Sola (Anime Legends Edition) (of 1) (Mania.com)

By:Chris Beveridge
Review Date: Monday, October 05, 2009
Release Date: Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Finally, a series with a leading man who has a legitimate reason for being empty inside.

What They Say
Yorito Morimiya is a high school student who loves to take photos of the sky. One night, he goes out to the park to take a photo of the sky as it turns from night to day, when he meets a mysterious girl named Matsuri Shihou who longs to see the blue sky. However, she is actually an immortal ageless existence called Yaka, the Calamity of the Night, and has lived hundreds of years alone in the darkness of night. Matsuri has been involved and witnessed many tragedies throughout her long life, and now she has to face the past. Yorito and Matsuri's chance meeting unravels a story that stood still for hundreds of years...

The Review!
Audio:
Sola ends up with a monolingual release here with just the original Japanese language track in stereo encoded at 192kbps. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t all that immersive or impressive of a mix as it’s almost entirely dialogue based outside of a few brief action scenes and the opening and closing sequences. Music within the show is fairly nondescript overall, though some of it does add nicely to the occasional scene, but nothing that really stands out strongly. The bulk of the show with its dialogue does come across well and free of problems, but again nothing really stands out with it in terms of placement or depth. It’s a good mix and what one would expect from a show of this nature.

Video:
Originally airing throughout 2007, the transfer for this series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and is enhanced for anamorphic playback. This series is made up of thirteen TV episodes and two OVAs which are spread out across three discs with five episodes per disc. Sola has a decent look to it, though much of it takes place at night, and it manages to hold things together well with the dark blues that permeate it. This isn’t a strong animation piece, more of an average piece, and the transfer shows that as outside of the backgrounds there isn’t a lot of detail to the show. Colors look good, there’s very little blocking to be found in the backgrounds and cross coloration and line noise is essentially non-existent. There are some very good looking moments here overall and fans of the show will be pretty pleased by what they see.

Packaging:
Sola’s cover is pretty decent, but it’s left me feeling rather uninspired with a rather basic if prominent design used during much of its advertising in Japan. The central focus is on Matsuri as she stands amid the sky and clouds with her umbrella, which does have the same kind of sky and clouds inside it as well. It’s a very simple piece without much to it, but her smile is good and the logo is nicely placed and minimal overall. I’m still not a fan of the Anime Legends banner being used for first-time releases. The back cover uses the blue and clouds to good effect with a few choice character shots from the show and a heap of text to cover everything. The summary is pretty well defined and we get a breakdown of all fifteen episodes by number and episode title. Add in the discs features and production credits along with a good technical grid and it’s a nice package overall, just a little bland for the front cover artwork for my tastes. There are no show related inserts included nor is there a reversible cover.

Menu:
The menus for Sola are minimal and difficult to look at because of the choices made. The overall idea isn’t bad, using the sky backgrounds and the view through the camera to showcase everything, but the combination with the light green strips for the navigation and thin white lettering for the text makes it almost unreadable. This is a very basic almost no-effort kind of approach where it gets the job done and makes a nod towards the content of the show but doesn’t really look or feel good. The color combination alone is difficult enough. Submenus do load quickly and because of the monolingual nature of the show, player presets are a non issue.

Extras:
The only extras for this release, found on the third disc, are the clean opening and closing sequences.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
An original work alongside a manga by Naoki Hisaya, Sola is a thirteen episode TV series with two additional OVA episodes that fit into the TV series timeframe as side stories. The show has a decent pedigree behind it with the primary writer from Kanon involved and animation by studio Nomad who was involved heavily in the Rozen Maiden series. Over the course of thirteen primary episodes, the relationships of several characters are explored, but it’s not until about halfway through that the show actually becomes interesting, and more in that mildly interesting way where you’re just curious as to what they’re really trying to do. You can see shades of Kanon in here, but as a single story given its own series, which doesn’t hold up well with all this additional time to deal with.

