When the Stars don’t align – Hoshiai no Sora & The Anime Industry

Wow. I am so mad. But not at Hoshiai no Sora—just to get that out of the way. No, Hoshiai no Sora did nothing wrong to me—it was the fucking studio. But I’ll get more into that in a moment. But first. My God. Why was I sleeping on this anime? Why did I save it until the very end of the season thinking “eh it’s just a sports anime”. It was more than that—so much more than that. It was everything I wanted.

StarsAlign

I know, I probably sound like I’m being overdramatic….which is fair. I’m being pretty damn dramatic. It’s not like Hoshiai no Sora was the best thing all year, but it was SO good. This anime which was supposedly about soft tennis (first of all, YAY—a sport I can finally get behind) and truly was for a fair portion of the anime. I mean, it revolved around the boys trying to save their club and they had soft tennis in every episode. There was also some good characterization in the first episode, some odd moments (like with Toma’s mum), and then, then at the very end when you’re smiling and feeling good about the anime—BAM. Shit hits the fan with the introduction of Maki’s dad. I completely lost it during this scene. This feel-good sports anime took a dramatically dark turn and I was living for it. What I then enjoyed for the rest of the season was a combination of giddy happiness at the light-hearted sports and brotherhood moments AND ANXIETY. The anxiety that something was about to go horribly wrong or something heavy was going to happen to our poor boys. Which, by the way, this anime is super great for that anxiety you didn’t know you even had. It lures you into a sense of “things are going great!” only to hit you when you least expect it with some drama. It gets to the point that you just know that things are going too well. In that manner, I will say that Hoshiai no Sora kept me on the edge of my seat.

I also really loved the array of topics that Hoshiai no Sora brought to the table. This anime brought the many parental forms that abuse can take. It covered everything from emotional, to physical, and even verbal abuse. It also brought up other hardships such as helicopter parenting, adopted parents/imposter syndrome, to gender confusion, to having to decide if you should follow your passion—this anime even had both a trans character as well as a non-binary character. It honestly brought a lot of things to the table, and I know some would say too much. But I think it was appropriate and I think that it handled a lot of the issues with a lot of thoughtfulness. That’s why I felt absolutely invested in this anime. I wouldn’t care at all about a character and then give it an episode about them and I’m on their protection squad. That isn’t to say they were totally fleshed out, but they were definitely distinct enough that for once, I actually remember all their names. You see, in notoriously bad at remembering names in anime when there’s a bigger cast. But this anime? Honestly, I could tell you every single one of those characters.

But Hoshiai no Sora wasn’t perfect. It reused quite a bit of animation (fair) and more importantly…it’s ending was not really an ending. Instead, the ending opened up the story to a much darker chapter and it also ended with many of those boys plotlines entirely unresolved. So what the fuck happened? Was this bad writing? Nope. It was the exact opposite. And instead, it was due to the fucking studio. The creator of this anime apologized when this anime ended, explaining the situation. Apparently, he’d planned for Hoshiai no Sora to be a 24 episode anime—plenty of time to wrap up all the stories. But this last spring, once production was already two years in, he and his team were told that they’d cut the episode count in half to be a standard 12 episode anime. At that point the creator was faced with the choice on whether to try to jam his story into 12 episodes or leave it as it was, being only the first half of a much longer story. He, understandably, chose the latter. Which quite honestly was a bold move, but one he had no choice but to make as remaking the series would’ve been impossible with all the work already put in. Overall, it all made for a tragic story for Hoshiai no Sora. But it is a story that is a bit reflective of the anime industry as a whole.

Right now, shows are expected to have 12 episodes as a general rule, which is a huge departure from the years when titles got 24-25 episodes regularly. It seems like these days only multi-seasonal hits are given the luxury of 24 eps. And there are so many shows that go unfinished or unresolved because they are 12 episodes long and hoping for a second season that never comes. So there are loads of good anime out there who never got to finish their story, and unfortunately Hoshiai no Sora joined the ranks of those. It’s really sad too because now the show will seem awful to have such a “bad” ending when that was never the intended ending. It was an ending that was victim to something that was so much bigger than it and I find that so sad. It deserved better. It’s creator and team deserved better. Hell, a lot of anime deserves better. But even if the industry is slightly getting better, it isn’t better yet. But I think these trends of unfinished stories, animators and creators having to rush or cut down a series…it’s not good. For anyone.

The fate of Hoshiai no Sora, much like a lot of the kids lives, was tragic. It was honestly such a unique anime that explored things that need to be explored. And again, I’m not saying it was perfect or some extremely groundbreaking show. But it held significance in many ways. From showing struggles that aren’t normally depicted for teens, to assuring them it’s okay to not have to decide a gender and just be you, to rejecting toxic masculinity, this show held weight. Anyway, thanks for listening to my TED talk. This turned from a review into more of a rant, but I feel like this isn’t the last post I’m going to make about Stars Align. So until next time!

xoxo

Luna

P.S. The creator did say he hopes that one day he can finish his story somehow. Bless his soul.