Fall 2019 Week 5 Roundup: the abuse storylines of Hoshiai no Sora and Average Isekai

Weekly Roundups are a new post where I cover some of the recent events in the seasonal anime I’m watching.


Hoshiai no Sora’s down-to-earth reality of overcoming trauma

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Hoshiai no Sora Episode 1 Review

Insofar as my opening post (despite my playing coy with spoiler-free territory) I applauded Hoshiai no Sora for this; the show just breathes. Barring the overly-villainous one-liners from the Student Council President on the far backline, the dialogue has this natural quality to it, and every screenplay has a tactile understanding of its cast – Yuuta, in the background, hoovering Maki’s flat to thank him for cooking, or the tiny gulp before Touma asks if Maki needs help, or all of Mitsue’s idiosyncrasies and flipbook art… the show is bursting with personality.

And it’s using that life-like atmosphere to tell an extremely real story of abuse.

I was a little hesitant to give much credit to Hoshiai no Sora. To paraphrase myself in the episode 1 review, I claimed it was neglecting its side-plots. The scene of Maki cowering in fear at his biological father’s clenched fists was powerful, but it was hard to tell, firstly, how this would blend into the larger storytelling of the tennis club’s projected zero-to-hero tournament run, and secondly, if the show was even interested in its other plots. A few more episodes in, I am glad to give a much more positive verdict: Hoshiai no Sora is already one of the strongest shows of the season.

The previous episode featured a rather perfunctory traipse down a side character’s backstory, where they too had a parent (this time, a mother) who abused them. The show’s strong writing managed to salvage how OTT it all probably should have been, but still felt a little wasteful. This episode is more interested in ‘the good times’, which makes its stinger all the more foreshadowed and the episode, not just the living life, breathe. Maki switches up the pairings, and the group find their confidence. Perhaps Maki’s deus-ex-machina level of skill and smarts are in conflict, but watching the group pick themselves up with barely-even a push was honestly a smile raising event. So, naturally, Maki’s father arrives in a stinger to crush our hopes once more.

As an aside, there’s just one scene I’d like to draw attention to. It’s a bit of a meme in these sorts of shows that everybody has some sort of trauma or abusive family. We actually saw a snippet of Takuto, the one boy now without a pair, going home and being coddled by his mother. It’s a much happier situation, but still an unhealthy one, and I am welcoming Hoshiai no Sora to extend its storytelling beyond simple physical abuse, and enter into a much more complicated discussion on childhood.


Watashi… Average Isekai, tries to do something a little less average

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Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo ne! Episode 1 Review

Much like W… Average Isekai, I’m gonna be going to the bottom of the barrel for this quip: it’s just a bit average. Its artistic qualities are barely capturing the action sequences but are otherwise mildly acceptable, and its narrative is one you’ve seen dozens of times before. But its jokes are such a random hodgepodge of chuckle-worthy, cringe-worthy or downright detestable – and every mention of the 12 (or, perhaps 13) year old protagonist’s breasts, or these random onlooking men (and sapphic women) scurrying to call them cute is something that fills me with discomfort. And, in its opening episode, the show was quite happy to comically depict rape, and in this episode, tries to make light of sexual enslavement. Really? What? If the show stopped with all the attempts to be ‘naughty’, I’d probably hand over a passing grade for its fun meta humour.

Alas! This week was different… for a little bit anyway. The show actually dropped the attempts to make anything and everything funny with no reasonable grounds or talent to do that, for a moment, in its fourth episode. While the group are protecting travelling merchants, they’re attacked by a group of overly skilled bandits. Reina, the supposedly tsundere fire wizard of the group, goes to take on the leader. Who summons a mech, which is pretty funny and had both me and my meta-stand-in, Mile, pretty excited. However, after the Big Bad offhandedly mentions his thwarted plants to ‘sell’ the girls for a ‘high price’, Reina takes a trip down memory lane and has to be stopped from using her strongest spell on the man in, what has to be, the first time the series has worn something other than a permanent smirk. The series wanted sympathy.

As the group try and stop Reina from killing this sex-slaving bastard for dubious reasons, let’s try and get away from the inconsistency of why they’re showing such a nefarious thug sympathy. Let’s also get away from why it’s okay for Reina’s Dragon Slave wannabe spell to be used in the tournament arc and against the lesbian paedophile but not a goon from the Taken franchise. A character didn’t even utter the dreaded cliche platitude that ‘you’ll only be as bad as they are!’ This is all window-dressing criticisms to shove into a final review, though, so let’s instead get into the season’s biggest tonal shift thus far.

The episode rides out that bleak feeling, as Reina turns to sheer edge and, as the dusty mist rolls by, asks her friends if they’ve ever killed anyone. Well, comic overtones preventing anybody from being killed has meant that the answer is a resounding ‘no’, but they’ve certainly exercised the power to do so, Reina! I digress, because the way the ED dropped, using its poppy overtones, created a sombre atmosphere. Where, the series asks, are we going next? And I ask: do you know? I fear that a lot of the series’ quality is going to rest on how well it handles this. My gut feeling: poorly, judging how it handles rape and enslavement, though for some reason it didn’t even pay those the lipservice to say that they were serious issues like a bit of unresolved childhood trauma. My hope, though, is that this psychoanalysis pulls everybody a bit closer together.


 

Rankings

1. BEASTARS (Episode 4: 5/5)
2. Fate/Grand Order (Episode 5: 5/5)
3. Shinchou Yuusha (Episode 4: 4.5/5)
4. Chuubyou Gekihatsu Boy (Episode 5: 4.5/5)
5. Hoshiai no Sora (Episode 4: 4/5)
6. Azur Lane (Episode 5: 4/5)

7. Vinland Saga (Episode 17: 3.5/5)

8. Null Peta (Episode 5: 3.5/5)
9. Hataage! Kemono Michi (Episode 5: 3/5)
10. Watashi, Nouryoku wa Heikinchi de tte Itta yo Ne! (Episode 4: 2.5/5)
11. Honzoki no Gekokujou (Episode 5: 2/5)
12. Kandagawa Jet Girls (Episode 4: 2/5)
DROP: Blade of the Immortal (Episode 5: 2.5/5)

Wow, it’s been a really strong week! Grand Order fielded a particularly impressive episode, and BEASTARS has yet to falter. Chuubyou Gekihatsu Boy has had its best episode yet, too, while on the other side, Honzoki no Gekokujou is really lacking in movement. I decided to finally cull Blade of the Immortal, and I only just realised that I’ve been forgetting to put Kandagawa Jet Girls’ placement all these weeks. Whoops.

How’s your week been so far?

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