she's drinking tomato juice as a less harmful substitute to drinking human blood?

In any event, Matsuri is similar to the traditional vampire in that she is immortal, and in that sunlight burns her. Matsuri also has a strange power that enables her to inflict a sort of rapid necrosis on any object or living thing.

If Matsuri's character is inspired by vampire lore, I like how her creator Naoki Hisoya opted to pick and choose specific vampiric elements to incorporate into her, and not just the beneficial elements like a certain famous novel and movie chose to do with its vampires. ;)

For this makes Matsuri an interesting twist on the classic vampire character model, while still maintaining the tragic and hence compelling elements of that model. Matsuri longs to see the daylight sky and its sun, yet is tragically prevented from doing so due to her inherent nature. This unrealized longing serves as a very effective and believable catalyst for the relationship between Matsuri and our sky-loving friend Yurito.

Matsuri longs to see the daylight sky, while Yurito is utterly enthralled by it and loves taking pictures of it. The two are clearly a match made in Heaven... or, at the very least, a match made in the sky. ;)

Aside from Matsuri's character being inspired by vampire lore, I think I can see some definite anime inspirations for her. Consider the following:

Scared now, good reader? ;)

In all seriousness, though, it does appear that Matsuri and Aono may have been inspired slightly by Ryoko Asakura and Yuki Nagato, respectively. Matsuri is very similar to what Ryoko would be like if Ryoko's fraudulent superficial personality was her real one. And just as Ryoko and Yuki appear to be like normal teenage girls but are actually extraordinary beings, the same holds true for Matsuri and Aono.

Aono's character design, and her ever calm and monotonously soft-spoken nature, reflects that of Yuki Nagato quite a bit as well.

But The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya is not the only anime that appears to serve as a source of inspiration for Sola. Mayuko Kamikawa is practically a homage to Rozen Maiden, while I see slight traces of Maho Shojo Lyrical Nanoha in this anime as well. Yurito's personality reminds me a bit of Yuuno Scrya, while Mana's character design and personality reminds me a bit of Hayate Yagami.

I like Mana's take-charge personality, and how she has clearly taken a bit of a liking to Yurito but doesn't want to fully admit it. Mana is a well-meaning and responsible soul, but perhaps a bit too bossy and intrusive. Altogether, though, I like her a fair bit.

Mana's younger sister Koyori is a substantially humorous and moe character, much in the vein of Fuko-chan from Clannad. As a Marvel and DC comics fan, I used to associate speaking in the third person with megalomaniacal villainy.

Dr. Doom: Doom likes bitter wine!

But thanks to the world of anime, I'm now starting to view speaking in the third person in a very different and rather moe light. Perhaps Victor could peacefully bring his feud with Richards to a close if only he could come to grips with his Koyori side.

Admit it, Doom! You actually like moe!

Koyori's ever apologetic and third person self helps to provide some nice humor in this anime.

This anime in general takes itself fairly seriously, but its humor bits are nonetheless of great quality. They almost always manage to get a loud chuckle or laugh from me. For example, the whole discussion over what Yurito was doing with Matsuri on the futon was truly hilarious for me. Anime tends to do such comedy a lot, but for some reason, it really hit the funny bone with me this time. Perhaps its because the dialogue in this anime often feels very natural, and rarely forced, and this includes comedic moments as well.

What also resonates with me is the sky focus of this anime. Yurito is not a particularly impressive male lead, but I easily relate to him. I very much like brilliantly bright blue skies as well. I also like gazing up at the clouds on sunny days as well. I also tend to dislike long stretches of rain due to how it prevents me from seeing those blue skies and those sunny days. The weather has always affected my moods. There is something about clear blue skies with a few clouds on a sunny day that just feels very life affirming to me. And so Yurito's focus on that, and Matsuri's desire for that, makes it very easy for me to get into this anime. And it's part of what kept me watching through the somewhat slow paced episodes 3 through 5.

One final specific point I'll make concerning this anime is that I like its use of settings in general. The large abandoned church setting really adds to the occasional gothic feel to this anime. It also made for a great place for the first onscreen combat between Matsuri and Takeshi.

The hospital and school settings are both familiar ones for anime as well, and it can help the viewer feel greater sympathy for a sick character if that character is forced to stay in a hospital. As for the school setting, I felt it was nicely utilized in Yurito and Matsuri's late evening, after hours, trek through the school.

All in all, Sola is a solid slice of life anime. A good watch. My one critique is that it can seem a bit meandering at times in the early going, but I have hope that it'll pick up considerably in its second half.

8/10 overall.


  1. When you watch the second half, think of those of us who had to wait a week between episodes during the original airing.;)

    Anyway, I’m glad to hear you’re enjoying Sola because I’m getting the impression you didn’t feel the same way I did about Matsuri and Noe sharing some similarities, and that was one of my main reasons for recommending it. Personally, I think they both have playful, eccentric natures – although Noe is naturally that way (and is definitely the more eccentric), whereas Matsuri strikes me more as deliberately choosing to act that way. One thing I’ve always liked about this show is the way that Matsuri flirts with Yorito – it’s both more subtle and more direct than you get from most girls in these kind of shows. The futon scene is one of my favourites.

    Also surprised not to see a few comments on what you thought might be going on between Matsuri and Aono, but I’m guessing you’re adopting a “wait and see” approach?

    And yes, the first half does have a very strong relaxed/melancholic mood to it, aside from the occasional action bit to keep the viewer on their feet. I love how the show fakes the viewer out with Koyori in episode six, BTW.

    Regarding a Mayuko/Rozen Maiden connection, both shows were animated by Nomad.

  2. 0utf0xZer0 - I do see the similarities between Matsuri and Noe at a personality level. They're both playful and eccentric as you say. And hence I do like both characters a lot. Matsuri strikes me as a more emotionally resilient character than Noe though, which is partly why I'm less worried about Yurito letting her down romantically than I was about Shinichiro letting Noe down romantically.

    Like yourself, I also like how confidently yet subtly flirtatious Matsuri is. It's quite an endearing trait for her.

    As for Matsuri and Aono, I am largely taking a "wait and see" approach. At first glance, they both appear to be very old friends that drifted apart for some reason, and both are different from humans in the same way. There's a mystery there, but I'm willing to wait on it.

    The mystery that I'm more anxious about is finding out how Yurito can be Aono's brother. I'm eager to see how that is explained.