「ハルカナソラヘ」 (Haruka na Sora he)
“To A Distant Sky”
It wouldn’t have been a finale if they didn’t save the best arc for last. In terms of having a flair for the dramatic, this one sure delivered as I found myself feeling sorry for Haru when Sora forced him into a corner about their relationship. It’s like I could see his mental breakdown happening before my very eyes as he was torn between his feelings and his moral principles. While I was sympathetic towards their situation and even found Sora’s unwavering feelings somewhat commendable, she definitely wasn’t doing Haru any favors by telling him that she’s fine with him violating however he wishes after he pushed her down and had his way with her. After seeing his reaction to Kozue and Nao stumbling upon them, the guilt he felt from Kozue’s cried out stares, her abrupt confession followed by how she’ll never speak to him again, and Nao’s disappointment over how he failed to forget about Sora after starting a relationship with her, I was pretty convinced that Haru was trying to make Sora hate him by forcing himself upon her. It would have made things easier for him if she just hated him, except it backfired when she was completely fine with it and verbalized all the thoughts that were already running through his head. The emotions really flared up when Haru couldn’t bear to hear anymore and had to slap Sora to make her stop. I actually found that scene a little hard to watch, but couldn’t peel my eyes away either for that very reason.
In light of that development, Haru deserved all the credit in the world for trying to break things off cleanly with Sora. He may have used the fact that their uncle contacted them realizing that they didn’t have savings to continue living on their own, but he was also pretty firm about how their relatives would be able to take them in if they were split up. Naturally, Sora wasn’t content with that decision, leading us to the suicidal-like mail she left behind for Haru. At that point, the possibility of a double suicide seemed very real thanks to the preview last time, which I really didn’t want to see even though it seemed like a pretty powerful way to conclude this arc. Still, I thought it was kind of meaningful how they really played up that outcome and gave off a sense of doubt whether their love should be treated so negatively if they’re willing to go to this extent because society won’t accept it. Had it not been for the incest part, this kind of social pressure could very well be perceived as downright cruel. What really drove that point home was Haru’s explanation to Nao on how his feelings for Sora developed due to the time they were apart, which reiterated that he didn’t just have an uncontrollable urge to have sex with her. The way he was repenting over his actions is what ultimately left Nao somewhat understanding of them, even though Kozue wouldn’t accept them until the very end. Part of me wonders if Nao’s semi-acceptance stemmed from the fact that Sora told her that they’re now even for what she did to Haru two summers ago. (They looked way younger than that…)
As part of the whole rebirth legend that Akira talked about last time, both Haru and Sora survived drowning thanks to the latter somehow pulling them both from the water. The whole near-death experience was enough for Haru to change his mind, and the two of them left Okukosome like I figured they would have. What I wasn’t expecting was for them to go abroad to completely start anew, though it seems befitting given that they probably want to get as far away from Japan as possible. In the end, this turned out to be one of the most interesting arc due to the legal implications of the Kasugano twins’ forbidden love. From the very beginning, Sora’s been the character I was most interested in, not because of the whole incest aspect that would arise, but because she seemed to have the most complexities with that moody hikikomori personality of hers. I also think she’s one of the cutest, but that didn’t weigh in too heavily into my anticipation for this one. She did maintain that impression until the very end though, seeing as the only real casualty in this arc was her bunny.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from this series coming in, since most adaptations of eroge tend to go the completely clean route and lose a lot of the drama with it. Because of that, I was actually happy to learn that feel — the studio behind kiss x sis — would be adapting it and that the series would even touch upon the subject of an incestuous relationship. It wasn’t so much for the incest as the possibility that this could avoid falling into that trap and become the romantic drama that I’ve been looking for to fill the void since true tears. Looking back now, I feel that it did pretty admirably in fulfilling that expectation, and even managed to use nudity in a way that was both relevant to the plot and enticing to watch. Compared to Amagami SS that adopts a similar omnibus format, I’m impressed by the way they managed to fit in four girls’ arcs in a mere twelve episodes thanks to the clever use of some overlap. In addition, there’s much less emphasis on the comedic side of things in Yosuga no Sora, making the series come off more like a drama that could very well be adapted into a live-action one. Incidentally, that’s kind of my way of gauging if a series is a good romantic drama to begin with. If I can picture the story, screenplay, and emotions transferred to a drama and appeal to non-anime fans, then it shows to me that the series’ essence is good enough to speak for itself regardless of the medium used to convey it. Granted, a series like Amagami SS could very easily be adapted into a live-action drama given how anime-like Japanese ones can get, but in terms of appealing to an audience expecting something less goofy, this one fits the bill much better.
I’ve talked about before about how the omnibus or pseudo-omnibus format is quickly growing on me for adapting romance simulation games, and this series really has me hoping that it becomes a regular thing. The reason being, it not only diversifies the plot and the character development by having multiple focuses, but also quickens the pace by having meaningful development every episode. There’s no real sense of filler when each girl’s story is constrained to a handful of episodes, and it makes for a much more enjoyable viewer experience as a result. The real challenge is determining exactly how many episodes should be allocated to each character and how they can be made the most of. If I were to make a minor complaint about this series, it would be that there wasn’t too much emphasis on the romantic side of things since the various arcs came off a tad bit on the lustful side. While I did appreciate the “raw” depiction of how these relationships developed, the *cough*romanticist*cough* in me really wanted to get a feel for the emotional build-up and its eventual outpouring. Akira’s arc left the strongest impression in that regard, and turned out to be one of my favorites because of it. Sora’s was another one that sort of indulged in that aspect as well, partly because of her long history with Haru. However, where the sentimental depictions fell a bit short, the series made up for it with more focus on other forms of drama, such as parental issues, hereditary doubts, guilty consciences, and of course incestuous relationships. It’s hard to ignore the things that this series did well if you’re willing to looking beyond the nudity, so I see it as a good candidate for romance/drama of the year. There hasn’t been much competition aside from Amagami SS and Kimi ni Todoke, but even if there were, this series easily earned a spot on my shortlist.