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.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sola Review: Part 2

The Beauty of Fan and Promotional Art:
It Need Not Reflect the Actual Plot Whatsoever.



Watching Angel Beats!, True Tears, and Sola over the past few weeks has taught me a lot about anime.

Its taught me about how even short anime series' can do, and often do, a complete and dramatic 180 in overall mood, feel, thematic drive, and plot direction. Indeed, the first half of each of these three anime series bears little resemblance to its second half, aside from the presence of the same characters themselves. And given how drastically many of those characters change (think of Yurippe in the final episode of Angel Beats!, or Yurito in this anime), even this presence of the same characters in name and appearance can provide little sense of continuity or permanence.

How fitting then that Matsuri and Yurito sacrifice a kind of permanence - permanence in the form of immortality - in order to end their lives.

However, that is the only way that their decision seems fitting to me.


I know that many of us anime fans like to think of ourselves as very open and broadminded people. A certain degree of broadmindedness is required to appreciate the heritage, nuances, and inherent differences of a foreign culture, after all. In this case, the foreign culture is the culture of Japan, and it is that culture which gave rise to anime, and hence it is that culture which influences anime as profoundly as Matsuri influenced Yurito in Sola.

But be that what it may, I have to be honest here. The choices made by Matsuri and Yurito in this anime seem insane, if not unbelievable, to me. They go beyond the reaches of how broadly my mind is willing to spread.

The actions and thinking of Matsuri and Yurito in Sola are truly befuddling to me. It is hard to make sense of. Perhaps something is lost in cultural translation, but nonetheless, I am left finding the plot of Sola almost impossible to swallow. This is not because of its metaphysical or Yaka elements. Indeed, that is easy for me to accept compared to what I can only view as severe character derailment.


Consider that near the beginning of Sola we see Matsuri actively struggle for her life against the aggressive Takeshi. Matsuri later tries to avoid being killed by Aono as well.

These are not, of course, the actions of a suicidal person.

Quite the contrary, they're the actions of a person who wishes to survive, and who desires to keep living.

What, over the course of Sola, would lead Matsuri to want to throw away her life? Just what changed along the way? If it was a sense that her love for Yurito would forever go unrequited, then the anime failed to convey that. Aside from that, I see no plausible answer that makes sense to me.

For by all accounts, Matsuri appears content, if not cheerful. She often smiles, and is rarely portrayed as melancholic. Her honest yet subtly flirtatious nature is nothing if not life affirming. There are sources of sadness in her life (primarily her inability to go outside on a clear sunny day), but by all outwards appearances, she copes with it rather well. So why the sudden desire to end her life?

The answer "She wanted to help Aono" can be offered up, but this rings hollow to me. Aono, by her own words, just wanted to keep living a peaceful life alongside her recreation of Yurito. If Matsuri's goal in taking her own life was chiefly to help Aono, then she was taking a rather huge gamble, as her efforts could have backfired, and nastily. The "last time" Yurito died, Aono soon after committed suicide.

Try as I might, I find Matsuri's sudden desire to end her life to be exceptionally difficult to accept. It is such a drastic 180 from Matsuri's earlier attempts to avoid death.


In the case of Yurito Version 2.0... I can understand him undergoing an existential crisis of sorts. It can't be easy to find out that you are both a living puppet, and a clone.

Nonetheless, Yurito Version 2.0 thinks, and therefore he is. Whatever the precise nature of his being may be, he still is his own self. He still is a sentient being. He still has some degree of independence, as his thoughts often run contrary to what Aono would like them to be.

Beyond that, he has people who intensely love and care for him.

Such as one of the best best friends I've ever seen in anime


This girl is simply phenomenal. If Yurito Morimiya was Ichigo Kurosaki, then Mana would be Chad and Orihime rolled into one. I'm 110% sure that she'd literally take a bullet for Yurito. Then she'd proceed to take a sword slash in place of Yurito. Then she'd proceed to race off to get help for Yurito while bleeding half to death, and she'd make sure that she had reached that help before collapsing. If certain members of the Montreal Canadiens had Mana's heart, dedication, and character, I'd be cheering a Habs Stanley Cup win right about now. You go to war with people like Mana Ishizuki leading or cheering on the cause.

And Yurito is utterly blind to how he has such an incredible friend in Mana. A real friend too, as I think her friendship feelings for Yurito ran even deeper than romance. This is reflected in how she helped Yurito reunite with Matsuri, when Mana suspected that this would mean Yurito and Matsuri becoming boyfriend and girlfriend. Mana didn't care. She just wanted to help out her friend Yurito, no matter what. Again, what an incredible friend.

