Creativity and innovation are keystones in writing quality stories. Taking these principles to heart, Sola weaves a fascinating and involving storyline from a fairly basic concept, transforming an ordinary series into a commendable piece of anime craftsmanship. Despite the presence of a number of harem elements, such as three cute girls chasing after the lead male, Sola is anything but. Though the first episode hinted at a somewhat shallow cast of characters, I was elated to find out that this was not the case.
I've come to respect series that discard character fluff in favor of substance and depth. At its core, Sola focuses on the emotion of regret, using each of the three girls to reflect upon a different facet of the idea. Only two of them have an actual romantic connection to Yorito, which takes away the annoying "sister is madly in love with brother" cliché. Mana, for instance, while initially appearing to be a typical girl with a high school crush, develops tragically as the series progresses. Unlike many romances where the girl remains wishy-washy the entire duration of the series, she is forced to confront the sincerity of her feelings. As Yorito delves farther into the world of the Yaka, she must decide whether or not he is worth pursuing, even at the cost of her own happiness.
In and of itself, though, the actual storyline itself was somewhat of a bore. My enjoyment from Sola came almost purely from watching the characters interact with each other and struggle with their circumstances. Very little is actually explained about the Yaka, save their longevity and aversion to ultraviolet light, which left me with a plethora of questions that were never answered. The actual concept of the Yaka seemed little more than a ploy to bond Yorito, Matsuri, and Aono together, but I felt its shallowness somewhat easily dismissed because the series never actually uses it as a focal point; it was touched upon so little that I never actually built much serious concern or interest.
Just from watching the opening video, you'll notice an incredibly fluid and detailed atmosphere that pervades throughout all thirteen episodes, surprisingly with relatively few lapses. Details such as the rotation of the wrist when a character throws an object really stand out. These visual subtleties might not seem like much, but when viewed in a cumulative sense, they work wonders when framed during action scenes. The emotional vibes of the characters come alive in their actions, and you really get the sense that when a character is experiencing fear, he/she is sincere. Lots of neat light filtering effects stand out too, which prove as strong visual compliments to the Yaka's inability to withstand direct sunlight.
My only real complaint is Aono's character design, as her hair/eye coloration just doesn't seem to fit in with the rest of the cast. Most characters have dark hair and eyes, but hers are much lighter, and thus stand out a little too much. Not too big an issue, but it is a minor quirk. Aside from that, however, nearly flawless; you'd be hard pressed to find such beautiful aesthetic interplay in any non-movie/OVA production to date.
While you're at it, toss in a splendid opening and ending theme for good measure. Tack on a beautiful soundtrack and there's not much to complain about here. I found myself hopping back into previous episodes occasionally to listen to some of the insert music, and that's always a good thing. I particularly liked Matsuri's seiyuu, as she gave her character a very distinct feel and flavor. Overall, high marks here in general, as there's little to really find fault with.
Yorito, though initially seeming shallow, turned out to be rather well developed. Despite following a fairly generic male design, he quickly emerged as a respectable lead. Clear and decisive, he spends little time wallowing in self-pity, relying more on his skills in rational thought than in wrist cutting. With each episode, my amount of respect for his character grew, and I felt the decisions he reached by the end were presented quite well. At times he could be annoyingly naïve, but as the series progressed he actually learned from his mistakes, which really humanized his ordeal.
Matsuri (especially), Aono, and Mana, being the crux of the series as far as relationships go, were all panned out nicely as well. Each of the girls has her own reason for being drawn to Yorito, and none of them are really cookie-cutter. None of them were attracted to him "just because," which I felt to be one of the series' real strengths. As real life goes, as well, Yorito doesn't try to bounce between the three as if they're mindless puppets. He has true affections of his own, and the hopes and desires of the girls are not reciprocated in full.
Takeshi's side story was my only real gripe. It built itself up to be something greater, but after the climax it ended with a thud and I found myself scratching my head. Not bad per se, but uninspired.
All in all, I enjoyed Sola from start to finish. Though it moves tediously slow at times, it never lasts long and is always followed by an interesting plot twist or action scene (all of which are gorgeously animated.) After I first finished the series, I had somewhat of a slight distaste for the ending, but reflecting back I'm actually quite satisfied. The series spanned its thirteen episodes quite well, conveying a high level of production quality while not trying to overstep its bounds. Sola won't find its way into your collection of classics, but it's certainly unique enough to leave a lasting mark, and of that I have no lasting complaints; a satisfying watch that I'm sure many would enjoy.
