I was thinking today that Asuka’s signature move of the “air kick turn” really is a rather fitting theme for the past two episodes. That is, heading downwards, then suddenly stopping against the grain and springing back into action upwards. It is an extremely difficult move that Asuka has repeatedly done without thinking, but when she is thoroughly routed by an opponent in episode eight she somehow “begins to think” a bit much, attempts the air kick turn and fails it, falling into the sea and symbolically losing the wings shaped hair clip she treasure so much. It really is a great symbol of Asuka. But just as it is extremely fitting for her encountering her first major roadblock in Flying Circus (essentially having suffered a “beat down”) so is the process by which she is able to “regain her wings”. And when put both in contrast and in the best sense of the word side by side with Misaki’s struggles the two of them are indeed able to pull each other out of their respective swamps. Hooray! XD

Ao no Kanata - 08 - 02Ao no Kanata - 08 - 01Ao no Kanata - 08 - 03Ao no Kanata - 08 - 05

Episode eight was a sort of dual focus between Misaki and Masaya. With the tournament over, and Misaki leaving the team, Asuka and the other members of the Flying Circus Club were trying several different things to draw Misaki back into active membership, however there was one member who was not helping them in their endeavors, and that was Masaya. This was simply because Masaya knew how Misaki felt, and this (finally) afforded a bit of a flashback of Masaya’s past before the latter finally made an effort to approach Misaki and offer a word of empathy and even a bit of encouragement.

The end of the episode itself, though, was a surprise, with Irina and Saki making their way to the Flying Club high school to “confront” Kagami-sensei (man, Irina really gets my goat -_- ) and challenge the members of the Club to a match against Saki. Asuka eagerly accepts and … well … is thoroughly crushed. And I mean thoroughly and totally. And with deliberate ill intent, at least on the part of Irina. I honestly do not get what her problem is, nor do I understand why Saki is so willing to go along with what she says in such a blindly obedient manner. Did Irina somehow help her in some way when she was in trouble or something? Anyway, the episode ends with Asuka demolished and dispirited, Misaki amazed to see Asuka get trounced and pulverized and one viewer wishing he could tie up Irina and put her in a cryogenic sleep capsule or something.

Ao no Kanata - 08 - 04Ao no Kanata - 08 - 06Ao no Kanata - 08 - 07Ao no Kanata - 08 - 08

Episode nine was the rebound half of the “air kick turn” image, depicting both her and Misaki (!) returning to Flying Circus. At the beginning of the episode Asuka Kurashina is sick (possibly a combination of depression and it taking its toll on Asuka physically) and stays home from school, so after school lets out both Misaki and Mashiro decide to go to Asuka’s house to give her some worksheet printouts. As they approach the house they faintly hear Asuka singing a theme song of an old mecha anime named Zephyrion (Mashiro is the one who identifies it). The next day Asuka physically returns to classes and Club practice, but during Club practice shows herself as literally barely able to fly. Understandably Masaya and the other members become quite worried about her.

After having Asuka take the day off and get a good night’s sleep Asuka makes her way home and reminiscences about when she visited Kuna Island many years ago  and met a young lad (unbeknownst to her it was Masaya) who fired her initial inspiration to fly with grash shoes – they initially connected over Masaya holding a mecha figure when they met. She wanders off to the top of the clock tower, where Misaki meets up with her and sort of spills her guts while trying to encourage her at the same time, talking about her recent experiences leading to her leaving the Club and her present feelings towards flying. Later, Asuka doesn’t return home but turns up at Misaki’s place instead and Misaki tells her to spend the night there (to the bemused disgruntlement of Mashiro).

Ao no Kanata - 09 - 01Ao no Kanata - 09 - 02Ao no Kanata - 09 - 03Ao no Kanata - 09 - 04

When they are running to get to school on time, Asuka challenges Misaki to a match of Flying Circus and is able to fly again to the delight of Masaya and the other Club members but ends up losing to Misaki when the latter turned the match into a brawl (if you remember Misaki is a “fighter” type of player). At the end of the match, however, Misaki re-joins the school’s Flying Circus team again, and with Asuka back on track at an inhuman regeneration rate and Misaki having overcome her faintheartedness the preparation for upcoming matches can begin once again. Towards the end of the episode Misaki asks Asuka in passing where she got the hairpin in the shape of wings (the one that fell off her at the end of her match with Saki) and Asuka replied that “…a boy from this island gave it to me when I was a child.” Mashiro’s ears prick up in curiosity and when she asks Asuka what the boy was like Asuka simply replied that he was “…like a female version of Coach (that is, Masaya)”.

Ao no Kanata - 09 - 05Ao no Kanata - 09 - 06Ao no Kanata - 09 - 07Ao no Kanata - 09 - 08

One of the more interesting aspects of the adaptation in general has been the different tack the studio has taken. It is, of course, based on an eroge virtual novel, with Masaya as the main character/hero of the story. But in this adaptation they have taken a few liberties, and especially have done so from the lead character’s point of view. The main character in the anime adaptation seems to be a combination of Asuka and Misaki, and whereas in the eroge itself the catalyst for the growth of the characters of the story was almost always Masaya, in the anime it is a combination of the female characters of the various routes from the eroge proper communicating with and supporting one another. This was seen in Mashiro’s episode where she felt like she was falling behind Asuka and Misaki and got support from Rika and seen especially strongly in the past two episodes between Asuka and Misaki.

Curiously the main role that Masya seems to be taking is in the form of an initial pebble that was the start of an avalanche type of thing – both in the background stories of Asuka and Misaki and currently in many ways. He is active at crucial points in the series but in small, tiny ways. Perhaps not too surprisingly this has been a complaint for some of those following the series – that is, this lack of a male lead in an anime eroge adaptation. Perhaps in the last few eps Masaya will somehow “step up” and “do something” somehow, but at the moment he seems to have been relegated to one of the “lesser characters” like Mashiro and Rika. Nothing else to do, though, but to “wait and see”! ^^

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Currently the “oji-san” of the staff members age wise (in his mid 40’s) yet the most recent addition, he is also a Japanophile from his teen years while not quite an “otaku” who lives in the United States. Came to actively following anime late in life (in 2008), but in general loves the traditional arts, history and culture of Japan as a whole, both ancient and modern.

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