This week Stars Align demonstrates solid handling of its characters and narrative as it continues to develop its cast, touches on sensitive issues of domestic violence (with one uncomfortable scene toward the end of the episode involving harm to an infant – visuals aren’t explicit but the thought hurts), and shows the underdog soft-tennis club continuing to teach its newest member and try to work out its new dynamic now that Maki is there. While there isn’t anything particularly new here the combination of elements and the smooth transitions between club antics and more serious drama are actually working really well and Hoshiai no Sora is a real surprise from the new line-up of anime.
Beginning the episode, we see Toma making good on his promise to help with the shopping with Maki and soon we have a group of friends (sort of) sharing a meal in Maki’s home. It is a nice touch and a fantastic contrast given the previous encounter when Maki went home alone and was confronted with violence. It also showed us that while Maki was reluctant to join the team now that he’s a part of it he is keen to learn.
Which pays off when Toma and Maki play against the other pairs in the club. Unsurprisingly the other pairs can’t compete (in any other anime a newbie beating experienced players might raise an eye-brow but here it made perfect sense given what we’ve seen of the cast so far). However, having a ‘star’ join the team doesn’t bring everyone together in this instance.
Maki really could learn to moderate his tone a bit or maybe hold his tongue. I actually appreciate blunt and honest characters and Maki isn’t wrong in what he says, however there was possibly a better way to say it. Still, Toma taking a break is the least of the club’s worries as we learn about Itsuki’s past dramas after two would-be bullies try to start something with him leading to the rest of the team letting Maki in on a fairly horrible instance from Itsuki’s past.
It’s a solid episode in terms of where the characters are going and the set up is pretty good at this point. There’s also enough variation in the personalities of the club to keep it interesting without each character being zany for the sake of it. About the only real downside is that the animation isn’t that great. Even when playing a match it doesn’t really step things up and while it works well enough, there’s certainly other sports anime out there that are more fluid and dynamic to watch if that is the selling point for you.
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Reviewing all the drama in Stars Align.
Images from: Hoshiai no Sora. Dir. K Akane. 8Bit. 2019.