Thursday, May 5, 2011

Anime that will stay in Japan: Yosuga No Sora

Yosuga no Sora
Studio: Feel
Original Run: Oct 4 - Dec 20, 2010
Episodes: 12
Licensed? Very slim chance

Kazuha with Violin
Ever since anime became popular in the west, there has been a variety of series licensed for release. There are many licenses that are guaranteed to be released in the States. Of the wide span of anime that does get released in Japan, there are a few of them that will see the light of day in the West. The reasons behind holding an anime back is as diverse as the stars in the sky, from incredibly high licensing costs to questionable subject material. An anime that will likely not see the light of day in the states through an official English release is Yosuga no Sora. It is a 12-episode anime based of an adult visual novel. Yosuga no Sora has it all, great character designs, endearing characters, and a wonderful musical score. This begs the question, why wont it get a USA release? The answer is simple, because the anime breaks a societal taboo that challenges many people's comfort level, the subject of incest.

The premise of Yosuga no Sora is simple, orphaned by a tragic car accident that takes the lives of both parents, Haruka and Sora travel back to the place where their grandparents lived to rebuild their broken lives. Haruka Kasugano is the splitting image of his sister, with a gentle face and a kind personality. He dotes on his twin sister who is frail and needy. Sora Kasugano is a beautiful, long haired girl who is very shy. Under her beautiful, doll-like appearance is a lazy misanthropic slob. When Haruka and Sora move back, they are introduced to a varied and interesting cast. Their next door neighbor is Nao Yorihime, who was once Sora's close friend, but Sora despises Nao. Rounding out the main cast is Kazuha Migiwa, the incredibly beautiful daughter of a wealthy family. Even with a strict upbringing, surrounded by wealth, Kazuha is a kind and gentle girl who would  never hesitate to lend a hand. Akira Amatsume is the energetic shrine maiden. When watching it my two main favorites (aside from the lead) was Kazuha and Sora. The cast overall is fairly strong.

The structure of Yosuga no Sora is unique because it has several self contained story arcs. At the end of a story arc Haruka effectively "wins" over the girl. It culminates in a lengthy and rather graphic sex scene. Then the story starts a new arc as a brand new scenario, with the previous events being irrelevant. The first episode essentially introduces Haruka and Sora back into their old hometown. The second episode starts the storyline for Kazuha and Akira, and the third and fourth episode goes through the Kazuha Arc. The best way to describe it is this episode breakdown:
  • Episode 1 (Kazuha 1)(Sora 1)(Nao 1)(Akira 1)
  • Episode 2 (Kazuha 2)(Akira 2)
  • Episode 3 (Kazuha 3)
  • Episode 4 (Kazuha 4)
  • Episode 5 (Akira 3)
  • Episode 6 (Akira 4)
  • Episode 7 (Nao 2)(Sora 2)
  • Episode 8 (Nao 3)
  • Episode 9 (Nao 4)
  • Episode 10 (Sora 3)
  • Episode 11 (Sora 4)
  • Episode 12 (Sora 5)
Let's say that you want to watch the story arc with Sora as the focus, you would watch episode 1,7,10,11, and 12. If you see the storyline in that order, you get one continuous storyline with her as the lead character. As you can see, Sora gets the longest story arc, and I can imagine that in the original visual novel that her flags and her storyline is probably the longest one.

Yosuga no Sora has a lot of positives, it has a great character design, character dynamic, and musical score. The character designs are great, from the long-haired beauty of Kazuha to the slender, pale Sora. They are all pretty distinctive and easy to spot in the series. The characters have a great dynamic together. There is an organic feeling of closeness that they do share amongst each other. Sora spiteful attitude toward Nao adds a sense of tension between the two. As the lead character, Haruka is very affable and easy to relate to. Unlike many harem leads, he does not have a naivete that pervades this character type. The music is excellent, one of the best musical soundtracks in a modern anime series. There are many beautiful solo violin and piano pieces that make the story hauntingly good. Yosuga no Sora has lots of excellent points.

Now, why would an anime like this have a hard time going to the USA? The easy answer is to look at the episode breakdown I posted earlier. The longest story arc in Yosuga no Sora is between Haruka and his twin sister. Each of the story arcs culminate in rather lengthy and detailed scenes of Haruka with his significant other in various states of undress. In the last story arc of Yosuga no Sora he breaks all of societies taboos and has passionate love with his sister. If the last story arc was not there, the story would probably see the light of day in the USA, even with all the nudity in it. The problem is that the Sora arc jumps at you and it does it so shockingly that it will leave an impact on someone watching it. I remember seeing the reaction of people when the Sora arc was airing in Yosuga no Sora. Let's just say that people wont be forgetting this anime anytime soon.

There are anime that doesn't make it to the USA, Yosuga no Sora will probably be one of them. I would like to be wrong and add an addendum that it was licensed in X day at Z convention, but the incest storyline that made the series (in)famous is more than enough to scare the living daylights out of most major licensors. It is a great anime with lots of good qualities, but I think the last story arc will stick with people due to the difficult subject nature.

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