7/13/2007

Decompression: sola

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As of about fifteen minutes ago sola has been completed, and it really was a ride.

sola is an interesting series. When I first watched it I found it was best described as 'Kanon Lite', which is close to the mark but not quite. It is very similar to another Key work, AIR, in both story and thematic elements, but there are many things that make it stand apart - in both good and bad ways.

sola starts off quite strong - for one, it was a series whose first episode I enjoyed (as opposed to say, Haruhi, Azumanga Daioh, Lucky Star, Shuffle!, and so forth) - but it is true that it does stumble a lot in the middle, but in the end the conclusion was fulfilling and it really could have been done a lot worse in the end.

There are flaws for sure in sola if you look closely - some of the characters are paper thin, there are continuity errors on occasion and more than a few uses of epic hax. sola definitely feels more of a work of fiction as such than a real, believable environment, but it still has merit as such.

In the end it's not so much a Kanon Lite as one would believe, and sola does do a decent job of standing on it's own. I give sola a recommendation to anyone who still does like the genre of mysterious, visual novel type things, with a request to not be too picky.

Preliminary other final thoughts and stuff after the jump.


I say the genre of visual novel type things because sola really feels like it sort of does evade classification at times. sola does have romance aspects in it, as Matsuri, Aono, and Mana all seem to like Yorito in some regard, but the whole confession thing is never really dealt with in depth, nor any other typical love aspects. And although Yorito technically has 3 girls pining after him - and the fact that there's NO OTHER GUY HIS AGE in the story at all - it's not really a harem type either. Indeed, most of the problems within the show deal with conflicts between the girls over their own issues (not directly Yorito) or Yorito's discovery of his true self.

I suppose I should label this type of stuff the 'heavy harem' genre, as most visual-novel-ish material of this type tend to have very serious stories with plenty of twists and tearjerking moments despite the fine array of cute girls.

What stands sola apart from a lot of other shows in this genre, as such, for one, is its amount of contempt for the viewer. While plot twists certainly are common, in a sense, to this genre, sola seem to do them with a malicious grin on its face. For example, shows like Kanon tend to draw out their plot twists, hint at them, and then, when they finally hit, resolve them in a quick manner (think Sayuri in episode 14). sola likes to throw plot twists at you and then cut to black.

Hey look, Matsuri got stabbed! Find out next week.
Hey look, Matsuri wants to know how to stab people! Find out next week.
Hey look, Matsuri's about to stab Aono! Find out next week.
Hey look, Matsuri stabbed herself! Find out next week.
I mean, seriously.

sola isn't really a detail-orientated anime like Kanon is either. While Kanon drops little cameos, hints, and plot-related foreshadowing into its scenes to make things very fluid and continuous, sola contains quite a few errors and just plain stupid actions. For example, Yorito jumping off his bike and beginning to run in the rain to chase after Matsuri. Yorito jumping in the way of Matsuri's (and Takeshi's) sword.

Many actions in sola seem as such, to form a dramatic and stunning reaction, but not always a believable one. Aono and Matsuri's conflicts start tame, and quickly grow ridiculous. How did Aono create 2 paper dolls when creating just Yorito drained her? What's with all the paper hax that she uses? What's the point of the two killing each other when they can just regenerate?

And, of course, the legendary 5-second tower-jump of Takeshi in his Epic Battle.

It really does look cool and keep the audience on the edge of its seat, but it's rather silly.

But, sola is not Kanon. Dot. Period. It's silly for me to keep saying "Well, Kanon does this" and "AIR does that". sola is its own show, and its choices may be awkward, but it also may be a shot at something fresh in the genre. And in the big scheme of things what makes the ridiculousness in sola any less ridiculous than any other ridiculousness that shall remain unspoiled? Maybe a bit of explaining, that's all. And in a 13-episode series, I suppose some things have to be taken for granted.

Anyway, enough ranting on what sola is and isn't, and more of an in depth view of sola itself. What's impressive about sola is that it has a wide range of interesting characters. The side characters, especially, are far more awesome than side characters should be.

The Ishizuki sisters, Koyori and Mana, play a large role in trying to right and figure out the Morimiyas (Yorito and Aono), and somehow these two come off as the most deep and appealing characters. Perhaps it's the fault of her being a Nayuki type, but Mana really does reach out and touch some heartstrings. She is always locked out of the loop and yet she solders on with a smile. Even in a fourth wall sense, Mana gets shafted. After her meeting with Yorito at sunset in episode 11, I was sure that wasn't the end for Mana and Yorito. In the end she didn't really even get a true confession off or anything, but I thought we got an excellent alternate ending for Mana with her carrying on (without knowing) Yorito's passion of watching the sky.

