Japanese Title: sola
H2O: Footprints in the Sand
Watched in: Japanese
Genre: Supernatural Romance Drama
Length: 13 episodes, 2 OVA
- A few atmospheric moments.
- Boring start to finish.
- Bland skies.
- Characters don’t fill their intended purpose.
- Feels in alpha planning stage.
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Yorito is a guy obsessed with the sky. Sunrise, he’ll be there; midday, he’ll be there; sunset, you bet he’ll be there; no matter the state of the sky, he’ll be there taking photos. He’s so obsessed that he doesn’t notice his best friend Mana has a crush on him. One early morning when out on a sunrise excursion, he meets Matsuri, a girl battling a vending machine that ate her change without beverage compensation. She, however, vanishes before the sun rises.
Sola takes the subtle approach – the too subtle approach. Sola is so subtle, one wonders, much like the sky itself, if it’s there at all. See, Sola requires forever to tell us its purpose. I started with the episode-0 OVA. Don’t do that. It was pointless with no plot.
Even once in the actual episodes, Sola is too vague in its aim. It doesn’t lay down anything concrete for us to invest in at the start. Writers need to give something. The Elric brothers want their bodies back with alchemy, but they need to find the philosopher’s stone first. Ash wants to be the very best, but he needs more Pokémon. They have a direction. Even if it changes further along, a story must present something to hold onto within the first episode. Other than his love of the sky, which is a mere hobby, Yorito has nothing going for him. And Matsuri is even emptier. She’s “mysterious” for no reason other than the fact that she doesn’t talk. Seriously, a few minutes conversation with Yorito would clear up all mystery. It’s never clear why she’s so mum either. For several episodes, the story amounts to people doing ordinary things and a guy taking photos of the sky.
I only enjoyed the parts when they appreciated nature, whether the rain or sunset. The music and audio effects evoke a nice atmosphere and make me want to go sit by the rain.
I almost forgot: Yorito’s sister is sick in hospital. There is always a sick girl in this type of anime, isn’t there? Fear not, she’s as bland as the rest. On paper (nudge, nudge), she has a good backstory, but she does nothing, so once again I question if she exists at all. Sola has “mysterious” character with no mystery, “cute” character without cuteness, and “deep” characters as shallow as a puddle. It’s simply boring. (Parents are invisible as well to no consequence on a teen with a hospitalised sister.)
The first twist, of sorts, happens a few episodes in when Yorito stumbles upon Matsuri under attack by a curse hunter. Sneeze and you miss the resolution to this plot line. He gives up his pursuit so easily that I must question, yet again, if he was truly a part of the story at all.
The main theme is loneliness, but they never make use of it. Yes, Matsuri is lonely because of her ‘curse.’ Yorito’s hobby is a lonely one. His sister is lonely in the hospital. Mana is lonely in her one-sided love. Even the Loli vagabond is lonely living in a cardboard box. Problem? You guessed it: they don’t use this loneliness to develop some complex metaphor or change. Come on, Sola, how many times will you do this!? Use something!
Every motivation in Sola comes down to promises. “I promised my sister this” or “I promised this little girl that,” type of affair. I hate the promise motivator, for it gives us nothing about the characters. It’s a shallow dodge for effort. Imagine you couldn’t use the promise device, how would you justify these characters? Why would they do what they do? If one insists upon the promise usage, then focus on the motivation for making the promise. What about a broken promise and the consequences? Why do they never consider that?
“What drives you?” a scene asks.
“I made a promise,” says the character.
“Great. That taught us much about you…”
Back to FMA again, the Elric brother promise to resurrect their mother, but anyone who’s seen the series knows that’s not the motivator. Selfishness is their real motivator, which is excellent, as it shapes their entire quest.
Lastly, it irks me that Matsuri goes back to same broken vending machine. This is Japan where one can find another machine around the corner. No, forget the corner – there’s usually two side-by-side! Yeah, it bothers me like an old man with kids on his lawn when there’s a park next door.
None of Sola’s problems are atrocious. They are just nothing. The worst thing is that for a sky-themed anime, none of Sola’s skies are interesting. How…?
Art – Medium
The art is pleasant enough, but nothing stands out. They should have hired Makoto Shinkai’s artists for the skies in Sola, the sky anime. Is it just me or do heads grow larger relative to bodies in close-ups?
Sound – Medium
Average audio in every sense, music to script. Only the ED song and some atmospherics stood a little above.
Story – Low
A guy obsessed with the sky meets a mysterious girl before she vanishes. Took me ten minutes to write that elevator pitch because I forgot what happened in Sola, so dull was its story. Whole lot of nothing, albeit innocuous.
Overall Quality – Low
Recommendation: Don’t bother. Unless looking to fall asleep, spend your time elsewhere. Sola has nothing to recommend itself.
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