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[R1 DVD box art]
AKA: Sora (Japanese)
Genre: Drama with supernatural elements
Length: Television series, 15 episodes, 23 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by Bandai
Content Rating: 13+ (Violence, mild fanservice, darker/mature themes.)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: AIR, Kanon, Moon Phase.
Notes: Made as a joint media project by Kanon creator Naoki Hisaya, the Sola anime is preceeded with the manga, drawn by Chako Abeno and serialized in Dengeki Daioh. The manga has been licensed by Broccoli, but was discontinued after the release of the first volume.

It's also worth noting that the main show consists of 13 episodes, the remaining two being bonus episodes taking place either in the middle of or before the main show itself. They are all included in the box released by Bandai Entertainment.
Rating:
 

Sola

Synopsis

In an attempt to take a picture of the dawn, Yorito Morimiya meets the mysterious Matsuri Shihou, herself a member of a race of people known as Yaka, or "Calamity of the Night". Being a Yaka, she is harmed by direct sunlight, so she can't watch the sun with him. Nevertheless, he takes an interest in her, and promises that she'll be able to see the blue daylight sky with him some time.

But there are also people out for her life, and Yorito might very well find himself being caught up in it all.

Review

So, Sola.... To be honest, I completely forgot why I started watching it in the first place, but I do know we synchroed it some time ago. I'm guessing the whole "guy meets girl" topic caught our synchro eye once again, and then, like AIR, Sola proved to be a good deal better than we expected.

I guess that's why learning that Kanon's head writer making this wasn't such a big surprise. In many ways, Sola shares the same positives and negatives as Kanon, save for a few token differences. For one, the art style is different, leaning away from the overly moe characteristiscs OF Kyoto Animation shows and more towards your average visual novel style. Sola itself might not be based on any games of the sort, but the character creator, Naru Nanao, is well known for doing character designs for those kinds of games. I'm sure names like Da Capo, Canvas 2 and EF: A Fairy Tale of the Two are familiar with some of you, right? And if not, what you can expect is fairly restrained character designs. No outrageous hair colors or sizes, sporting ridiculously large hair ornaments. No teenagers with curves like porn stars. It's actually kind of refreshing.

And, like Kanon, Sola starts off generally lighthearted with a tinge of melancholy to it. Yorito, our lead protagonist, does come across as a little bit bland despite his very specific hobby. He's not a complete wuss and a pushover, but he's kind of just there to let the girls play off on him, at least a good while into the show. And of course he's got a female classmate who's secretly crushing on him without him noticing, because why not?

But, despite being a love interest of sorts, Mana doesn't really get a whole lot of screentime. Not as much as you'd think a love interest would anyway. She's more of a nag, really, whenever Yorito needs to think more of his hospitalized sister, and despite her finding out about Matsuri taking residence in Yorito's home, she accepted her presence pretty damn fast. Hell, Mana's little sister, Koyori, might even see more screentime than Mana, due to her status as Aono's friend in said hospital. As for Aono herself, she initially comes off as Yorito's sickly sister, completely deadpan and reserved, mostly seen in the hospital. Her role is also fairly minimal at first, but grows later on.

And then, there's Matsuri, our resident main Yaka. She might look like a teenage girl at around Yorito's age, but she's actually more than 400 years old. The Yaka, not to be confused with vampires, is apparently a race of beings who doesn't age significantly in the duration of their life, but can still die from direct exposure to sunlight, although perhaps less strict than vampires in that they have no problem going outside on cloudy or rainy days. They also do not require blood. In fact, despite their moniker, "Calamity of the night", it's actually unclear just how they're supposedly such a peril to humankind. Matsuri herself is quite like most girls her age, if not a wee bit eccentric. But then, living for more than 400 years will probably do that to someone, especially someone as young as her. She does have some rather impressive superhuman abilities, though, even if she doesn't use them very often.

As for the person aiming for her life, that would be Takeshi Tsujido, an older man sometimes in the company of a little girl. We first meet him as he attacks Matsuri in the abandoned (and soon to be torn down) church she was staying in before taking residence in Yorito's home. His motives are somewhat unclear at first, but certainly not inexcusable as he clearly states he'll be taking her life for the sake of someone else. When he's not hunting for Matsuri, he can be seen in the company of Mayuko, the little girl in question. They are often found in the local cafe, where he draws the attention of Sae, one of Mana's friends and classmates, who starts crushing furiously on her "hige-dandy".

Which is about it as far as I'll go with the character introductions. In many ways, Sola is like Kanon in that it likes to keep secrets from its audience as long as it thinks it can get away with it. Sadly, Sola meanders about a lot more than Kanon did, but to its credit, its cast is significantly smaller, so you won't have to watch Yorito going through the girls one by one, solving their problems. It does mean that even 13 episodes (and two bonus episodes) might be more than the show really needed to get its point across, especially seeing as the manga managed with mere two volumes. And don't entertain the idea that this show is all smiles and sunshine. Things will definitely take a sinister turn before all is said and done.

It's not a fantastic show or anything. In fact, I daresay Kanon -- or even AIR -- would be a better choice any day if you're in the mood for this sort of thing. But looking at it in a "value for money" angle, Sola definitely comes up with the goods. It's a little slow, but it supersedes several other shows of the same variety by strength of its contents. In short, Sola is good. Not just "average" or "acceptable", an excuse I'm getting kind of tired of using on tediously average shows just because they might do one or two things right. It's a flawed show, but it's got far more soul than most. It knows just how to set a mood, and that's why you should watch it.

A flawed, but interesting show. If you think it sounds neat, just pretend I rated it four.Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: There are some darker themes in this show, which is why it's rated 13 and up. Some violence also lends weight to the harsher scenes.

Fanservice is mild -- nearly nonexistant, in fact, and mostly relegated to the 14th episode, which is one of the bonus episodes, and an excuse to put everyone in swimsuits. And that's about it.



Version(s) Viewed: R1 DVD, Japanese with English subs only
Review Status: Full (15/15)
Sola © 2007 Nomad