The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Sora wo Miageru Shoujo no Hitomi ni Utsuru Sekai

Title: Sora wo Miageru Shoujo no Hitomi ni Utsuru Sekai aka Munto (TV)
Genre: Action/Drama
Company: Kyoto Animation
Format: 9 episodes
Dates: 14 Jan 2009 – 11 Mar 2009

Synopsis: To save both the Magical Kingdom and the Heavens and restore the flow of akuto, the flow of energy of everything, the Magical King Munto must follow a vision and find the girl Yumemi in the normal world. Yumemi herself is just a normal girl except that she is the only one who can see the islands of the Heavens floating above. When Munto appears before her she starts thinking about hers and others responsibility to the world.

The Highlights
Premise: Woefully underexplained; too ambitious for its own good.
Characters: Individual character motivations are vague, and actions taken don’t always make sense because of it.
Story: It’s hard to tell whether the script makes sense or not, when so little about the setting in which it takes place is known in the first place.
Pacing: A mere 9 episodes + overambitiousness = trainwreck
Audiovisual Impact: When all else fails, trust Kyoto Animation to deliver the audiovisual goods at least.

The Munto OVAs, released in 2003 and 2004 respectively, were the first independent efforts of the Uji-based Kyoto Animation, before they went on to make a name for themselves in the industry with such hits as the Full Metal Panic (1,2) sequels, the Key/Visual Arts’ adaptations, and especially the Kadokawa otaku phenomenons The Melancholy of Suzumiya Haruhi (1, 2) and Lucky Star. In that sense, the OVAs were the foundation of the studio’s recent success, a proof-of-concept if you will. The 2009 TV series, then, could be seen as a return to the studio’s roots after 5 years, an attempt to wrap up the unfinished story which its animators first tested their mettle on.

If that was indeed the intention, though, then frankly it was little more than a lazy effort. The two original OVAs could be forgiven for the incomplete story they offered, being a showcase more of animation ability rather than scriptwriting prowess; however, to basically copy/paste the material from the OVAs almost wholesale into the first 5 1/2 episodes, cap it off with all of 2 1/2 episodes’ worth of original material, and call it a complete TV series, means it could hardly be called anything else. Naturally, such a patchwork format would create a host of problems; the story remains as vague and hard to make sense of as it was in the OVAs, and the characters’ motivations and actions remains just as ambiguous because of same.

Both these flaws originate from the fact that the premise of the story is woefully under-explained from the beginning; when the viewer doesn’t even have a good idea of how the world works and why, it’s even harder to deduce if the flow of the story set in this world makes any sense if at all, not to mention “why” or “why not” any character made any particular decision at any point in time in the story. The bulk of the exposition in the original material of the last 2 1/2 episodes not only did not explain every loose thread (like why Yumemi is the focus of the story to begin with), it also comes across as KyoAni‘s answer to the “because I said so” sleight of hand so infamously abused in the much-derided Code Geass R2.

The one silver lining in this dark cloud, would be the audiovisual impact which Kyoto Animation have made their trademark. Though the art of the material from the OVAs is obviously dated, the animation has aged quite well, remaining comparable to current-day standards. The battle scenes in particular, both from the OVAs and original material, is nothing short of animation pornography, eye candy so easy on the eyes one wonders why the studio hasn’t made more action pieces beyond the FMP sequels. Finally, the OP by eufonius and the ED by Ceui is easy on the ears as well, as are the BGMs for the most part.

The Munto franchise started off as a proof-of-concept; the 2009 TV series ended up as little more than that still, leading one to wonder “why bother in the first place?” The best way to watch this patchwork, frankly, is to shut off all higher brain functions prior to viewing, and just revel in the audiovisual sensation that KyoAni first made themselves famous with.

The Rating: 4

Reviewed by: Ascaloth

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