The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Sora no Manimani

Title: Sora no Manimani
Genre: Comedy/Romance
Company: Studio Comet
Format: 12 episodes
Dates: 7 Jul 2009 – 22 Sep 2009

Synopsis: Up until recently Ooyagi Saku’s family has constantly been on the move, transferring from town to town. However, as Saku starts high school, he finally gets a chance to stay in one place, with his family settling in his old hometown. Saku’s memories of this place aren’t pleasant, though, and he has particularly vivid recollections of an overly energetic girl who used to torment him when he was younger. Unfortunately for Saku, this girl, Akeno Mihoshi, attends the same high school and is the most enthusiastic member of the newly-formed astronomy club. Mihoshi gets the idea of trying to recruit Saku into the club, but Saku decides that the only way to get any peace in his new school is to avoid her as much as possible.

The Highlights
Characters: Up and down; sometimes a bit difficult to peg down.
Romance and drama: Neither are all too momentous.
Comedy: Cute without being sidesplitting… annoying when Edogawa is involved.
Sentiment: The star-gazing scenes are sweetly sentimental.
Animation: Even outside the superdeformity scenes, noticeably inconsistent.

I think the best word to describe Sora no Manimani is “small”. Almost everything in this anime is small in scale, from its focus on the humdrum activities of a high school astronomy club to the main character herself. However, that smallness is where its charm lies. There’s very little ambition in this anime… it’s not trying to reinvent the slice-of-life comedy genre, nor is it trying to out-execute similar and, simply put, better anime like Sketchbook. From the first few episodes it sells itself as a story of a group of high-schoolers who happen to share a common interest in astronomy, with tinges of romance, comedy and drama, and it sticks to its premise in a most unpretentious manner.

In its small charm, though, it is utterly inoffensive, which is a result of the show’s biggest problem: it doesn’t really try to do much of anything. Of all the romantic combinations that are hinted at during the course of the series, only one relationship actually makes any movement and this is a side pairing. The truly dramatic moments (of which there are arguably only two) get resolved very neatly within the course of an episode. The majority of the focus is spent either on comedy and very simple plotlines where the club organizes various different stargazing sessions which culminate in the sentimental payoff of, well, seeing stars… but, more importantly, seeing the characters share the experience with friends. It’s simple, and it’s sweet in its simplicity, but don’t expect to unearth much in the way of deep meaning when you scratch at the surface of it all.

If there’s one thing that is executed with real gusto, it’s the comedy, but it often comes off as being clumsy. The main problem with the comedy is that most of the time it’s driven by Edogawa, the loud comic relief character, who is at worst annoying and at best pointless to the story. The other characters are a real mixed bag, but they each have a funny way of redeeming themselves just when you’ve had enough of them. Mihoshi is childish and forceful, but she’s also caring, optimistic and, very occasionally shows a side that’s quietly withdrawn. Saku is fairly bland, and at first comes off as the standard blank slate male lead, but the series infuses him with just enough personality (and not quite enough blatant wish-fulfillment) for this not to be noticeably distracting. But the character who I had the hardest time pegging down was Hime. She’s often jealous and shallow which leads her to do some pretty rash things over the course of the series, but she has this strange charm, which I think is due to her sincerity and rather cute romantic frustration.

The one character who I think deserved much more screentime than she got was Oumi. I daresay she was easily the most enchanting character in the series, which is why I think, retrospectively, it was disappointing that she wasn’t introduced until episode 8. She’s helped no end by the voice of Sawashiro Miyuki, who is pretty much an elite seiyuu now. But, overall, the vocal performances in this anime are quite good. The animation, on the other hand, is plain, and it’s hard not to notice severe inconsistencies, particularly with how characters’ relative heights are depicted.

To put it bluntly, this is a fairly middling anime, but it has enough small charm and sweetness to be enjoyable. It’s for the niche audience that likes slice-of-life comedy with a hint of teasing (go-nowhere) romance, but if you want a better example of what the genre is capable of, pass over it in favour of something like Sketchbook.

The Rating: 6

Reviewed by: Sorrow-kun

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