Why is the sky always so depressing?
(this is in reference to the fact the I watched this series right after
watching Air which also has this theme)
Wow... this series was amazing. More people have to catch on to Sola. This should be a top 50-75 anime on the web-site and frankly I'd have to say it's among the most complete series I've seen. From beginning to end this series is nothing short of brilliant. They've done almost everything right with this series. The pacing is sublime. It goes like this: there are several episodes which tie in, there's a minor resolution (so you can catch your breath), then repeat. And the story builds through each minor plot angle. Also, Sola does a terrific job of not spoiling key pieces of information too quickly. Obviously the viewer has a better sense of what's going on than the characters for most of the series, but a lot of the back-story as well as the purpose of the two major supplemental characters (Takeshi and Mayuko) don't come to a full level of understanding until much later. In other words, the series doesn't just spoon-feed you information, you have to make some assumptions as you go along and maybe they'll be right or maybe they'll be wrong; that's what makes the story so much more compelling. Sola is simply at a higher level than most anime. The story is probably best categorized as a quasi-tragedy. It's not the sort of depressing, eerie tragedy that was had in School Days (see my review), but it still has some great impact. The final few episodes are fantastic. A totally inconceivable plot twist in episode 10 leads to the beautiful tragedy. The characters are fairly strong. You immediately get a strong connection to Matsuri (the female lead) and soon after Yorito (the male lead). Aono (Yorito's sister) provides a polarizing anti-hero to round out the three main characters. There are flashes as well from the other characters, particularly Mana (Yorito's classmate) and Takeshi (I'm thinking of one quote in particular). There is very strong allusion throughout the series to Plato's work "The Allegory of the Cave." If you've read this grand work of Plato, then you'll surely get a lot more out of the series. If you haven't, no worries, as a little bit of inference will get you a long way. There are also some definite Shakespearian references in the last 4 episodes, but I wouldn't say with confidence that this was really a theme. There is one very significant symbol in Sola and that is the sky (or sora). The next to last scene (I think) will really test how much you've bought into the whole symbolism of the sky. And I think the reason I like anime like Sola (and Chobits) so much is that they are more than a sum of their parts. Overall, this series is magnificent. I've given a minor deduction for the characters could've been a bit more dynamic and as well, the sky symbolism isn't perfectly executed. However, these don't act a deterement to the real crux of this series which is the story. So 9.5 out of 10, a must watch in my eyes.
NOTE: This review was posted on a forum I am active on in a thread about anime. Parts of this review may be affected by that. This review was written on October 6, 2010.
Finished it a Monday night. Really great series. I wasn't sure what to think before, cause I knew it was written by the same guy who wrote Kanon, but it wasn't Key's work. So I knew it would be good, I just wasn't expecting to to be that good! I'll keep this spoiler-free since no one else here has seen it yet.
STORY … 9/10
You know, I really hate when people rate a story according to 'originality.' Come on guys, there's nothing new under the sun. As long as the princess doesn't have to kiss the frog or some cliché bbq then it's just plain rude to say that something's not original. So this guy might have taken a few things from Angel Beats!, but that doesn't make this series original or un-original, cause Angel Beats! was written with a bunch of ideas taken from other places, and those were made of ideas taken from even more places, etc. So all that to say that I'm not going to be lowering sola's rating just because it's very similar to Angel Beats!.
What I enjoyed about sola was that it never ceased to surprise me and never ceased to bring something new to the story. Every time that I started to think, "Oh that makes sense now..." and when I finally connect A and B, they threw C in there and it mixed things up even more. It wasn't one of those stories where you know what's going to happen in the end. Anything's possible, and quite frankly, the ending surprised me... a lot! In sola, there's not a clear 'these are the good guys' or 'these are the bad guys.' You know the main characters and what their missions and goals are, and you love these characters. Then it's up to you to chose who you want to cheer for.
