Nov 24, 2017
12 of 12 episodes seen
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Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm, a show with a solid sport, but falls flat on story execution and use of characters.
Before I go on, SPOILER WARNING. In order for me to really explain later my issues with the show, I am going to have to talk about many things in the show and break them down. So if you have not watched the show, I do suggest doing so, because my review will have tons of them.
Now I don't want to start with the negatives, so I'll list the few positives I have with the show.
The sport was pretty cool, and I enjoyed them.
I got hyped at some parts, so extra points there. The music is okay, not amazing, but still decent to good. While I do have some issues with Misaki, I did enjoy her the most out of the girls, and thought her drama was (sort of) realistic.
First issue is the handling of Hinata Masaya as a whole, and this is probably my biggest issue. The show makes somewhat of a big deal over the fact he played FC before and implies he and Aoi have history together. But the problem is we barely get any look into his past, and any time the show has the chance to explore him, it just makes a few side comments and then shifts back to the girls for the rest of the episode or even episodes. Then when Misaki goes through her drama, the show suddenly acts as if he's getting over his past by him saying pretty much FC is hard to run from, even though we have not really seen any character development from him to make that deserved. This also ties into him playing with Grav-Shoes out of nowhere, it wasn't earned and was very forced. Another problem the show has, is his overall...lack of presence. Although it tries to push him as mattering, he doesn't really have much interactions with his friends nor do they seem to really care about him and comes off borderline non-existent often enough when it comes to them (besides to a tiny degree Misaki). He also has no believable bonds with any of the characters. On top of that, he doesn't get to do much other than give orders usually (rarely do we get to see him do anything else), further making him seem isolated in the show. Bottom line is, Masaya was severly underutilized, and he should have been handled better and had a lot more screentime as well as delve more into his past.
Up next is...unfortunately Misaki. The issue with her, is her character is all over the place. Here's a prime example. We see that she is very competitive and prideful, right? But when she can't handle that Asuka is doing better than her against Shindou and isn't the best on her team like she thought, unlike the other times, she just keeps quiet and merely grunts. This is very inconsistent with how she's known to act when she's very frustrated and annoyed, and is pretty out of character for her. Another inconsistency with her is she flip flops when it comes to Mashiro. At first she seemed totally okay with Mashiro's affections, and then suddenly she's not anymore. No reason, it just happens. Another problem, her attitude when it comes to Mashiro is so nonchalant to a point they really should have developed her character to caring more about Mashiro. It never feels like she truly cares about her. Even when it really mattered in ep 4 when Mashiro is down, Misaki does nothing, not even so much as ask what's the matter, she just goes about her business like nothing is wrong. Yet Misaki acts all caring about Asuka when she has any problem, and is actually nice to her. The contrast is painfully obvious, and it makes Misaki unlikable when it comes to Mashiro. Another thing, how did she even know Masaya played FC in ep 6? Like many things, no explanation. It's also pretty annoying that Masaya opened up about himself to Misaki in ep 8, and she barely has a reaction to anything he says. Overall though, she's not written very well, is all over the place, and, like Masaya, should have been handled a lot better.