This also ties in with one of the themes of the show of existence. Matsuri grapples with it a lot - she knows she can't be with people too long. Yorito's not a real person at all, and often wonders, in his emo fashion, is he really important to the world - he exists physically, but does he leave a mark? The last episode goes a long way to fulfilling this theme, to show that although Matsuri and Yorito have left this world (presumably), both of theme still live on, in a sense. Whether it be the tomato shiruko cans on the bench, Mana's newfound passion for the sky, or Aono's running kick into the soda machine, the two definitely affected somebody on that earth. And isn't that what matters?

Right - side characters. Koyori is your typical goddamn adorable loli type, and she does a very excellent job in being cute and getting headchopped (wai for...Mana?). Her ability to affect Aono, and yet her devout attachment to Aono (again, Episode 11) is very interesting, and Koyori is very much a believable personality.

The almost comic relationship between Takeshi and Mayuko is interesting as well. It was nice to see that there really was no Big Bad Guy in sola, that they all had a story behind them instead of a flat personality.

And as for Sae, yeah, she's awesome. Amusingly slow speech, dim-witted, prone to Kareha-style dreaminess, and oh yes, the megane. Some may think she's annoying but I think she adds a lot to the lighter sequences of sola.

The main trio in sola is a bit more hit-or-miss. All of them tend to act extremely irrationally - throwing themselves into swords, throwing swords into other people, and whatnot. I'll look over that if only because things aren't always meant to be, well, rational and sense-making. However, the one thing that really annoys me about the three is that they are very much quick to change personalities. It feels like most of them have just a switch they flick, to go to, as I've heard them called for example, Yuki-Aono to Kaede-Aono.

Perhaps it's the fault of the 13 episode series but it seems that the three of them, Yorito, Aono, and Matsuri just cope with things too quickly. Sister's a Yaka? No problem. Made out of paper? Sure, why not. Everyone you know and/or loved has died to turn you back into a human? A-OK!

Seriously, I'm not sure what they could have done to rectify this in the time they had - as removing some of the lighter scenes early on would really destroy a large part of sola (it can't be all action all the time) - but even a few short scenes could help.

Aono could have used some more development, as well. She spends so much time playing Quiet Girl in the early episodes that her Tragic villain role later on is...a bit forced. I got by it mainly because of my addiction to 1) Quiet Girls and 2) Kaede-types but I think the sort of pity appeal that Aono was supposed to get across didn't work that well. All we had on her to go by before she went all possessive was Origami With Koyori (coming to a TV near you?) and that one date scene with Yorito. She came off as more of a villain than Takeshi in the end of it all - and it shows by all the contempt she recieved from blogs and forums (again, base mark: Animesuki).

Yorito has often been criticized as a paper-thin character, which is deliciously ironic given his true nature. It's true that he's not going to stand up there with pretty much any decent lead male; he's not much of anything to be honest. Most of the stuff happens around him, and the decisions he makes (going with Matsuri's plan to stab Aono or whatever) are often shown off-camera, so you don't see a lot of Yorito. Yorito doesn't have a lot of redeeming characteristics than meets the eye, and his obsession with the sky...kind of comes off like that. But on the converse, he's not a horrible lead by any case (hello, Makoto of School Days). Overall, I guess he's kind of forgettable.

Matsuri...well, I'm not sure. I don't have any large complaints at the moment, and yet I'm not ready to gush approval as well. She has memorable moments, at least, unlike Yorito - the little things like the numerous Matsuri Versus Machine battles, or one of the twenty times she tries to run away from Yorito - but in the end, even she doesn't really have, well, conclusion. Aono has conclusion. Koyori has conclusion. Mana has 'conclusion'. Yorito dies. Matsuri stabs herself, stabs Aono, sees the sunset, and fades out into the eyecatch. I wouldn't mind the traditional Sparkly Dissapear even. Maybe they just want to keep some hope that Matsuri still lives, somewhere. Although that's silly.

That's all the thoughts I can dig up on sola for now, another post on sola will follow in the next week or so.

-CCY


comments:

It's nice to see that you can appreciate the show while also being mindful of its plethora of plot holes and inconsistancies.