What's interesting about the parallels with sola and Angel Beats! is that while the plots and storylines follow on the same paths, the way they execute these are completely different. I just tried writing out the least spoiler-y example and it's just not going to work. You'll just have to watch to see. But while there are a ton of similarities in the progression of the plot in these two shows, they both take place in completely different settings and circumstances. (sola does not take place in the afterlife.)
ANIMATION … 8.5/10
As for the animation, I thought it was really well-done. I didn't find any faults in it that I noticed without trying to find them. Throughout the series I just kept falling in love with the character design of Matsuri. The one thing that really hit home for me was the beautiful scenery and background design. If you're gonna watch sola you're definitely gonna want to find an HD download cause it's totally worth it. Every setting was unique, and every sky they show is beautiful in it's own unique way. One of my favorite locations in the show is the church where Matsuri is a lot. (Second picture.) It's got a really omnipresent look to it... like it would never end. Other than the settings and character designs there's not much left to say that really jumped out at me. Summed up, it was done very well and had some great scenery.
SOUND … 7.5/10
The music in sola was beautiful. The opening theme was just average, nothing really exceptionally special about it. But I loved the ending theme as well as the themes for the characters and the closing song of the series. I can't elaborate much on anything else cause that's basically all there was. Nothing seriously stood out to me except for those mentioned above, so I guess sound could be it's weak pillar, but for a short series like sola, it had a few excellent tracks that I'll definitely be plugging into iTunes.
CHARACTERS … 9.5/10
Definitely the strongest point of the series. This is it's main difference from Angel Beats! and where it becomes more like Toradora! in that it's got only six main characters (and two of those I wouldn't even consider main characters) where Angel Beats! had like ten. sola really focuses in on these characters and connects them with the audience really well. I really loved Matsuri a lot, as well as Aono and Yorito. Those three characters have a fascinating past and it was so fun going through the story trying to plug each piece together. My only complaint would be Koyori... she kinda got annoying at times, and while it was kind of funny watching Mana always whack her when she didn't call her onee-chan, her dying-to-do-oragami attitude occasionally got to where it's like, 'Okay, she's folding paper with 'nee-san again, I get it, move on now.' But that's my only complaint! The rest of the characters were fantastic and I really loved them all. I found Sae to be absolutely hilarious and how she's always falling over backwards for Takeshi. Great characters all around minus Koyori, and all that put together makes for an excellent series with a few great tracks, beautiful scenery and animation, and and story that will keep you on the edge of your seat even after it's over.
OVERALL SCORE … 8.6/10
(Because No Two Skies Are Alike...)
Sola Generally follows Yorito who is a amatuer high school student with a passion for taking photographs, espically of the sky.
Im usually a big fan of any real mystery presented peice, but i count mystery as mysterious as well, though sounding simular there completly differant yet great genres. Sola presents a very nice air of mystery in the show as it develops through. The sence of mystery does unfortunatly lead to some more than predictable outcomes but there enjoyable non the less, i will keep the spoilers short but honestly some things about Aono-san became obvious early to me if you pay any attention to her in the hospital. That being said the plot for the show was very interesting, if reminded me of Ef:the two tales seris really which i did enjoy alot. Episodes dont always leave you will a great cliff hanger (which to be fair isnt easy to always do) but they always reveal small parts of the story to you. Sometimes you might be feeling at aloss as once every now and then the story takes some time to set across its point in the scene but dont worry, for these slow times the story does fit into pace and follow so you never feel to rushed near the ending. The ending of the show is enjoyable, i admit i didnt forsee the ending how it played it, the show lead me to belive all would be obvious in its ending but i was greatly taken by supprise which made the ending all the more enjoyable. The storyline is a great one and has some nice up points in it im sure most will enjoy.
I think the style of most of this anime are well done and the scenery sure does stand out. You will commonly notice (possibly with the main character enjoying scenery photo's or just because they did a good job) that some scenery work in sola is very nicely presented, some have a great use a colour and look espically nice in the show, whilst others are just always nicely drawn.
Alot of skies will be shown weather its the sun rise in the first episode or the sun setting in the final episodes now these wont sound minor but some are quite beatifull. Im a big fan of the image to the left as i think its greatly done and looks so magnificent for art.
