Title: Sora No Manimani (Lit Translation: At The Mercy of The Sky)
Episodes: 12 (+3 specials)
Producer: Studio Comet
Genre: Comedy, Slice-of-life, School, Romance
Recommended/Similar Titles: K-ON, Toradora, Hitohira, A-Channel
Review Source Medium: Blu-ray Copy
Saku Ooyagi returns to his hometown after seven years and is soon reacquainted with his childhood friend, Mihoshi Akeno. The reunion is far from merry since the last memory they have of each other is of her falling off a tree and him saving her. In any case, Mihoshi is determined to improve their relationship and forces Saku to join the astronomy club she founded.
If you heard the old adage “Never judge a book by its cover”, then Sora No Manimani (abbreviated SNM) would probably one of many titles to fit the mold. It does not do anything new as far as the story and very much a straightforward tale: A young man (Saku Ooyagi) reunites with an old child-friend (Mihoshi Akeno) in Highschool, joins the same club (the astronomy club against his will), and eventually learns a personal truth he would have otherwise missed from this undesired encounter. While it is all cut and dry at the core, SNM is a very well-structured and endowed tale that covers its flaws well with interesting characters and often over the top comic relief that appears in every form. It constantly mocks the melodramatic and just portrays itself naturally for what it is: a simple and sweet slice-of-life school story. It is a very admirable trait that SNM has and not too many series exemplify. The story progression is very fluid and smooth, without hitting many snags and consistent, but remaining interesting and engaging until the end. All the viewer has to is sit back and relax to enjoy the ride, since it does end on pleseant note for many, but for others maybe not. All the same, the typical story of SNM has various appreciative points beyond the characters and comedy that will captivate the audience that understands it the best.
The exploits of Saku and his fellow Astronomy club members never get old and they are very key to make SNM what it is. Even though most seem to lack any key traits or personality at the start, throughout the series most blossom and displayed themselves just fine. Whether it be the hyperactive Edogawa, the charming Makita, calm Yarai, or even supporting roles like student council president Fumie, all the characters are very tolerable if not likable. Although, with the voice actors like: Ami Koshimizu, Kanae Itou, and Haruka Tomatsu among others it would be hard to disagree, but they are only one reason for why characters come off so well. The overall story and writing attribute much to the formula as well.
Studio Comet handles most of the directorial and animation duties for SNM which not only leads to a well-executed story, but also impressive animation for a series of this standing. Granted that most of the background scenes do not benefit from this much, it still turns out to be a visual charmer and along with the art; create a dichotomy of the surreal and normality of life. This is displayed throughout the series with regards to the stars depicted in a more dream-like matter with light hues while the everyday lives of the characters are with more neutral and inviting color pallets. The quality in short for the Blu-ray releases are exceptional. As well as the animation and art comes off, the music does too, but somewhat average in this regard. Not to say that is not important or noteworthy, but used to a lesser extent and somewhat less memorable. The director is Shinji Takamatsu who is also a voice actor in the anime series, Gintama. He has worked on various Studio Comet productions before such as School Rumble, but also directed outside projects like: Gintama, Outlaw Star, and Yu-Gi-Oh!.
As for my own thoughts, SNM turned out very nice as overlooked as it might be, but also felt lacking something. I do like character driven stories like the slice-of-life genre presents, yet in some regards SNM did not bring out as much as I hoped. Of course, as aforementioned, the shows pacing is very consistent and easy to follow; and the characters are extermely likable which works to its advantage. My favorite would have to be Masashi Edogawa that pals around with astrology club like it is his own and pretty much steals the show with his laughable antics. With that said, SNM is very successful as a slice-of-life school comedy and never tries to be anything more than just that. I would wholeheartedly recommended it if you are looking for another slice-of-life/comedy series.
To conclude, SNM does not rely on any special bells or whistles to help it stand out or does it need them. By no means is it a perfect series or does it need to be, let alone try perpetuate it. What you do get is a simple ode of school life mixed with common trappings familiar to the genre without making itself look forced nor incredibly sappy with dramatic dialogue or formulaic scenes. If you like to laugh, slice-of-life series, or even the subject of astrology then SNM has about everything you want and none the qualities you do not. However, if you are looking something more fluid and writhing with eechi, harem elements, crude humor, action, or otherwise then this series is not what you are looking for. Although, do give consideration to SNM, a series that definitely shoots for the stars and reaches them with ease. You might be briefly surprised.
Pros: Nice slice-of-life/comedy narrative, likable cast of characters, full of humor and laughable moments
Cons: Somewhat predictable, not much romance as the genre states