Sola

Title: Sola
Genre: Drama/Romance
Company: Nomad
Format: 13 episodes
Dates: 6 Apr 2007 – 29 Jun 2007

Synopsis: Other than his obsession with the sky, Momimiya Yorito is a normal high-school student surrounded by friends and a caring, yet sickly sister, Aono. One morning, while filming the sunrise, Yorito bumps into a mysterious and eccentric girl by the name of Shiho Matsuri. However, it turns out that Matsuri is being hunted down, which draws Yorito into the dangerous world of the Yaka, non-human creatures with strange powers and an aversion to sunlight.

The Highlights
Lead characters: Difficult to sympathize with; poorly characterized.
Plot: Filled with inconsistencies and plot-holes.
Seiyuu: All-star cast that delivers commendably, but not brilliantly.
Animation: Unpolished.
Side characters: Far more interesting and likable than the leads.
Ending: A fitting way to conclude, but cannot undo the problems before it.

Initially, I was intrigued by Sola. With an interesting premise that had similarities with the recent acclaimed film, Midnight Sun, and based on the work of the main author of the Kanon visual novel, Hisaya Naoki, my early expectations were reasonably high. However, with the director responsible for such non-hits as Utawarerumono and the Ichigo 100% OVAs, Kobayashi Tomoki at the helm and a story filled with inconsistencies, Sola ends up being a disappointing waste of potential.

Sola’s biggest problem is its inability to construct a set of strong, sympathetic lead characters. The personalities in the main three characters are rather banal to begin with, which provides a poor starting point for engaging character development. Aono is impassive, Matsuri is too perfect, bordering on “Mary Sue” territory and Yorito is a dull doormat, insipid in the same fashion as one would expect in a male lead in a lesser harem series. Bland personas are forgivable provided that the character development is good, which it most definitely is not here. The background for these three characters, which is supposed to serve as the crux of the mystery, comes far too late and is generally underwhelming, certainly failing to serve the audience with a reason to sympathize with the characters as it should have. On top of that, the changes these characters go through are almost totally limited to instantaneous backflips which, at best, are due to trivial reasons and, at worst, due to no reason, or poorly explained reasons.

The plot is filled with inconsistencies. Individually they’re minor, but there are so many of them and they pop up so frequently that they become difficult not to notice. The numerous plot twists within the mystery feel as if they’re executed purely for the sake of a momentary surprise, rather than any meaningful addition to the complexity of the story and drama and, oftentimes, contribute to the inconsistencies in the plot. One may almost suspect that the overall story wasn’t very well thought through during the planning stages of production. The drama itself is weak, and constantly devolves into melodrama, although much of that can be attributed to the poor characterization of the leads, while the atmosphere is inept and fails to absorb the audience as it should.

Aesthetically, the show is merely average. The animation goes through ups and downs, and while it’s never terrible, it’s never outstanding either. The character art, on the other hand, is erratic (only Madhouse anime may have characters with chins that pointy). Sola’s technical highlight is its all-star seiyuu cast, featuring the likes of Noto Mamiko, Nakahara Mai and Shimizu Ai, and while they’re all respectable in roles that aren’t especially challenging, they’re all outshined by the much lesser known Honda Youko, who is resilient as the likeable side character, Mana. Speaking of side characters, it’s both mesmerizing and disappointing that they managed to be so much more intriguing and magnetic than the lead characters when they received so much less screen time.

I can’t help but be critical of Sola, but in the hands of a better director and a production staff willing to invest the care required to make an emotionally-driven story like this work, it could have been a much better series. Instead, we ended up with little more than melodramatic tripe, with bland, poorly fleshed out characters and an inconsistent (and frequently unoriginal) plot. There are a few, small highlights in this show, but they’re overshadowed by so much mediocre execution, it barely makes them worthwhile. “Forgettable” is a fair one-word summary for this title.

The Rating: 5
5/10

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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