Number 3 here on my forbidden love playlist.
Yosuga no Sora is considered borderline hentai for its controversial treatment of sibling sex and unusually graphic imagery for a television series. When I ran the title through the Google translator I got “wounded sky” after going through various options, most of which gave me no translation at all. One time I got “empty edge”. A wiki (Animanga) I happened across said it meant “Sky of Connection”. The English title is “In Solitude Where We Are Least Alone”.
This one is controversial. I usually don’t look at other reviews before I do mine but since I’d already seen this one long ago and knew the riots it could cause, I did. The reviews ranged from “amazing and beautiful anime” to “Every character stinks like a brothel’s bedsheets” to everything in between. I think it makes reviewing more fun if you already know half your readers will hate you for it.
Spoilers, spoilers, spoilers, and etc.
The anime is derived from a visual novel when then was produced as a manga. Ever watch a harem anime where the guy never settles on one girl? Or if he does, it isn’t the one you wanted for him? I guess this is one way to solve that problem. Essentially the anime is four different stories, each one representing a different route the main character could follow. Each route represents the MC ending up with a different girl. There are some who miss this and think he ends up getting every girl in sequence. That’d be one hell of a sex life!
There is a little bit of deconstruction here. (Possibly even unintentional. ;)) It reminds one that the conclusion to a work is often not dictated by the plot and the characters but rather usually the author’s sense of what will sell. The philosophy here is, “Sell everything. Nobody has to lose.”
The 4 different routes and their episodes are as follows: (http://yosuganosora.wikia.com/wiki/Episodes)
Another oddity is the way the episodes are split between a 22-minute anime and a 3-minute omake segment pretending to be a “bonus” feature. Sometimes it is better than the main event. I consider the omake to be a “5th route”.
Every student in this is 16 or 17. No actual loli now but – in a couple of brief flashbacks… If I had to pick a color for this, it would be a warm yellow or even dark orange. A lot of the action takes place near or after sunset. These kids don’t have any problems wandering around after dark, either. Free range parenting at its best.
Haruka and Sora Kasugano are identical twins whose parents died in an accident and who now live alone. They are both extremely blonde, slight of frame and beautiful. Haruka is the protagonist of the story, Sora is his stay-at-home frail sister who constantly nags and texts and clings. It is REALLY obvious from the start she wants to monopolize his attention, affection and sexual interest. The 4th route looks at that possibility. They are just moving back to their grandparents’ house when the anime starts.
Sora was more damaged by the loss of her parents than Haruka. She has been avoiding school and clings to her stuffed animal, the only token she has left of her mother. She just starts school again soon after the anime starts.
Nao Yorihime reminds me of Hanekawa from Monogatari. She combines intelligence, glasses, moe, a touch of sadness, and large breasts in just the right proportions to drive young boys nuts. She remembers Haruka from long ago and lives nearby.
Akira Amatsume lives at the local shrine, her family is unknown and being kept a mystery from Haruka. She is a good athlete, always bubbly and upbeat. While at school she is often supported by…
Kazuha Migiwa is our resident himedere. She lacks the loli attribute and is the mature, responsible scion of a wealthy family. As it turns out, Akira is Kazuha’s half-sister by her father’s mistress. Kazuha is an extremely talented viola player but insecure about it. Picture remind you of anyone?
Motoka Nogisaka rounds out the cast of major characters. She is Kazuha’s maid and appears to be a part-time college woman struggling to make a living. Not perhaps the best maid material, Motoka is compassionate and cares deeply for her charge. She has a fondness for sake which can be problematic. In the omake section of each ep., Motoka is the star. Outside the “omake”, she doesn’t have a route but certainly has a thing for Haruka. Ms Nogisaka is a bit older than the rest, possibly the early 20s. (That might qualify it as “forbidden love”.)
Of course, there are other characters.
Kozue Kuranaga is the class rep. Of course she has a crush on Haruka! Yahiro Ifukube is the only adult interested (that we are aware of) in Akira’s well being. She runs a candy shop at the bottom of the hill the shrine is on. Also a heavy drinker. Being an adult, she gets to have breasts that would be an engineering nightmare. Ryouhei Nakazato is Haruka’s best bud and self-styled ladies man.
The first cycle belongs to Kazuha. It is fairly tame. Love blossoms, family problems are resolved. There’s no serious action till the end of the route and even then… It really is a lot funnier in context than if you watched those couple minutes in isolation. It all about the character development of the girl. Haruka just facilitates.
The next cycle picks up after episode 2 and posits a different outcome. What if instead of this event happening, things went differently? And goes on from there. The next round goes to Akira. Turns out they met way back when they were children. Already a bond there. Akira has much sadness in her life but she just smiles through it. There is a bit more fanservice here, pretty innocent stuff, really.
I have some thoughts on fan service that will probably alienate about half my readership. These are my tastes and opinions. You can take them or leave them.
Fanservice has the drawback of objectification. It doesn’t treat the person (it can be a male as well) as a complex character living their life and just happens to be a moment sans clothing. It leaves him or her as an object whose purpose is to sexually excite the viewer. Even the art is inferior because a stunning background, the complex play of light across a figure, the delicate facial expressions of the subject, would all distract from the purpose which is teenage fapping material.
