If episode one of Ao no Kanata was primarily dedicated to introducing the characters of this anime adaptation, then episode two focused on setting the foundation stones of the story in place … and giving the viewers a general idea of some of the incoming hurdles and difficulties that will have to be overcome. The episode opens up with the climax of episode one, when Asuka somehow instinctively pulled off an aerial manoeuvre that is one of the most difficult to do and achieved a come-from-behind win against Satouin Reiko (Taneda Risa in case viewers did not catch it). Reiko was very gracious in accepting her defeat (kinda nice to see an ojou-sama character like that) and the two of them seem to have hit it off pretty well. However, it turns out that the male character Reiko was arguing with to begin with was indeed the captain of the school’s Flying Circus club – one Aoyagi Shion. He spots the potential in Asuka as well as in Masaya, and energetically tries to recruit those present into the club … resulting in a strategic retreat on the part of everyone.

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One of the unexpected twists to arise the next day of school occurs at the hands of Madoka, the friendly and kind hearted classmate who introduced herself in episode one. She just happens to be the younger sister of Aoyagi Shion, and is even the manager for the School’s Flying Circus club. It seems last year all the members of the club were seniors and graduated, leaving only Shion. Madoka decides to help her older brother out (and perhaps help the club not go extinct), and vigorously (though not rudely as far as I could tell) pursues Asuka to join the Flying Circus club. In the process we find out that Satouin Reiko is regarded as a high school star player, and for Asuka to score a point on her would be the equivalent of a 5’7″ high school boy who had never played a game of basketball in his life to suddenly dunk over Blake Griffin in a 1-on-1.

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Asuka accepting Madoka’s offer really become the ball that gets things rolling, I think. While Madoka is recruiting Asuka Misaki (and Mashiro, of course) are listening in. Ever since Asuka scored a point against Reiko Misaki has been watching her with an odd cross between curiosity and remembering something from long ago. When the normally extremely laid back and “my pace” Misaki suddenly expresses possible interest in joining the Flying Circus club as well (presumable if Asuka herself joins) Mashiro is shocked. And sure enough, after Madoka escorts Asuka to the “club room” (an old run down camper on the outskirts of the school grounds) both Misaki and Mashiro show up shortly thereafter. Shion is (understandably) thrilled to an inhuman degree to get three new members into the club, and immediately and enthusiastically announces that they will all begin practicing the next day. (Shion is one of those sorts of people for whom “You need more spirit!” is the answer to every single obstruction one encounters in life. XD )

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Lest we should forget, though, this is in many ways a story about Masaya rediscovering his love of flight (and perhaps the Flying Circus game as well) once again – no it is not primarily about his repeatedly coming upon a certain purple haired neighbor walking around in her underwear in front of the same open window … AGAIN. (Close the curtains you dummy – though she will be showing up in the story later on as a player of the Flying Circus game if the OP footage is any indication.) It is absolutely clear that he is incredibly experienced in the strategic side of the game, yes, but he also has a consciously thought through and keenness and attention to detail about the game in its entirety, including the whole process of starting from scratch to performing as a talented player. But something obviously happened – repeatedly in the episode when the subject of Flying Circus is mentioned he balks and resists, as if not wanting to think about some kind of painful experience associated with the game. And it seems clear that both Misaki and the Phys-Ed teacher Kagami Aoi know about what happened … although Kagami-sensei (the immediately recognizable Oogata Megumi) seems to be interested to help him along with getting over the experience if it is possible.

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We also discover that Misaki herself has quite a bit of experience in playing Flying Circus, and it seems part of her attraction to join the club is due to her being curious (almost like a cat noticing something it is fascinated by) is in Asuka herself. After the club members procure competition level grash boots (turns out there are special configurations to the boots that can be made in alignment with one’s strengths in the game) she challenges Asuka to a match … just to try things out. And … well … lets just say that Misaki is good – really good. And she puts Asuka through the wringer quite a bit before she is finally able to get back on her feet (albeit right before the end of the match and in a manner that takes Misaki completely by surprise). The episode ends with Masaya finally agreeing to help train Asuka in how to play Flying Circus (and possibly by extension the entire club) at least until an upcoming summer competition, and interestingly Misaki very quietly nudges him in that direction as well. But that was not all, it seems. It looks like Kagami-sensei has plans of her own as well, and seems to be setting up a training camp session with the school Reika is from! Hmm … things are definitely going to start moving here.

Last week we got our first view of the OP (played at the end of the episode proper) and it was pretty good, but for me just that. This week we were shown the ED for the first time, and … well … for me it sorta falls into the same category. They fit the series, and the visuals and appropriate and the like, but I was not blown out of the water per se. Am looking forward to what the training camp will begin to bring out of the characters … I have a feeling Masaya himself might be running face first and painfully into his first roadblock along the road to remembering his “first love”.

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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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