Well, our first Harem month offering has not been what I consider a rousing success. “Shuffle!” was, in every since of the word, a complete and utter failure, achieving the few points it did earn only because the animation was passable, [When it wasn’t shoving crotches and breasts in my face…] the opening theme was rocking, and Carrie Savage, Leah Clark and Todd Habberkorn know how to expertly helm this failboat of a series in terms of ADR. Hopefully our next offering, “Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi” AKA “A Bridge to the Starry Skies” will make up for it. This is a series that I watched when it came out early last year, and honestly, I was amazed with how much I enjoyed it. It’s quite literally, not like any other harem series I’ve ever seen. What makes it so great? Well then, sit on down and pull up a parfait: I’m Cajun Samurai and this is my review of “A Bridge to the Starry Skies”.
Series Warnings and Other Objectionable Content –
“A Bridge to the Starry Skies” is remarkably clean…as far as harems go. Sure, you have the odd up-skirt shot, and there is the random boy-talk about girls…ahem…fronts, but it doesn’t go much beyond that. I would feel good about showing this to anyone at or above the age of 14.
Series Availability –
Sorry boys and girls; this one is streaming-only. CrunchyRoll is currently running this series on its site, so if you got a membership [or a good friend you can mooch a couple free passes off of…] your best bet would be to catch it here.
Story Premise – “Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi” [A Bridge to The Starry Skies] is a 12 episode series based off a series of erotic visual novels created by Feng. The series focuses around Kazuma Hoshino and his young brother Ayumu moving to the country from the big city ahead of his parents because of Ayumu’s weak health. The boys stay with their aunt who runs a large inn/hot spring. While en route, Ayumu loses his hat which is then picked up by a monkey, and Kazuma, being the doting big brother that he is, goes after it and proceeds to get lost in the woods. Eventually he encounters a girl named Ui and, after getting directions, proceeds to slip on a rock by the river and fall on her in such a way that he winds up kissing her. Ui doesn’t mind this, however, her friend Ibuki does and proceeds to give him the cold tsundere shoulder. However, it doesn’t last long as Kazuma soon makes friends and learns the ways of the countryside while trying to come to grips with what his little smooch with Ui. If there’s one thing that can be said about “A Bridge to the Starry Skies” it’s that it’s an optical illusion anime…that is, while you know it’s only 12 episodes, it feels like you’re watching a 26 episode series. It gives you so much as far as story goes, while moving at its own slow pace. In a way, it’s like the “Aria” series, except with the obvious harem story flavors. While I’m on the subject, I have to say that the way the harem situation is dealt is quite well done. Unlike “Shuffle!” which gave us a completely astatine reason for why all these girls just so happen to like this one dude, “A Bridge to the Starry Skies” gives our characters a personality and lives beyond our male lead. Each character is given their own time to shine without stepping on other characters toes and we learn about their relationship with Kazuma. The ending is about as satisfying an ending as you can get in an anime. Nothing is left dangling or unresolved; there is a clear winner and the way it’s handled is all kinds of awesome. Simply put, story wise, you can’t get much better than this one. [25/25]
Favorite Scene –
Episode 5 “Red Bean Soup and Eel and Wedding Dress” is all kinds of awesome. I also love the confession scene in the last episode. The way that it was integrated into the formal ceremony was brilliantly done.
