This is review number four hundred and thirty one. This anime is part of the Fall 2014 lineup, and it’s called Sora no Method or Celestial Method. It’s a thirteen episode anime about some cute girls doing cute things while a giant disc is just hanging around in the sky. Shocking twist though, the disc is also cute. Let’s read on.
Nonoka returns to her hometown after seven years, and she realizes that she used to have friends there. They don’t want her back though, because she did something horrible seven years ago and it’ll take some effort before she is forgiven. As Nonoka ponders what exactly she did wrong, she also meets with a little girl who claims that she is the giant disc in the sky.
Taking the Pants Off
Oh boy, it’s an original anime. I was honestly a bit concerned that Fall 2014 had amazing original anime. I even gave one of them a perfect score, and I’m still debating if I should give the other one a perfect score as well. Original anime shouldn’t be this good, and here comes Sora no Method to remind me how they truly suck. Yes, this show is awful. It has some bright spots, sure. The overall experience is pretty bad though, and it’s the familiar overambitious Original Screenplay that ends up sucking. I honestly do not know how to feel after finishing this show, but you should know I fell asleep countless times watching it. It was just a combination of bad writing, bad series composing and bad editing. If your technical aspects are bad then the rest of the show kinda goes down as well. This is the debut work of Studio 3Hz though, and they really wanted to make a first impression. There are scenes that are truly planned out and detailed beautifully, but the majority of the anime is amateurish garbage. It’s like a student that will only do their best when the teacher is watching and then doesn’t give a crap once the teacher walks out of the room. This anime would give its full effort in certain scenes and completely half ass everything. The result is a boring and pretty painful experience. It’s painful because the premise is good. There is potential here, and the show wasted everything. Aside from the animation, there’s really very little to redeem this show. The animation stands out because Studio 3Hz is showing off their ability as a brand new studio. As for the story and everything else, well, it’s quite sad because it was helmed by Naoki Hisaya.
This anime is originally written by a celebrated Visual Novel writer. Naoki Hisaya is one of the founding staff of Key, and he was the main writer for Kanon. He was there when Jun Maeda was trying to pull off his overly ambitious visual novel. He eventually ventured on his own though and he soon gave us Sola, an original work. It was really good, and it really cemented Hisaya’s status as a talented writer. For a debuting studio to get his talents is a pretty big deal. For Sola alone, Hisaya is able to craft a story that is Key inspired but stands out on its own. I think that was the goal for Sora no Method as well. The anime had a beautiful visual novel vibe to with. It welcomes you with a premise of a giant disc in the sky, there is heavy focus on the visuals and the sound (something that Jun Maeda envisioned for Kanon), and it had a fantastical and very dream like motif that you’d expect in a visual novel. I was honestly excited when I first tried this anime. The visuals came at you hard, the characters are interesting and I was intrigued by the visual novel aura of the show. The first episode also got me excited by slowly establishing the plot points of the show in no hurried manner. We are introduced to a girl that returns to her home town, meets a cute girl at her bedside and soon remembers the friends she had seven years ago. We also see a glimpse of why she left in the first place as we are constantly reminded of her dead mother. Followed by an odd reunion with familiar people, the anime had a lot of potential to be really good. I was really excited to discover where the anime will take us to. There is one problem though.
The writing is sloppy. It’s evident in the first episode as well. We aren’t properly introduced to Nonoka, the girl that returned to her hometown. Throughout the first episode, she was just doing mundane things like cooking and cleaning. We are also introduced to the other characters, and they weren’t really properly introduced. Like, what exactly do they do in the story? One of them runs a shop. That’s it. She’s just a girl that works in a shop. What about Nonoka? Who is she exactly? Well, we were never told that. She’s just a girl that does cute things. The writing is sloppy though, because we are suddenly introduced to Noel in the first episode as well. We don’t know her, we don’t know why she was at Nonoka’s bedside, and we don’t know why Nonoka is suddenly accommodating this girl. All we know is that she’s cute, and yeah, that’s about it. There is no character introduction in this show, and it’s a giant red flag for an original anime. We are shown tons of impressive visuals, crisp animation and a giant disc in the sky but there seems to be no organization in presenting them. It’s kinda a basic writing practice too. I mean, you need to give a reason for the audience to accept the main character. To do that, we need to know who she is, what her deal is, and what her impending character arc will be. The show acts as if we already accept her and we know how she thinks. This is why Nonoka suddenly chased after Noel after she yelled at her. Really? A girl that broke into your house is suddenly someone important that you should chase after so you can apologize to her? Does that make any sense? It doesn’t matter, I guess, because we get to see Studio 3Hz boast their animation by having Nonoka run. Yeah, impressive animation will make any show tolerable.