Now for Mashiro, why exactly was she in the main cast? I know she is an FC player, but she didn't contribute to anything, and the writers don't even show her matches from start to end and skip around them. Let's think about it. Masaya gives advice, coaches them, Asuka and Misaki are fairly strong and can build off one another, what does Mashiro offer? They make it seem like she's so important given she had nearly a whole episode dedicated to her, but that goes nowhere. She realized she had more knack for speed, but then we get to the first tournament, nothing payed off for her, she got immediately owned like it was nothing, and then the show has the characters clap as if she did something impressive when she didn't. She got one lucky point cause Satou was thrown off by her speed (whom did not know she was a Speeder at first), and then after one more point to a buoy, she got whooped the moment Satou quit playing around. Couldn't you start Mashiro with a weaker opponent? I mean why give her an episode trying to make her a Speeder, and then trash her aside in the very first match next episode that she is in? The whole thing was pointless and a waste of time. Worst of all, is her irrational actions in ep 4 that made no sense. She lonewolfs without once telling Masaya (her FC coach) about her issue or ask him for help like she should have. They give no reason either for why she won't go to him for help either. Then she lets a girl she barely even knows from another school teach her when that is Masaya's job, nor is it Rika's place to be the one teaching her. They could have just said something like Mashiro doesn't want to burden Masaya with her troubles, and that would have partly fixed it, but they lost that excuse when they've got Rika not even one time point out to Mashiro that she should be going to Masaya for help and question why she's not doing so. It just feels like an excuse to not utilize Masaya really, and it's terribly written as I said. Then there's how she seriously believed Rika's claim in ep 3 that Masaya saw her undress despite not knowing Rika at all back then, and makes no attempts to defend her friend over this random girl making a claim with no evidence. As if that's not stupid enough, she then gets on his case later in the same episode for simply staring at Misaki like a normal person would, when she herself just tried to invade Misaki's space. Finally, her comic relief role. She's supposed to be one of the more important characters, but the show doesn't use her properly because it's treating her like a side character who's just mainly there for comedy while Asuka and Misaki kinda hog the spotlights. We have Shion, whom can easily fill the comedy role after all. Mashiro is one of the more main characters, but she doesn't offer anything to the show as far as being useful. The only thing she tends to be is comic relief with her Misaki obsession, which of course they don't even try to explore why she cares about Misaki at all, when she has more reason to not. Aside from that, Mashiro contributes nothing, she's simply there for the sake of being there. You could completely remove her and the show would go on like normal.
Aoi I don't have many problems with how she's handled compared to the others, but there's still a few things that I take issue with. The main one, is her being a drama queen about Irina's FC and mocking it outright. First off, do you really think everyone is going to start playing the way Saki does? So what if she keeps winning tournaments? Not everyone wants to stall games cause to them it would be boring and they just want to win, so Aoi's "FC would meet it's end as a sport" claim was pretty weak. Some would play like Saki, some wouldn't. Also, Aoi's whole goes against the spirit of the game nonsense...it is a sport you can play however you want so long as no cheating. Saki does not cheat, nor is she doing anything wrong to anyone. They do play different, so what, get over it and come up with new strategies instead of antagonizing their FC. It was really bad drama that shouldn't have been a thing. And listening to her arguments is cringe worthy as well given Saki does still get points, so she is still playing like everyone else, just she does it differently, which she has a right to do, as does anyone. And at the end, Aoi doesn't even apologize for the way she's been acting about their FC, she only acknowledged their FC because it caused the sport to evolve. Also, does this girl not know how to leave people alone about their past? I mean she of all people should know that Masaya wouldn't want to think about it, yet she keeps bringing it up at some points with no real consideration for his feelings about it. Also, like Masaya, the show tries to set her up as being more important, but fails to follow through with it.
Next is Asuka. Of all the girls in the main cast, she's the least interesting character. She's a one-note airhead whom loves FC so much. That's pretty much her entire character, but that's the least of my problems with her. Now I do understand she is the main character, but I still think she was given far too much screentime to a point it hurt everyone else. In the times where the show quits focusing on her, it almost all goes to Misaki while barely giving any of the other characters screentime they need. This hinders the cast from being used properly, because all the focus is usually just on Asuka or Misaki. And it's true they are the lead characters of the show, but the rest of the main cast suffers from the show focusing too much on these two and not using the other characters as much as they should be. One major problem with Asuka, is how she is written when it comes to Masaya. She is told in ep 2 how he has played FC before. Knowing Asuka, she would have been very intrigued/excited by and wanted to talk to him after that piece of information was said. Instead she does nothing, which makes no sense when you factor how much she loves FC and wanted him to be her coach. But then she is told for a second time basically in ep 6 by Misaki that he has played FC by saying how Aoi was his FC teacher, and she still does nothing. Again, that's pretty ooc of her when you consider her overall character. Another problem is she goes from being an amateur to shortly after able to make Shindou, a very experienced FC player, go all out on her. The Air Kick Turn you can chalk to beginner's luck, but she shouldn't have went from nothing at all to being almost on par with Shindou after maybe a few weeks at best of basic training. That's pretty dumb when you think about it. It'd be different if she already had a good degree of FC experience, but she literally just learned what FC even was weeks ago. Asuka's big drama after losing to Saki was horrendous. It made no sense for her to mope around most of an episode just because she couldn't fight the Birdcage tactic. And what really makes it so much worse, is she's totally ooc. Asuka would have simply perked up and vowed to get stronger, that's the kind of person she is known to be, as we see in her match against Misaki in ep 2 where she didn't stay down for more than a few seconds. Yet here she is moping for most of an episode over one lousy loss? It was terribly forced drama that shouldn't have happened. I also think Asuka really has no depth as a character. They try to explore her past a little, but we have no context on what caused Asuka to view herself the way she did. Yeah she says what she is depressed about, but that doesn't explain what she went through that lead to her thinking of herself as she describes. It is fun to watch her in some FC matches, but I don't find her that good, is written terribly when it comes to Masaya, and wish they would have used her better, and toned down her screentime so we can get more development with the other characters.