One of the great tragedies of Sola is that Yurito is beloved by many people, and yet he seems to not care about that at all. He is truly, sincerely, beloved. At some basic level, who cares if he's a clone and a puppet? The people who love him don't care, so why should he?

In a way, I'm actually glad that Mana's memory of Yurito is wiped clean. She doesn't deserve to live a life of anguish and regret over Yurito deciding to get himself killed. She deserves better than that, and thankfully, she did get better than that. Still a bit of a shame that all of her herculean efforts for Yurito's sake came to naught, though.


Just to be clear, I get what Sola is aiming for. The idea is that Aono needs to move on with her life, and not be so obsessed over Yurito (either version). But that doesn't make Matsuri and Yurito's decisions to kill themselves any easier to agree with, and I don't agree with it. Both seemed to be leading fairly happy lives, and in Yurito's case he had a passion in his life that really added a great deal of serenity into his life. It just makes such little if any sense for them to throw it all away. This really does seem like character derailment to me, I have to be frank.


Thankfully, Mana's voice of sanity is added to by at least three others:



These three characters just want to lead full, happy lives while maintaining close friendships.

Takeshi, you're the ultimate hero of this work. You stayed by your close childhood friend, even as you age and she remains a perpetual youth trapped in the darkness. You did almost everything to free her of the Yaka curse. Only she herself refusing the gift caused you to cease your pursuit of freeing her from that curse. I'd love to watch a Sola spin-off focusing on "Dandy Goatee" man, Mayuko, and Mr. Goatee's new waitress girlfriend. ;)

Mayuko, you protected Matsuri from Takeshi even when him slaying her would have freed you from the Yaka curse. Your protection of her was selfless, and caring, without being suicidal.

Koyori, you just wanted everyone to stay together and keep being friends. As such, you are a good girl.


Simply put, I do not think there was any compelling enough reason for Matsuri and Yurito to take their lives as they did. Yes, Sola ultimately ended up happily for Aono, Mana, and Koyori, but who's to say that things wouldn't have been even happier with those three along with Matsuri and Yurito there? Besides, the ending of Sola is a case of writer's fiat, really. It could have very easily been a tragic end for Aono, and a much more lonely one for Koyori and Mana.


Now, my criticisms of the plot resolutions and character derailment aside...

The action scenes of this anime were marvelous. Aono, Matsuri, and Takeshi all looked very impressive and evenly matched in combat. The action felt dramatic, and meaningful, with important outcomes riding on how they were resolved.

Episode 9 in particular was magnificent for the combats therein. I'll probably end up watching that one again, and soon.

The final confrontation between Aono and Matsuri had some excellent scenes in it. I very much liked the portion of the battle that took place in an abandoned movie theater. When the film footage started rolling unexpectedly, only to show scenes of a shimmering sky setting, that was a very nice touch. That was a master stroke, I have to admit. I loved how it stopped Matsuri in her tracks, and broke all the tension in the combat. There were moments of inspired brilliance in the anime.

Unfortunately, the anime also has several holes and weaknesses to it.


For what it's worth to 0utf0xZer0, this ending didn't sadden me as much as True Tears' ending did. Nobody was hurt in the conclusion of Sola who didn't bring that hurt upon themselves. Memory wipes tend to be very intellectually unsatisfying to me, but they're not as emotionally jarring as seeing Noe go through what she did in True Tears. And in this case, if not for the mind wipe, Mana would probably have been as hurt as much as Noe was.

But I do feel that the tale of Sola is a hard one to swallow at a basic believability level, and hence, like the picture that I opened up this blog with, I will dwell more on the characters as how I think they should have turned out than how they actually did in this anime.


7/10 for a memorable ride, but no more than that due to how the plot ultimately unfolded.

4 comments:

  1. I’ve always had mixed feelings on these last few episodes: they’re beautifully done but Yorito and Matsuri’s actions are hardly endearing.

    However, I think that Matsuri and Yorito’s actions make a lot more sense if you make one assumption: that letting Aono be means they can’t be together. Now granted, they’re screwed either way since if Aono dies or is badly injured, Yorito also dies. But I get the impression that Matsuri did what she did in large part because she didn’t want to be alone again. When she delivers her ultimatum to Aono in episode 12, her lines imply that meeting Yorito made her aware of her own loneliness again. So she in fact isn’t quite the same person she was at the beginning of the show.