Perhaps the most indicative sign of the show’s sloppy writing is the giant disc in the sky itself. When I first saw that, I was like “wow, how did that thing ended up there?” Will we ever see a long exposition to why the disc exists? It seems like a big thing to overlook, but the anime does exactly that. It doesn’t really talk about the disc. It flaunts its visuals, but it doesn’t really feel like part of the story. It’s just there. We look at it, the camera tilts to look at it, and it’s pretty. But just like the characters, the show never really goes in depth with the disc. The anime attempted to tell us stuff about the disc, but it actually made the whole thing a lot more confusing. First of all, it was apparently summoned by a group of kids. Secondly, it can grant wishes? Thirdly, Noel is actually the disc. Well, ok, what? You can summon a giant disc in the sky? How exactly? Oh, the show will never explain that? We actually saw one of the characters reading it in a magazine, and they call it “Mr. Disc”. Wait, so other people can also summon discs? If it’s in a publication then surely other towns have giant discs in their skies. How was it summoned exactly? Human sacrifice? Oh, the show will never explain that? How did a young kid even obtain a magazine that can summon a giant disc named Mr. Disc? Like, for gawdsakes, this is your premise. There’s a giant disc in the sky. Why is the anime not in any hurry to explain its premise? Why did we waste the first episode on Nonoka being cute and chasing down an even cuter character? Wait, this is slice of life? Well, that’s an even bigger problem.
Zero World Building
This anime attempts to be a healing anime. With its heavy focus on visuals and the sound of nature, there’s no doubt that it’s trying to be an Iyashikei. This doesn’t really work for this show though, because a healing anime establishes a world that is comforting and relaxing. My “go to” example of an effective healing anime is Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro. There’s no story, but there’s heavy emphasis on the animation and the beauty of nature in particular. The relaxing atmosphere has to be established first, and you do that with some world building. Totoro took its sweet time introducing us to the new house the family will live in, to the familiar mess and laidback feel of an empty house and the cute little creatures than run about it. By establishing this country vibe, the calmness of nature permeates and the relaxing feel is established. We don’t really know what those black things in the house are, but they are effectively part of this world now. It adds to the Iyashikei element and it contributes to the calming appeal of this world. Seeing that little girl chase those black things is pretty relaxing to look at to, and this is actually the biggest element of an Iyashikei. It has to be relatable. The place needs to feel like it exists in real life, we can insert ourselves in it, and we can relate to the world the show has established. It’s easy to say an anime is healing, but it’s actually really hard to execute. It all starts with the world you are presenting. Convince the audience that they can live in it, and you can honestly put a cat bus in it and it wouldn’t matter. It’s a world that they can now relate to. This is something Sora no Method failed to do.
The giant disc in the sky is alienating. It’s a bit concerning too, because we don’t really know what it’s doing there. Is it going to invade this world? More so, how come we don’t hear from the citizens of this town? Why aren’t they bothered by this giant disc? That’s really a big problem for this anime. We don’t really meet other people in this so called town. We only see the main characters. There are background characters, but no supporting characters to help establish the world. A few lines about the appearance of the disc from other people would help a lot. We know it has become a tourist trap, so why aren’t we shown how much of a tourist town this place is? We know other people live in this place, but the show acts as if only the characters truly move in this world. That’s not really a world I want to be in. It’s a huge town too. It’s huge enough to have an abandoned observatory that children can enter and possibly kill themselves in. It has a giant lake and an island in the center where the disc is directly below at. Apparently, the island can no longer be accessed. Ok, why? Who made that rule? Who’s enforcing that rule? What kind of weird world is this? There are fancy statues thrown all over, empty streets that are beautifully constructed and it is a walking distance to some forests. But where is the life, the soul of this town? It isn’t relaxing when the show creates so many questions and refuses to answer them. Eventually, you’re taken out of the experience and you just question everything. This is incredibly bad writing.