Shion and Madoka, well they're not written bad per-say, but I do wish they left Shion for the comic relief while toning down Mashiro's. They don't both need to fill that role often enough after all. Madoka could have been more explored given she doesn't seem all that into FC, yet she stuck around for some reason. She is the manager of the club, but it seemed pretty questionable why she even stuck around the club when it didn't seem like she was all that into FC. I also don't understand why she stood there and said nothing when Aoi told Masaya he should be able to get how Misaki feels (ep 8). She was right next to him, so clearly she heard it, but she has no reaction for some reason when you would expect her to be curious what Aoi meant by that. Still, she and Shion are okay.
Rika...why she is listed as a main character is beyond me. She does not do much other than help Mashiro one time (which I have a problem with). Aside from helping Mashiro once, Rika is kinda irrelevant overall. She's pretty much a support character who just comes back sometimes to play a match and definitely shouldn't be listed as a main character. She's no different than Shindou and Satou helping out on occasion. As for her as a character...well she's nice and plays FC seriously, which isn't much to say about her character. She's not the least bit interesting, and the whole mad at Masaya for seeing her undress was so cringy, like close your own curtains for crying out loud. Plus that little sub plot amounted to nothing, they didn't even talk to each other to fix it, Rika just has one of his friends tell him she forgave him. As a whole, I didn't care for her.
Shindou would be so much better if he wasn't so boring of a character. He lacks any personality, but randomly roars furiously and gets hardcore serious when pushed to his limit.
Satou I won't deny was pretty entertaining, but there's not much to be said for her besides her having a proud personality and her whole food thing.
Saki, the best way to describe this character is she has hardly a shred of emotion up until ep 11. Basically, she is the most boring character in this entire series. On top of that, we don't really dive in her head to see what she really thinks of how Irina is going about things. So we don't get a sense of how she feels and if she's simply doing as Irina says because she wants to make her happy, or if she's on board with it. We know she likes cats, and we know she is friends with Irina, but that's still not much to say about her. And for the big final boss, that's pretty sad.
Irina is the worst character in this show by far. She views the current FC as a cheap circus imitation...the sport is called Flying Circus, aka a sport simply for fun, so her reasoning for hating the current FC is stupid and nonsensical. Second, the way she goes about trying to get respect from people makes no sense. Who the heck would respect someone who's acting like a cocky little snot and goes out of their way to another school to try embarrassing their best player simply just to show off the Birdcage? I will give the show credit for giving a brief glimpse of her friendship with Saki in that one flashback, but Irina as a whole is an awful character who also had no reason to be an antagonist. She took a show that was not written well already, and made it a lot worse with all the terrible drama and how stupid and unlikable of a character she is. I would have preferred she wasn't put in the show, or at least her character was a little more likable.
For other story things I can bring up, Masaya joining the club was too forced. He had no interest in the sport anymore, and just helped Asuka two times just to be nice (second one Aoi manipulated the situation to make him do it, which was insensitive on her part given she knows he wants no part of it). Yet he joins just because they ask him to? The show made it very clear he doesn't want any part of FC, and out of nowhere with no reasoning on his part, he just joins? How does that make any sense? Speaking of this scene, his friends were pretty insensitive. He already brought up earlier he played FC before, yet here he is STILL hesitant to join the club at the end of the episode. How does it not register to these idiots that something is clearly wrong, or even bother to ask him why he doesn't want to join? The thing that grinds my gears even more is the way Asuka is portrayed. She's a kind hearted person who cares about how people feel, yet she's acting totally ooc by doing nothing but beg Masaya to coach her despite knowing already he doesn't want to join.