Characters – Here’s a breakdown of the main cast of “Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi”:
|Kazuma Hoshino||Our male lead and the focus of our harem. Kazuma is a nice, well-meaning teenager who moves to the country with his younger brother, whom he cares deeply for. He’s a touch clueless at times, of course, when it comes to the affections of the other females in the series, but he’s always nice and willing to help them with their various issues. Of course, he has a slightly pervy side to him, but it’s all typical teenage boy stuff. He’s a male lead you can’t help but admire and want to succeed.|
|Ui Nakatsugawa||Harem Member #1 and our Female Lead. Ui is a very energetic girl with a freakishly massive appetite. In fact, when she meets our male lead, she’s gathering mountain vegetables for lunch and other dishes. Ui is an adorable little dingbat, and she’s the kind of person who you can’t help but root for. I love the fact that the creators gave her a slight jealous streak when anyone gets close to Kazuma as it makes her relatable instead of being your perfect airheaded female harem lead.|
|Ibuki Hinata||Harem Member #2 and our resident Tsundere. It’s the same old story with this little cutie—tough on the outside and initially distrusting of Kazuma, but warm and caring on the inside when it comes to her friends, and eventually she starts developing her own feelings towards Kazuma. While Ibuki looks to be your typical tsundere, she does lean towards the warm side more than the tsun-tsun side, and for this show, where all the characters are genuinely pleasant to each other, it works.|
|Madoka Koumoto||Harem Member #3. She’s a shrine maiden [Miko…] at her parents shrine and fills the position of our painfully shy character. To say she’s a little boy-shy is an understatement—she’s so frightened of guys that, if they get in her personal space, she sends them flying…literally. Of course, our male lead Kazuma gets this treatment, but only once or twice before she remembers that she once knew Kazuma when they were little and he gave her a “promise ring” of sorts. After this, she grows to have feelings for our male lead, in a “friendly competition” of sorts for Kazuma’s affection.|
|Hina Sakai||Harem Member #4 …remember Sakaki in “Azumanga Daioh”? Yeah…carbon-freaking-copy here. Shrinking violet to the extreme and sensitive about being one of, if not the most developed character of the cast. She also has an affinity for anything cute so you can guess who her favorite person to hang around with is. In fact, she pulls a Sakaki in Episode 6, spending an almost uncomfortable amount of time petting our resident shota on the head. She’s the daughter of the local sake producer, and looking at her parents, you can’t help but wonder how a girl like that came from those parents. In any case, she’s a very nice addition to the cast.|
|Ayumu Hoshino||Kazuma’s younger brother. [Yes, contrary to images and random cosplays he is, indeed, a boy…] Ayumu is a lot like his brother; a gentle caring soul who is absolutely devoted to his brother. He’s vulnerability to illness prompts the move to the countryside, and he soon finds himself popular with the older guys, especially Sakai. Typically in a harem anime, we have one character that plays the hyper-kawaii lolli, but since this show is full of them, the creators went with making Ayumu a hyper-kawaii shota but giving him a lot of the lolli attributes; sickly body, sibling admiration and loyalty, etc… Ayumu toes the line between being tooth-achingly adorable and “Ugh, he’s TOO freaking” adorable. That is, he’s clingy enough to be cute, yet independent enough to not be annoying.|
|Daigo Minamikokubaru||Our typical goofy, pervy, hyperactive best friend character to the male lead [And the winner of “The Cajun Samurai’s Holy Heck Why is Your Name So Effing Long?!” Award…] He’s a cool guy and he plays well off all the others, without being overly annoying or wearing.|
So overall, “Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi” is a compilation of the familiar and the unique with regards to character types. They fit the story really well and nobody is extraneous. As we’ve said countless times on this blog, when it comes down to Slice of Life anime, the characters are the ones who make the story work. You can have an awesome story, but if your characters suck, then you’re not going to care to see them in their day-to-day lives. [23/25]
Animation – We got another bright and beautiful one here guys. The animation work on “Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi” is by far one of the most striking shows of 2011. It’s really nice to look at and easy on the eyes. The thing that stands out to me about this one is the eyes, especially our female lead, Ui. The little quarter moon circles are an interesting touch that I don’t recall seeing in any anime before or since. It gives all the characters a warm and cute look about them, but it’s not overly done. And…oh…waaaaait a minute! I get it! “A Bridge to the Starry Skies”…the quarter moon circles under the eyes…I see what you did there, show…well played. Well played indeed. The school uniforms are…well…unique…the female uniforms are okay, but the male uniforms look like something out of that old movie “Airplane!” They’re okay, but they look kind of dowdy when compared to the girls. I also like the fact that the Hoshino brothers actually look alike. I find that a lot of times in anime, when we’re dealing with brothers, they look next to nothing alike. This time around, our brothers actually look like brothers! While I’m on the subject of brothers, if I had to gripe about anything animation wise, it’s how little bro Ayumu has been given the hyper-cute shota treatment. While, granted, this was probably done intentionally to give the show even more moe appeal, I will take points however for a bath scene in Episode 2 between Kazuma and Ayumyu. The little kid already looks a lot like a girl; seeing that shot of his bare chest doesn’t make matters any better, and frankly, I was a little uncomfortable when that scene popped up on my laptop while I was in the Laundromat. [And yes, I watch anime while washing my clothes. Heck, what do you expect me to do when I have free Wi-Fi at my beck and call?] The backgrounds and scenic shots are also breathtaking— almost rivaling on Miyazaki-style. There is a little Fan service, as seems to be customary of harem shows, but it’s nowhere near as in-your-face or flippant as “Shuffle!” done more for laughs than to titillate, if you pardon the expression. [10/12.5]
Music – The opening theme, “Hoshikaze no Horoscope” by Nomico is a well done opening title sequence, introducing us to the cast in their natural environments’ with emphasis on both stars and sky. The song starts off slow, but then picks up, which is a bit jarring, but once it picks up, it gets better. The instrumental music is a breath of fresh air as compared to “Shuffle!” It pays homage to its video game roots while not bludgeoning the viewer over the head. It stays out the way in the background. The ending theme “Dash do Cinderella” by Eriko Nakamura and Ai Shimizu is upbeat and fun as it plays over computer wallpaper worthy images of our main cast. Simple yet well done. [12/12.5]
Performances and Production – “A Bridge to the Starry Skies” was created by Studio Dogakobo with director Takenori Mihara at the helm. Studio Dogakobo has had its hand, animation wise, in quite a few projects including “Aria The Animation”, “Psalms of Planets Eureka 7”, and “Planetes”; all shows with outstanding animation and voice work, this one being no exception. As I mentioned earlier this is a sub-only title, so let’s look at the Japanese cast.