Ok, let’s get into the actual story of the anime. So Nonoka returns to her home town, she reunites with her four friends but they are actually angry at her. Seven years ago, she did something bad. As we soon discover, they blame her for summoning Mr. Disc. Nonoka now goes around trying to get the group together again. That’s the entire premise of the show. At episode two, we are introduced to Yuzuki and she hates the disc. She would go around town protesting for the disc to go away. She has signs, flyers and a loud voice proclaiming that the town should band together to get rid of the disc. As mentioned before though, there are no other characters in this show so she’s basically just yelling for the sake of yelling. The more egregious problem though is that she wants the disc to go away by protesting that others listen to her. Ok, fine, it’s cute. Think about it though. What if she got a group of people that aligns with her protest? They’ll band together to get rid of a big ass disc in the sky? This is a tourist thing for the town too, so she’s actively saying her fellow citizen’s income doesn’t matter. But fine, what exactly is her end goal? Is she going to nag the government next to shoot some rockets in it or something? Or is she really just dumb? Dumb enough to do this insane exercise for seven years. Yes, I swear to gawd, the show tries to make her sympathetic by showing us flashbacks of her protest when she was younger. Seven years! Seven years to go to bed at night and realize that what she’s doing isn’t productive. Seven years to realize that the entire thing isn’t working at all. This is a huge problem for the anime because it’s trying to make us feel sympathy for this girl, but how can you? She’s doing such an illogical thing, and it just kinda baffles me.
The best part is that she is angry at Nonoka for calling the disc. In the flashback though, we discover all five of them called the disc. So, yeah, she’s mad at a girl that helped her summon Mr. Disc. Now, we do discover that she apparently hates the disc because “things changed” after it appeared. We soon discover she was talking about her brother being hospitalized when he chased after her when she got mad and went into the woods at night. As you can see, she is kinda being illogical by design. Will the show make her realize she’s being a stupid girl? No, not at all. In fact, Nonoka would bend over to make this girl happy. Why?! She didn’t do anything! She didn’t carry that disc and hurled it into the sky. She wasn’t the only one that summoned the disc, and it wasn’t her fault that the girl’s brother was injured. And despite all that, she still wanted to apologize and be friends with the girl. Seriously, we’re gonna root for the friendship of a door mat and a girl that complains like an SJW getting triggered online? Really, this is the best you got?
How about this instead, we establish the town and the people in it first. We are introduced to anti-disc people, and they are enabling the girl to act out for seven years straight. Sure, their thing is illogical but it would still make sense instead of just one girl protesting in front of a bus stop. The anime tried to make the entire thing sympathetic and dramatic, but the result is just retarded. As you can see, the basics of this anime suck so everything else kinda stands on an unsteady foundation. I mean, take a look at this scene:
So Nonoka is on the phone with a friend telling her Noel is in trouble. She discovers Noel groggily walking across to her. For some dramatic tension, Nonoka drops her phone and hurries to Noel.
We see her help Noel and all that sh*t.
And then she reaches for her phone and calls her dad.
What? What? Seriously? You dropped that phone. The script told you that you were supposed to drop that phone. How did it magically appear in your hands again? What?! The illogical stuff is this deep?! Oh my gawd, it’s literally a two minute scene. In such a short time, the anime has already showed inconsistencies. Never mind being mad at a friend that HELPED you summon a disc. For a phone to magically transport back to Nonoka’s hand, I mean, dude, this is just stupid.
And since I’m on a roll here, let’s talk about Shione and her headphones. She always wears them and yet it’s never attached to a device. She literally just walks around with a headphone in her ears. At first I thought it’s an ear warmer, right? But she also wore the headphones while in her summer uniform. Is it that cold in the area? Let’s give it the benefit of a doubt and say this is a symbolism for her detached nature. Ok, but we’re kinda crossing Glasslip territory there. The show never hints it, no subtexts or even a scene where she uses the headphones as an attempt to escape a situation. If we’re going to make unfounded claims based on stuff that appears on the show, then I can argue that it can also symbolize her sexuality. Does that make sense? No, but I can sell that theory as strongly as others would support their theory for anything in Glasslip. With that being said, we should just stop there. Glasslip is badly written and Sora no Method is badly written. A girl wearing headphones is more of a stylistic choice here, and it really just comes off as pretentious and pretty illogical.