    This also helps explain Yorito’s actions: he loves Aono and wants to help her, but Matsuri is the one he wants to be with.

    (This being said, there is one factor that can affect my interpretation: whether or not Matsuri planned to sacrifice herself from the beginning or whether she decided to do so as a final “gift” after the projection reminded her of the time she spent with Yorito and Aono in the past. If the latter is the case, then Matsuri never intended to kill herself, just to weaken Aono to the point where she can no longer sustain her Yaka powers. In that case her thinking is more “I’m going to be alone either way, so I might as well force Aono to face reality”.)

    So to me their actions make sense, although it took me a while to piece everything together. And it fits with the themes of the show too, since Sola is actually Latin for “alone” if I remember correctly. That said, I’m still not a big fan of these episodes because ripping someone out of their happy fantasy is more than a bit cruel, and I've never been big on no-win scenarios either. Plus, I can’t help but think that all of this could have been avoided if Matsuri had simply agreed to live with Yorito and Aono like Aono implied was a possibility back in episode 6 rather than disappearing. Granted, I suppose one could argue that Aono is a ticking Yandere time bomb in that scenario – it is her making Yorito stab Matsuri that pretty much makes this option a no-go later on, but still…

    Despite this, I still consider Sola one of my favourites. The fact I watched it when it aired back in 2007 may help a bit here – I had to wait a week to find out what happened after those cliffhangers, so the buildup to the final conflict – a section I enjoyed quite a bit - was probably more notable to me. Plus, Aono’s paper powers were pretty awesome.

    One thing is for sure: I wouldn’t mind seeing more “subtle but charming” types like Matsuri in anime. We have been getting a few more playful flirts recently, but they’ve tend to be a lot more brute force in their approach - Hitagi and Kampfer’s Shizuku come to mind.

    Also:
    “I'd love to watch a Sola spin-off focusing on "Dandy Goatee" man, Mayuko, and Mr. Goatee's new waitress girlfriend. ;)”

    Said waitress actually tried to take a pass at him in the first DVD-only (which is a pool episode that fits roughly in the middle chronologically).

    ReplyDelete
  2. A romance angle plus "we need to help Mana move on" could work for me. I could see that. Then this adds a touch of Romeo and Juliette to it, and actually might be a bit of a romantic tragic masterpiece.

    If Matsuri's thinking is "I want to be with Yurito, but Aono will never let me, and I have no desire to live on alone, so I might as well give a final gift to Aono to help her move on in life and end my loneliness" then that at least makes sense.

    I'm against suicide in general, euthanasia notwithstanding perhaps, but Matsuri's rationale here would at least make sense. It would be believable.

    And, if the romantic feelings are mutual, it would make sense for Yurito as well.

    In which case, Aono kind of brings this on herself by trying so hard to cut off Matsuri from Yurito. I have to admit that I was not fond at all of how Aono became really clingy of Yurito in Episodes 7 through 10 or so, and also tried to impede his romance with Matsuri and his friendship with Mana.

    Now, I came to like Aono by the end of the anime, but I just didn't like how she wanted Yurito all to herself. Seemed a bit excessive to me.


    But yeah, if we go with the Yurito/Matsuri romance angle, then Sola probably goes from 7/10 to 8/10 or even 9/10. There is a lot to like in the anime. I do get how watching it on a week-by-week basis could built up a lot of suspense and eager anticipation. The anime certainly never loses your interest.

    Maybe its only flaw is not explicitly spelling out that Yurito and Matsuri are doing this, in large part, for the same reasons that Romeo and Juliette killed themselves.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Sola. If I recall, it was voted the best anime of 2007 in Japan in a poll which I saw on Danbooru. Not sure how reliable this is though.

    Apologies for replying late and not on part I, had lasek surgery which left me somewhat unable to use my eyes for a few days. Will make up by commenting on both part I and part II :)

    I’m with the majority consensus that the highlight character of Sola was Matsuri. This is because she is the “prototype” or “blueprint” character to what has been my favourite anime character for about 2 ½ years now:

    http://anime.prototype27.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/yuuko1.jpg

    Both Yuuko and Matsuri were drawn/designed by Naru Nanao, both have long purple hair, both have similar personalities, both have a mysterious aura about them, and both are supernatural beings. As you can see, there are very many similarities between the two and hence, found Matsuri to be a solid character. The difference I found between the two is that Matsuri seems to be more passive and flirtatious, whilst Yuuko is more active and direct but at the same time restraining in a way in a way that entices the romantic interest to be associated with her (there’s a term for this that doesn’t click at the moment… and it’s not “hard to get”)

    The other character that I found interesting was Takeshi. Although his “quest” to destroy one to save another is nothing too creative, he didn’t act in a shonen-esque where one would go all out and rage-charge at its arch-enemy out of pure hatred. Instead, Takeshi was more reserved, calm and simply had a end that he wanted to meet - his belief that by killing Matsuri , he could save Mayuko. Despite being somewhat cliché, I still do like the idea of childhood friends staying and acting for one another, which a lot of animes tend to seem to destroy.