The kid Masaya stuff in regards to Asuka and Misaki was pointless, because it never went anywhere at all. What was the point of him being in the Asuka flashback and be who Misaki beat as a kid if neither of these two girls are going to figure any of this out? It literally went nowhere and felt thrown in for nothing. Plus you would think Asuka with her memory would be able to see it's obviously Masaya given she remembers exactly what the kid looks like. It's not hard to figure out that Masaya is that same kid-it's the same freaking face, eyes and hair! I understood in Misaki's case not figuring it out given her memory didn't seem as clear as Asuka's, but with Asuka it was pretty inexcusable no matter how you slice it. It's a subplot that is just left hanging.
In ep 2 early in, Masaya cuts Madoka off from asking him to join by refusing, and the scene becomes tension-like with her and Asuka clearly able to tell something is up. Then the very next scene is all the girls simply together at lunch. I'm sorry...what!? Let me get this straight, you ignored everything that just happened like it never even happened despite making it seem like a big deal! You don't even have Asuka or Madoka one time ponder why he was acting off, when they clearly have the common sense to tell he was acting strange!
Mashiro viewing Rika as a rival came out of nowhere. We've seen them be good friends and all, but all of a sudden in ep 11 we get a flashback that makes them rivals for some reason? Why? They never once gave any hints to the two seeing each other as rivals. The other flaw with this is, shouldn't Misaki be who Rika really wants to beat given it was her who beat Rika last tournament? Same for Mashiro and Satou, Mashiro should be more motivated to want to beat Satou whom she has lost to twice, once in practice and in the first tournament. It feels like the show got the rivalries wrong with these two, especially Mashiro.
The way the girls kept bothering Misaki in ep 8 was hard to watch because of how cringe worthy it was. If you truly are a friend, you need to leave people alone when they don't want to talk about something. They weren't being very considerate and just kept going out of their way to force it out of her, which thankfully Masaya eventually calls them out on it. One thing that made no sense was how they kept bugging Misaki so much, yet not one time asked Masaya if he had any idea how to catch her or why isn't he helping them. Again, why are they written this way?
As I've indicated many times already, the way the girls are written (especially Asuka) when it comes to Masaya is terrible, and the show really should have fixed it. There's no excuse for them being like this.
As cool as the FC sport is to me, it did get repetitive very quickly. You touch someone's back or a buoy for a point, and maybe do a few fancy moves, and that's it. Everything starts to just be the same by ep 4. Saki brought a new style in which was cool, but it doesn't remove how repetitive the sport is. And that pains me to say, because honestly the matches are the best written parts of the show in my opinion.
There is way too much focus on training and not enough focus on the characters themselves. Usually we get training, some comedy scenes and then matches. But we barely explore the characters is the problem, as I've said before. The biggest example being episode 10. This is the episode where Masaya finally plays with Grav-Shoes. It should have been a good time to develope Masaya's character by focusing in on him for a change while giving it a rest with the girls whom have hogged pretty much the whole show. We did not need to waste over 12 minutes on their training, it could have just been toned down to 4 minutes at best while Masaya gets explored and developed more. Which could have made him flying more earned and less forced. And various other episodes have the same issue of not exploring or doing much with the characters while focusing so much on the sport and training. I get they want to push the sport, but they pushed it so much the characters ended up suffering tremendously because of it. Another thing is if they had delved more into the characters, we would be more invested in the matches because we actually care for these characters we've gotten to know. As it stands, we barely know anything about them, which makes it hard to care much for any of them or anything they go through.
At best, this show is a 3/10 to me. It had a lot of potential to be decent to even fantastic, but it falls flat on execution, plot points, use and handling of characters, and overall writing. If you go into this turning your brain off completely, you might like this. But if you care about the writing, characters etc in a show clearly trying to tell a story like I do, then I can't recommend this to anyone besides the sport match parts. It does have a few good things about it, but a few good things don't make a show good.