A Common Problem for Original Anime
Short. Sighted. Storytelling. This is where an episode’s story is focused more instead of the overall story. The result is an inconsistent mess that exposes how badly written a show is. This is common for an original screenplay anime, because a lot of hands usually poke around in the creation process. You should check out the ANN page for this anime (HERE), and you should focus on the episode directors involved in it. There are ten episode directors in this thirteen episode anime. Sure, one guy is credited as the overall director but an episode director pretty much only cares about the episode he is directing. While he is following a script, if it’s as vapid and empty as a slice of life show like this then there isn’t much direction to follow. That’s why a lot of the episodes are directionless, sloppy presented and a bit cringy. There doesn’t seem to be cohesion for the directors to follow. The result is short sighted storytelling. An example of this in effect would be the whole deal with the group of friends and the disc. They summoned the disc, Nonoka went away and then she came back. That’s the entire premise of the story, until the eleventh episode where we discover each person made a wish that night. This wish is apparently part of calling the disc, and why exactly is it only being revealed when there’s only two episodes left? That’s short sighted storytelling. Since we’re only focused on what’s happening in one episode, the overall look of the anime isn’t put into account. That’s why the climax of the fourth episode is a fireworks display and the climax of the ninth episode is a meteor show display. In their episodes, these were important but in the overall story, you could’ve easily taken out one of them.
To be fair though, this is some of the mildest short sighted storytelling I’ve seen in an original anime. Yes, I’ve experienced worst. The show still focused on its premise, no doubt it’s the only thing the episode directors had to work with, and there were still some cohesion here and there. Things kinda go on another level of stupidity though when you realize the writing is illogical, short sighted and empty. There’s really nothing overtly good here. You’d have to really try to like something in this show. You have to force yourself to it. Meanwhile, the anime just fails on its basics and everything else. I mean, the series composer gave us a fireworks display, a hot spring episode, a planetarium display, a meteor show display and a time travel twist, in that order. No foreshadowing, no subtle setup and no care at the potential of the premise. It’s just sloppy and incredibly amateurish. It’s pretty embarrassing too. You’d have to suck pretty bad to produce some subpar stuff like this.
Bad Use of Flashbacks
This anime’s short sightedness is also seen in how it uses flashbacks. Usually, you’d employ the flashback to establish stuff and maybe flesh out some characters. It’s a great way to explain character motivations, present shocking twists behind a mystery and even make some characters sympathetic. This anime oddly have an AnoHana vibe going with how a group of young kids grows up fractured upon reunion. The kids of AnoHana had one of their friends killed though. One of them even saw the girl drowned. Like, that’s some incredible writing. AnoHana would use the flashback to contrast characters from then and now. It’s such a powerful use of the flashback that it carries the entire show. You will cry at how much burden the death of the girl has put on the rest of the cast, and it makes them characters that are engaging to watch. For Sora no method, the flashback is lazily used to explain certain scenes. There were never any end goals. For example, when we discover the girl protests, we saw a two minute flashback explaining that she did it seven years ago and her friends used to help her. It was ultimately a lazy patch to drive the story along instead of a powerful narrative to explain character motivation. Like, Ok, so what if she used to protest seven years ago? Why does that matter now? It was really just used to help the short sighted storytelling. We were supposed to feel sorry for her, and the flashback should’ve painted her as a sad character. The two minute flashback doesn’t do anything though. If it was a five minute flashback at the cold intro before the opening sequence, then we would have an idea on what the show is trying to achieve. You can’t just show random flashbacks for sh*ts and giggles. It should have a purpose.
Perhaps the most wasted flashback is the story of the monster that Noel broke. The guy and Noel spent majority of the episode fixing it, and it’s revealed that one of the characters actually conceptualized the thing. The flashback ends there. We see her show a drawing to her friends and that’s it. The flashback should’ve continued on, showing us how the characters made the monster and firmly establish that it’s part of their friendship. Noel breaking it is a wonderful allegory to their friendship as well, and it’s annoying how the writing never utilized the flashbacks to their fullest. It’s often a very lazy crutch that just happens randomly with no care. I still remember how everyone made a wish to the disc. It was revealed in a flashback at episode eleven, and I was so baffled that it wasn’t established earlier. You already have the ability to go back through time and you’re still presenting mediocre sh*t. It’s really frustrating.