All in all most the art work is well done in Sola, you might notice some backgrounds do feel a bit cheap like in one scene where Yorito and Mana and walking together but these are very rare and usually are background images not made to be seen (in the scene i commented its zoomed in so its only small visual of backdrops)
Sola's soundtrack is great, unfortunatly i felt obligated to give it a 8 due to the smaller number of tracks in the soundtrack its self but some peices of music are truly great. The opening "Colourless sky" is a favorite of mine, the full version (and tv size) are great and songs i listen to on a common basis, also the lyrics to the song are nicely done but the melody probberly tops all. As said the soundtrack is quite small in general but some tracks are really memerable, upon finishing the seris i remember re-watching certain scenes for the music (this was whilst considering getting the soundtrack which i did) so there are some great tracks. The no lyric OST versions of background music are quite good aswell, some are a bit plain but most are nice to listen to. The soundtrack fits well with the show as they scncronise very nicely.
I feel i might be a bit bias here as i loved the characters in sola and has no real issues with them.
The main characters in Sola are all very to them self in there own way,i personaily loved Matsuri and Aono from the very start (before learning anything about them) as they both semt loveable, Matsuri the more playfull and Aono the more quite both make great characters but also Mana i felt was going to be boring but i ended up loving her just as much. The characters develop well through the seris, we start with Matsuri who is introduced nicely and moves well with the flow, although one negative was her story was falling into place so nicely but out of nowhere some scenes are just thrown on us (they just felt to sudden) but otherwise its all great with her, We probberly learn Kiori (i dont know how to spell her name) next as she is also Mana's sister who is in hospital with Aono (nice way to bring her and Aono into it in my opinion), we learn alot about her and Aono as they spend time together and the clever birds out there (such as myself xD) will learn a thing or two extra about Aono san early on which will be explained later but its nice to be able to guess. Really i think most characters are done well and develop well through the seris, they all are quite nice and uniqe to there own styles.
The anime overall if worth watching if im honest. The story feels good and the characters are loveable, it features some nice battle scenes as well as some past memories and the OVA was good to. Though a short seris is features some great elements of a truly amazing seris and i think its easy worth a 9 (im quite harsh giving above 8 so that means it is great), only reason i cut short of 8.5 was a few rush scenes but its nothing to pass the anime over on, i will say its a anime i expect to re-watch several times over (of course giving it some time)
This is my first time doing an anime review so bear with me. I think of myself as more of an abstract reviewer so I base my scores according to my feelings and attachments to this anime as an audience. After watching a few series of Ecchi/Comedy related animes, I have decided to watch something a little different. So I decided that I would give Sola a try based on the reviews I have read and the site rankings.
I guess like some others, I'm blessed to not take any movies or animes lightly. When i do watch an anime, I feel like I was in there, either being one of the characters participating or a sideline viewer within the anime. I'd become so attached to what I was watching to the point where the real world would become numb to me.
'Sola is in a sense quite a heavy series. It arouses many feelings inside me that I couldn't even clearly explain myself. The name sola is a romanizing of the word Sora, which means sky. In Italian and Spanish, the word Sola also means "alone", suggesting a double meaning to the title.
The anime itself is as beautiful as the name sounds, it's a tale of friendship, jealousy, eternal love and promises. It explicitly portrays the emptiness and loneliness of someone having lost a loved one and having the desire to never let them go, just like Aono; and further portrays the inability to accept the reality and to move on. The theme of the sky reoccurs in the anime, and it's also the promise between Yorito and Matsuri, in that they will see the bright blue sky together some day.
'A part of your memories of someone would never die'. Yorito's habit of taking pictures of the sky later becomes Mana's habit even if she had no recollection of who Yorito is. This shows the idea that the great memories you had with your deceased loved ones would one day become your strength and drive you on. I could go on and on about how I feel but I guess I am kind of off track here, so anyways...
The anime started off lightly but ends in a somewhat reminiscent tradegy, although there was no complete recollection of memories. The character who changed the most to me was Aono, from ignorance (< pretty strong word here) to acceptance. Although (SPOILER AHEAD) not every character survived until the end, the ending was somewhat satisfying and conclusive in that the most stubborn character of all finally realizes and understands what the others have sacrificed for her.
"That's why...I walk under the sky, under the sky that those two gave me."
All in all, if you are looking for something a bit more serious, something short, lovely and bittersweet, this is definitely what you would want to watch.