Japanese Voice Actor/Actress
|Kazuma Hoshino||Shintaro Asanuma||He hasn’t had that many leading roles in anime, playing a lot of bit-parts, but I have to admit, he has the chops to play lead roles.|
|Ui Nakatsugawa||Eriko Nakamura||She has a rather small resume as well, but she does really well playing Ui; not coming off as too cutesy-ditzy, but giving enough to make us fall in love…ahem…moving right along…|
|Ibuki Hinata||Ringo Aoba||Another small resume, but I’m pleased with her portrayal of our little tsundere. It’s not easy going from cold to loving and back again, but she does it expertly.|
|Madoka Koumoto||Ai Shimizu||Dang…her resume is much longer…she played Karen Onodera in “Please Twins”, Akari in “This Ugly Yet Beautiful World”, and Mikoto Minagi in “My-HiME”. Not bad at all in this role.|
|Hina Sakai||Mayumi Yoshida||I have to admit, before I looked up her record, I was positive that this was the same V/A as Sakaki in “Azumanga Daioh”, but I was mistaken. In any case, she does an awesome job as our shrinking violet.|
|Ayumu Hoshino||Aruyu Ohashi||…now don’t tell me you actually thought our resident shota was voiced by a MALE? Nope, Ohashi-san voiced our glompable bro, and does a bang-up job of it too.|
|Daigo Minamikokubaru||Wataru Hatano||Well, what do you know, we have an “Aria” alumni here! I have to admit, every line that Daigo says had me in stitches—part of it is good writing, but the delivery by Hatano-san drives it home. He is amazing in the role and I knew I was going to laugh every time Daigo opened his mouth.|
So overall, the cast of “Starry Skies” is a well done gathering of actors and actresses that give life to the characters, making this show shine even brighter than the stars in the sky. [25/25]
Story Breakdown – 25/25
Characters – 23/25
Music – 12/12.5
Performance and Production – 25/25
Final Score – 95/100 = 95% – (A)
Lagniappe (A Little Something Extra):
- The game Kasane is playing in Episode 7 “The Pink Nyanbobo” is, of course, “Dance Dance Revolution”.
- If you pay attention to the first few seconds of the opening title sequence, [when all the girls are seen against the starry background] you’ll notice that Ayumu is the only boy featured. […these guys REALLY wanted this kid to be a girl, didn’t they? I mean, good grief…]
- In episode 12, there is a small animation continuity error: when Kazuma is trying on his costume for the festival, he is wearing white tabi socks. However, after Tsumugi walks in, also dressed in costume, the shot changes and Kazuma is barefoot.
So where does that leave us? Bottom line: “A Bridge to the Starry Skies” is the anime that “Shuffle!” wishes it could’ve been. It’s well paced story, adorable characters, beautiful animation, special music queues, and awesome acting makes this a go-to series for anyone who is in the mood for a harem show separate from the mainstream.
And with that, we bid farewell to “A Bridge to the Starry Skies” and man, that feels SO Much better after having delt with “Shuffle!”
To finish up our “I Love Him! NO! I Love Him! NO I LOVE HIM MORE!!!” Harem month, Otaku Andrain will be submitting a review on an anime series that…well…lemme put it this way…it’s a wonder that any female in this show don’t have back problems with their sizeable…well, you’ll see in his review of…
Correction (2/28/2013) – Yeah, no… apparently I got the names all screwed up and “Maburaho” was NOT in fact the anime OA was talking about. My fault guys! I’ll review “Maburaho” myself later down the line, but in the meantime, check out Otaku Andrain’s review on…