The flashbacks are also utilized in the worst manner in this anime, because one important character never benefitted from it. Nonoka’s mother is dead now, and yet the flashbacks have never been used to fully introduce the character. The only time she appeared is when Nonoka met a girl at night on the street and the mother wanted her to befriend the girl. There’s that illogical writing popping up again, but I don’t want to focus on that. Instead, I really wanted to know more about Nonoka’s mother. When they moved away, it was for the mother’s sake. Nonoka seems attached to her, so it would’ve been awesome to see a subplot where Nonoka tries to reconnect with her dead mother in the town she grew up in. We could get a ton of characters related to her mother, they tell stories, utilize the flashbacks and it’s really just one of the potentials of the show badly wasted here.
Another Problem for Original Anime
Useless Characters. Yes, the most annoying staple of an original anime has got to be characters that just do not have any real role in the story. For this anime, we have to blame the terrible writing for not really giving them purpose. Still, they are horrible. I’m not saying one or two of them are useless characters too, because everyone here is useless. No one had any real role in the series including our lead, Nonoka. What exactly did she do here? She just talked and ran all over the place. The forced conflict and the cheesy sentimentality didn’t help her as well, or anyone at all. Shione is just a weird outlying character, the twins are bland cardboard cutouts and the other girl is just another girl. None of them are special, none of them stood out and none of them had an actual role in the show. The show featured Noel hard, but she also didn’t have any purpose. Like, she’s the disc. Ok, what else? I don’t care if she’s the disc if she doesn’t do anything in the series. A lot of these characters are really only here to feature the impressive animation of Studio 3Hz, so this anime is more like their portfolio than an actual show. I do love the animation, but I’m a story slut and there’s nothing I can enjoy here. It’s all just really bad stuff.
Sakoi, Hisaya and Studio 3Hz
The only work of Masayuki Sakoi that I’ve ever seen is this straight up yuri hentai called Sono Hanabira ni Kuchizuke wo: Anata to Koibito Tsunagi. I think it’s the only time I’ve ever seen a full on lesbian sex scene, and I don’t really know what to feel. Moreover, this is a one episode OVA which means Sakoi isn’t really a full time director. He has done regular series directing, but majority of his stuff is just episode directing. He clearly didn’t take charge of this show, because there was no organization here. He only put effort in episodes he was directing and not the overall product. It’s a shame since you can feel the ten directors that directed this anime. They all have their unique presence, and Sakoi’s talents are so weak that nine other directors can overshadow him. I also can’t blame Hisaya’s bad writing on the visuals. Sakoi was in charge of that and he clearly didn’t do a good job of it. Some scenes lack soul, some scenes aren’t pretty to look at, and he emphasized movements of places that didn’t need it. Combined with Hisaya’s awful writing then the result is just really bad. This is clearly an ambitious project for Hisaya and you can tell he was trying to emulate Jun Maeda in his writing. A lot of the fantastical elements in this show hark back to Key and how they would utilize dream-like elements to their story. It’s worth pointing out that Hisaya left Key after Kanon was finished. I bet the dude held a grudge for so long and he tried to prove he was as good as Maeda. Well, he tried but he clearly isn’t. Jun Maeda is also just insanely talented in the realms of visual novels. Hisaya should go back to VN and properly throw the gauntlet there instead of making illogical sh*t like this.
Studio 3Hz is founded by former Kinema Citrus animators, and emphasis on animators. Sora no Method flaunted the visuals and the animation, but it’s intriguing how their next work came out in 2016. The company went silent for a year before picking things back up again. Yeah, Sora no Method didn’t really help their cause, but I think they’re doing fine now. They gave us Princess Principal, and they also handled the spin off for Sword Art Online. Not sure if these shows are truly good, but I would love to see these animators try their hands on a more meaningful work. Sora no Method isn’t really the ideal show to flaunt their talents. It was really wasted here.