Sola revolves around a young man named Yorito who lives in a seaside city with his sister Aono. Aono fell ill a few months prior, just after moving to this city, and has spent all her time in the hospital. It’s from this situation that Yorito met Koyori, a young girl who was also in the hospital who was being visited by her older sister Mana. As it turns out, Yorito and Mana are in the same grade and they started visiting everyone together and spent time in the mornings where she’d do the friendly thing of going to get him out of bed since there are no parents mentioned at all in the story. The situation isn’t the best, but Yorito is doing what he can and Mana and Koyori help out both him and Aono by being friendly, spending time with them and keeping an eye out for each other.

For Yorito, he’s got some passion to be sure, a passion that does keep him from seeing his sister sometimes. But in the end, that passion is because of his sister so she doesn’t complain too much. Because of her condition and being in the hospital, he’s made it his goal to photograph the beautiful skies, to capture those blue hues, the clouds, sunsets, sunrises and everything in between. His need to do this sometimes causes him to miss school and appointments, but his results certainl speak for themselves. It’s during one session, trying to capture the sky as it transitions from night to day, that he meets Matsuri in the park. She’s a slightly quirky young woman about his age who seems disconnected from the world about a number of mundane things but she’s also very interested in all that he knows about the daytime sky.

Matsuri is the catalyst of change here as Yorito is drawn to her, though he’s unsure why because she disappears on him. When he does find her again, she doesn’t try to really hide her nature because she’s being hunted by someone who wants to kill her. As it turns out, she’s an ageless immortal creature of the night known as a Yaka. Sunlight is the weapon that can destroy her, so she spends her life in the night and out of touch with much of humanity. Yorito hides her in his house since he’s the only one there, but it’s just the start of what will become a much more involved situation as Matsuri has a connection to both Aono and Yorito from some four hundred years in the past.

Within the first thirteen episodes, the first five or six are fairly standard setup pieces, but the hook of mystery isn’t all that engaging. It doesn’t really draw you in all that strongly. It’s only once the basics are revealed about what some of the situation is about as Aono meets Matsuri and returns home from the hospital that it becomes a little engaging. The second half is where the characters are actually fleshed out a bit and some of the motivations become clear, but what hurts the first half is that the characters are about as dull as dishwater. Yorito has little to offer other than he takes pictures, but he’s excused because of later revelations that I actually rather liked. Aono is bed bound for the first half and simply sulks while Matsuri is stupidly happy when she’s not being chased by someone trying to shine sunlight on her. And the friends, Mana and Koyori, have potential themselves but aren’t well used overall as they’re essentially secondary characters to the drama of the core trio.

Sola has a fairly decent look about it as well, though again, nothing really stands out strongly. The character designs are appealing enough and they all have a certain look to them that’s appropriate, the animation blends well overall and there aren’t any huge problems with them. But nothing really stands out either. The same can be said about the backgrounds which during the important daytime scenes when they talk about the blue skies, or the sunrises and sunsets, really don’t have a very strong feel about them. They’re not bad, but after various other series that make such lush backgrounds out of the skies, this feels pretty basic. Again, it’s not bad, but the skies don’t come across as their own characters. A lot of the city backgrounds are quite good, filled with detail and a sense of life to them, but they aren’t the real focus either.

In Summary:
Sola’s not a bad show, but it doesn’t have a whole lot going for it, especially as it takes more than half the TV series to really get into a good part of it. The OVA episodes at the end are cute and they bring in the silly, such as hot springs and so forth, so I was glad that they kept that out of the main series because it would have come across even worse I think. Sometimes those kinds of episodes just don’t belong if you want to have the right atmosphere. Sola has some good moments, but it feels like it’s unfocused and unsure of how to really set the pacing and plotting out to make it engaging in each episode. The first half is a slow build that isn’t engaging while the second half does better, but has to deal with reduced expectations. I usually enjoy titles like this, but Sola is one I can’t imagine revisiting anytime soon.

Features
Japanese 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing

Review Equipment

Sony KDS-R70XBR2 70" LCoS 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.



Mania Grade: C
Audio Rating: B
Video Rating: B+
Packaging Rating: B
Menus Rating: C
Extras Rating: B-
Age Rating: 13 and Up
Region: 1 - North America
Released By: Bandai Entertainment
MSRP: 44.98
Running time: 375
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Disc Resolution: 480i/p
Disc Encoding: MPEG-2
Series: Sola