Nudity isn’t necessarily fanservice. As another blogger I follow, Irina, says, you could have the entire anime set in a nudist resort and it not be fan service. People do things and sometimes those things are naturally done nude.
To reiterate, IMHO most fanservice is dead space in an anime. It can be objectifying, humorous, obnoxious or even enlightening. Overdone fanservice detracts from the quality of the story, especially if the plot has to get twisted so as to produce fanservice moments. I don’t object to it but it doesn’t help the anime in any way for me.
Back to the anime. It is at the end of episode 6 where Akira’s route ends. Once again, family conflicts conclude with a happy outcome. Akira conquers her fears and hostility is ended. Haruka was the catalyst once again
Now it is on to Nao’s route. It skips directly from ep. 1 to 7.
Each route seems more risque than the last. Nao’s route has intercourse within the first couple minutes. She had some pretty substantial relations with Haruko when they were younger.
Sora is a bit put out by Nao. She is an insecure sort. And holds a grudge from long ago. And walks in on them in flagrante delicto. (Oh dear, we’re back in the realm of fanservice-ness.) Neither Haruka nor Nao showed any brains in allowing this to happen. (Well, Nao did hesitate for about a millisecond.) I hate it when the plot depends on stupidity to progress.
Nao is a bit put out about by Sora’s reaction. Of course, things work out, even if things get a bit stormy. There’s more drama in this route. And in the end, fireworks.
Ep. 10, the fourth and final route: Sora. This is the one that gets the haters hating. If Sora were just another girl, everyone would be fine. But not only is she his sister but she is his twin sister. Not stepsister, not adopted sister, not emotional sister or even half-sister, but the closest biological relative one can have, an identical twin. Oh, the horror! Oh, the incest! This is what makes this a series about forbidden love.
Sora is doing her damnedest to seduce Haruka. He obviously wants her but some shred of morality tells him it would be wrong. (There’s some backstory on this.) Haruka is going with Nao but Sora has the sickly sister act down pat. Then just somehow Haruka happens to peep on her when she’s making these moaning sounds and muttering his name…
I’ll let you figure out the rest but ep. 11 has the biggest shock of the entire season.
On the quality of the art and animation, this is a good anime. Not up to outstanding (let alone Godlike), but I don’t expect that from a series. The dialog starts out lacking a little something but it improves as the series continues. Everything feels rushed to me. Not surprising since they squeezed five separate love stories into 12 episodes. Even the omake segments (really the 5th route) ended up well.
Of all the characters of the “harem”, only Kozue doesn’t get an arc. Even Motoka gets her “arc” in the omake. This is explained nicely in the last episode. Touches like this make the show quite enjoyable. It isn’t all just an excuse to see nipples and sexual positions. These are realistic characters with realistic feelings. There’s a bit of tragedy here. Even as the other kids are trying to understand and accept Sora and Haruka’s feelings, Kozue can’t. To do so is to demolish a lifelong mindset and render the virtuous sacrifices she has made in her life (NOT fighting aggressively for Haruka just being the most recent) into merely bad choices.
Fans of continuity, please explain what happens to Soras bunny thru the last ep. And how the hell did dainty little Sora turn into a rescue swimmer? You could come up with an alternate ending with this. They could both be dead.
My favorite route was? All of them. They did a great job of making every female very kawaii. In fact, they were all too perfect, universally beautiful, understanding and lovable. (Except for Sora, hehe.) Not a trace of tsundere in any of them. If they’d had the time to actually develop the characters into people, I could have fallen in love with each of them.
It was Akira’s visuals that grabbed me. The scene of her purifying herself alone in the lake at night was lovely, not exploitative. I was also partial to her bathtub scene with Haruka. She is bold, not shackled by convention about nudity and there was a believable backstory as to why she is that way.
I don’t doubt that every inch of exposed skin in anime is judged by how much money it can bring in. It is a cut-throat business and profits are what make anime possible. You can do it well or you can do it poorly. For example, I give Kuzu no Honkai an “A” in this regard. The nude scenes and sex scenes were so integral to telling the story that it wouldn’t have worked without them.
I noticed a decline in the art quality during the “fanservice” shots in Yosuga no Sora. And some of those explicit sex scenes were of marginal utility. Those shots are expected to carry their own weight by their arousing content, not their relevance to the plot. There is no need to use their best quality here since the audience probably won’t notice. 🙁
I’ll give them a “B-” here. Haruka seems to like having his sex with his clothes on a lot. I can only think that is to emphasize the nudity of his female partner rather than the intimacy of the couple. Nobody has ever heard of locking a door. Nobody ever knocks. Nobody has the good sense not to barge into a house from which moans of ecstasy are coming from. Too many awkward scenes where it just wouldn’t happen that way if people had the slightest sense of privacy.
Supposedly it is considered seinen and hentai but I have created a new category for it, fapping ecchi. Hentai means perverse or perverted. Seinen means adult male. Nothing “seinen” about the teenage boys who will pleasure themselves while watching this in their room with the door locked. (Not that I think there is anything even slightly wrong with that. I was a teenage boy, long before most people reading this were born.) However, if you enjoy having your thoughts provoked or care about the well being of characters, there is that as well.
For people who want more, there is a visual novel out on CD, Haruka no Sora. It pursues further routes as well as Haruka marrying Sora and having a baby.
Jūdai no dansei fantajī, done well, sums it all up nicely.