Sight and Sound
Character design is done by the duo team of QP:flappers, and it’s apparently a big deal because the show heavily features the designs. I guess I do love how the animators are just celebrating their talents, but it gets a bit ridiculous when they do it to the detriment of the show. The designs are good, despite being a tad cliché. It’s Ok though, because the design doesn’t just end on the cute faces. The characters are also wearing different variation of outfits and accessories throughout the show. Shione and her headphones is a good example. It’s stupid in concept, but pretty cool visually. I love how they dress up the characters, because it really reminds me of visual novels. The school uniform in particular is a nice touch. I both love the spring and summer uniforms, and having great uniforms is often a big deal in VNs. I love how the show is invoking that very small detail of VNs. I also love the bulky frames of the characters, because these are harder to animate and Studio 3Hz is really aggressively flaunting their stuff here. Good for them.
The visuals are pretty great, but they’re inconsistent and a bit unnecessary at times. I kinda rolled my eyes at the sunflower scene at the end of the show. Like, really, you went there. It would’ve been cool if we saw this sunflower field at the first episode. Instead, it just appears very late in the show for no reason other than for the animators to show off. It’s very subtle, but the passion of the animators doesn’t really come through here. Instead, it feels like a smug sense of self-importance which kinda turns me off. Hayao Miyazaki can be an absolute d*ck at times, but his passion for animation still shines in his movies. For Sakoi and the former Kinema Citrus people, their passion comes off as bitter. Like, look what we can do. Aren’t you impressed? It’s very pretentious, especially when you see it at certain scenes that don’t really need it. There are a lot of character movements in the show that felt really unnecessary, and it mostly comes from Noel. She’s cute, we get it. The protest girl and even Nonoka kinda shows off the animation in pretentious manners. I particularly hate the cooking scene in the first episode. It’s an inside thing among animators that they take their food animation seriously. There was an entire controversy over badly drawn cabbage way back when, and Studio 3Hz is really just showing off. Look at how we animate Nonoka cooking. Isn’t it great? Like, seriously, it doesn’t feel good watching something that just comes off as arrogant. But you know what, despite having some crisp and incredibly detailed animation, it’s never consistent.
Background design is sloppy and a lot of them are traced over. Certain scenes that require even a small percentage of their arrogance aren’t given proper love. A good example is the firework scene at episode four. Look at how lifeless the place is. It’s literally a badly done digital overlay, and it’s amateurish. You didn’t have the foresight to add blending colors here? No care at the background? It’s literally just the characters and a lifeless set. It’s a stage prop, and it looks really laughable. I know this is a nitpick, but I love consistency in animation. I love stupid flash animation done by one guy, because his passion comes through. Animation is about your effort and love, and it comes through to the way you storyboard and animate a scene. I’m a reviewer, and I can tell if a project is a lifeless work that lacks any joy. This show is a good example of that. I won’t go into the bad editing, because it’s really just illogical nitpick stuff. I’ll just say that this is Studio 3Hz’s first impression and it comes off as arrogant, amateur and lifeless. It isn’t good.
The anime’s OP is “Stargazer” by Larval Stage Planning. It’s a decent song, and it still invokes the VN appeal of the anime. I don’t like the lyrics of the song, mainly about friendship or something, but I do love the rhythm and the singer’s voice. The OP sequence features all the characters, but everything in it is a lie. There are fabricated scenes in the montage that really leads to nothing in the show. Coincidentally, a different director also did the OP sequence so there’s that. I think the dude was given random notes to put in the OP and he ran with it.
The anime’s ED is “Hoshikuzu no Interlude” by fhána. It’s another decent song, and I think it’s the only fhana song that I actually like. I dunno, I like her voice here. I also like the lyrics of facing the uncertain future with your friends and all that. I do have a problem with the ED sequence that features the obnoxious animation that Studio 3Hz is flaunting here. I don’t know why I’m bothered by it. It’s good animation, and KyoAni does an even more smug style but it just doesn’t sit well with me at all. I do love the detail work in the animation and it’s the only time we actually get to see the disc in a meaningful way, so I like that too.
3/10 “Its heart is in the right place, truly. Sadly its brain forgot how to execute and its body forgot to have a soul. It’s a disappointing anime.”
The animation is impressive. I think most people will be drawn to it, and I’m sure the premise of a giant disc in the sky will be appealing to some as well. This show lacks good characters though. It also doesn’t have a good story, good pacing and good payoff. It’s really not worth your time and it’s a shame given how much potential is wasted here. I do not recommend this.