The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu

Title: Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu aka Iriya’s Sky, Summer of UFOs
Genre: Romance/Drama
Company: Toei Animation
Format: 6 OVA
Dates: 25 Feb 2005 – 29 Jul 2005

Synopsis: Having spent the majority of his summer vacation aiding his senpai in a search for UFOs by spying on a local military base, Asaba Naoyuki, an average high school student, decides to spend the last evening of his summer vacation by sneaking into his high school’s pool for aswim. What he finds there, though, is a mysterious but beautiful girl named Iriya Kana.

The Highlights
Music: Beautiful songs flanked by two extremely memorable OP and ED themes.
Style: Creative cinematography enhances mood.
Characters: Needed far more background and development.
Story: All the potential was there; impact stifled by lack of character development.
Ending: Felt rushed, preceded by some forced moments.

Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu had all the elements to be a truly memorable story. However, it suffers from impossible time constraints and instead tells a mediocre tragedy about an impossible romance between two flat characters. The worst thing about this was that it was blatant wasted potential; Asaba and Iriya were characters that didn’t need to be flat, and a proper attempt to give them background and depth would have allowed for a greater impact in the story when the time came.

At the beginning, Iriya no Sora seemed to have a lot going for it. Numerous heart-felt moments between Iriya and Asaba are shown, all the while various questions about Iriya’s tragic past, and how it has lead to Iriya’s mysterious and melancholy modern day existence, are presented to the audience. Iriya and Asaba’s growing romance is portrayed with directing that, in these early episodes, is a true highlight. Camera angles are unconventional and the direction is excellent. Various creative choices in perspective give deeper meaning to scenes, highlighting emotions in characters that would have otherwise been difficult to notice. A powerful soundtrack also helps enhance the mood and seemingly strikes the right note at the right time in nearly every scene. On the topic of music, Imai Chihiro’s OP and ED themes, “Forever Blue” and “Himawari” are among the best themes I’ve heard all year.

A tragic story, though, needs tragic characters. It also needs characters you can sympathize with to truly feel the impact of the tragedy. This, unfortunately, is something Iriya no Sora never provides. Neither Iriya nor Asaba are given the attention they need. As much as I wanted to like these characters and feel for their plight, I was never given the opportunity. Iriya’s past is eventually revealed by a third person, at a time in the story that was far too late. The side characters, although less vital to the story, also suffered the same lack of development, and I found them equally difficult to sympathize with. Iriya no Sora may ultimately have been a victim of its lack of time. I suspect that possibly an extra OVA with a focus on explicitly showing the backgrounds of some of the more important characters could have helped create a bigger impact as the story approached its end. The ending itself may have also been a victim of time, as it felt rushed and a tad forced. One character’s actions in particular completely defied logic, and I’m still scratching my head as to why he did what he did. Again, perhaps more character development could have helped here.

Iriya no Sora has a number of similarities to Saikano, but had the potential to tell a more fascinating story by focusing on its mysterious female lead character and spending more time on the heart-touching romance it had nearly established in its first half without resorting to the transparent angst that it’s predecessor did. But, without proper development to its characters, Iriya no Sora’s second half belongs in the same “forgettable” bin that Saikano tends to reside in after it gets viewed. Iriya no Sora’s first half has some truly magical moments that have been etched into my memory. But a few sparing magical moments don’t make a magical anime.

The Rating: 5

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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