    I had neutral opinions of the other major characters: Yorito, Mana and Aono. I would however like to add that Koyori is adorable and moe, particularily when her sister would “Mana-chop” her if she didn’t call her sister onee-chan :P. Initially, added to the relaxing and light-hearted atmosphere during the first half of sola.

    As for the animation and musical component, they were pretty solid. Nothing outstanding, but was at the very least above average. However, one piece of musical composition did stand out, which was the ep1 prologue (Binkan na Fuukei):


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPN8M8jWdyc

    Story/Plot. This is where I had mixed opinions. Partly was due to my expectation of the series. After watching the first part of sola, I was expecting a similar romance/drama/slice of life plotbase with a supernatural action touch, but instead the supernatural/action elements became the dominant force. I very much enjoyed the first half of Sola due to its relaxing and light-hearted nature, much like I enjoyed the first half of True Tears.

    However, by the second half, some of the shifts in plot or character development seemed a bit too drastic or nonsensical. As 0utf0xZer0 said, Aono seemed to become obsessed with Yorito, to the point where she would physically harm anyone (namely Matsuri) who would turn Yorito against her. Second, the fact that both Matsuri and Yorito ended their lives left a bitter aftertaste – particularily Matsuri, which I already said was my favourite character in the series. I guess this is akin to Noe losing out in the love triangle.

    The resolution I did like though, was Takeshi’s and Mayuko’s. Takeshi although wishing for Mayuko to be normal declined when Mayuko told him that it wasn’t her wish, which Takeshi agreed to and finally was able to accept Mayuko for who she is.

    I also agree that the final battle between Matsuri and Aono was visually fantastic – like 0utf0xZer0 I liked the idea of using paper as a weapon ^^.

    Overall, I would give Sola 7/10. Probably would have been a 7.5 or 8/10 if it wasn’t for such a “copout” ending. I do admit that there is some viewing order bias as I did watch Sola after True Tears and ef, and compared to these two it does pale in comparison.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Sola. If I recall, it was voted the best anime of 2007 in Japan in a poll which I saw on Danbooru. Not sure how reliable this is though.

    Apologies for replying late and not on part I, had lasek surgery which left me somewhat unable to use my eyes for a few days. Will make up by commenting on both part I and part II :)

    I’m with the majority consensus that the highlight character of Sola was Matsuri. This is because she is the “prototype” or “blueprint” character to what has been my favourite anime character for about 2 ½ years now:

    http://anime.prototype27.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/yuuko1.jpg

    Both Yuuko and Matsuri were drawn/designed by Naru Nanao, both have long purple hair, both have similar personalities, both have a mysterious aura about them, and both are supernatural beings. As you can see, there are very many similarities between the two and hence, found Matsuri to be a solid character. The difference I found between the two is that Matsuri seems to be more passive and flirtatious, whilst Yuuko is more active and direct but at the same time restraining in a way in a way that entices the romantic interest to be associated with her (there’s a term for this that doesn’t click at the moment… and it’s not “hard to get”)

    The other character that I found interesting was Takeshi. Although his “quest” to destroy one to save another is nothing too creative, he didn’t act in a shonen-esque where one would go all out and rage-charge at its arch-enemy out of pure hatred. Instead, Takeshi was more reserved, calm and simply had a end that he wanted to meet - his belief that by killing Matsuri , he could save Mayuko. Despite being somewhat cliché, I still do like the idea of childhood friends staying and acting for one another, which a lot of animes tend to seem to destroy.

    I had neutral opinions of the other major characters: Yorito, Mana and Aono. I would however like to add that Koyori is adorable and moe, particularily when her sister would “Mana-chop” her if she didn’t call her sister onee-chan :P. Initially, added to the relaxing and light-hearted atmosphere during the first half of sola.

    As for the animation and musical component, they were pretty solid. Nothing outstanding, but was at the very least above average. However, one piece of musical composition did stand out, which was the ep1 prologue (Binkan na Fuukei):


    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPN8M8jWdyc

    ReplyDelete