Whenever I watch a show with a score below 6 they tend to fall into two camps, one is for shows that are completely and inrepably bad. The type of shows that are doing so much wrong it’s hard to believe they got past the board room. The others are shows that while they have some big flaws, have something to offer and a reason that I end up giving them a decent score for. Sora to Umi no Aida falls into the latter half.
Be warned, as much as I like this show it’s not the show to watch if you want a well thought out plot, and top tier animation. The art and animation is pretty mediocre and while they do throw in some cool visual cues in the background for the most part Sora to Umi is squarely on the bland side for art. The plot is at best a mess, and at worst makes completely no sense. Much of the background behind how the world works feels like a bunch of ideas thrown together to make a show without much proofreading or guidance as to whether they make logical scene. (Spoiler: they don’t.)
So then what does Sora to Umi have to offer? Mostly I’d put it in the characters. Despite the melodrama that the show often dives into, it doesn’t feel forced to me. This is part of who the characters are. They’re basically like normal teenage girls. They don’t seem to have much skills, and they are emotional messes that continue to make mistake after mistake, without thinking their plans through and while being so enveloped by their emotions. And I get it because I’ve been there too. When you’re an emotional mess it’s easy to lose track of everything and just go with whatever plan seems the best.
But despite their skills, fears, and flaws they’re still trying their best. They aren’t good at the space fishing, but they’re still giving their all. And it’s admirable. They really do feel to grow and do get closer with their interactions with each other. It feels so nice to watch them grow together and create bonds with each other despite their differences.
Most of all the show feels like it has heart. Even though the plot is a mess it feels like a mess that someone genuinely thought was filled with good ideas but never had the time to be able to refine them. And some of those ideas are fine. Others are more questionable, but overall I see what they were going for, and with the endearing qualities of the characters it overall feels endearing to me. It reminds me of Nanowrimo, where the words are the important part and the ideas are left to wander and go to all sorts of flight of fancy. And maybe because I do Nano so much that it feels so nice to me. Maybe it’s because of the shear ridiculousness behind it all, probably both. Not to mention it doesn’t hamper the characters and the things I like about the show.
Also Ruby is absolutely adorable and each of her interactions are great. And actually most of the cast won me over in the end. Their flaws made them endearing and there was some nice chemistry between the cast. The voice acting despite its ametaurness also fits oddly enough.
In the end I can’t say that this show is great but it has good things to offer. The plot may be basic and there’s a lot of stuff in the world that feels off but overall it has heart and it tries to show its point without making the main characters op or anything more than themselves. And for all its warts it certainly hooked me in. So if you like watching flawed young idiots try to space fish, and grow in the process, give it a shot, cause it just might surprise you.
Let me get this out in no uncertain words - Sora to Umi no Aida is a good series. Not “ironically good”, not “eh, it’s fine, I guess” and not even “good for a CGDCT” - a genuinely engaging, thought-provoking story with decent production values. It just happens to be an unfortunate example of how perception of a work of fiction can be dramatically affected by some unrelated events in a totally different place that just happen to happen at the same time.
You see, 2018 was a year when Japanese Air Force allowed women to become fighter pilots for the first time ever. This was an event high-profile enough that in the anime medium alone there instantly appeared multiple series exploring the topic in some capacity. Sora to Umi no Aida is one of them: it took the premise of women entering a male-dominated industry for the first time ever to justify an all-girls cast and give some gravitas to what they’re doing - which otherwise boils down to a 9-to-5 job. And that’s the extent of it. Sounds innocent enough? Well, in the meantime, the western anime fandom was busy with outrage over High Guardian Spice, so when Sora to Umi no Aida dared to usher the words “equal opportunity hire” everyone just lost their shit and branded it SJW-propaganda. Despite, you know, it being an anime, made in Japan, having nothing to do with western politics, or any kind of politics for that matter. The fact that I even need to talk about it is, frankly, a waste. Now, let me just tell what about this particular series makes it worthwhile to watch:
Story. All the fish in the oceans had vanished, so people had built orbital fish tanks to breed giant fish monsters that they catch/battle with the power of mobile app-based gods which are basically Stands-for-hire. Got it? Good, now you may forget it, because this is not what the show is about. Space Fishing here plays very much the same role as Giant Robots in Evangelion: it’s a workplace and the reason these characters are gathered together, but the focus is entirely on the characters - who are they, what drives them, what they want from this life. The early episodes might appear as a CGDCT fluff, but the story eventually picks up and develops a single cohesive narrative. The final parts are, in fact, way more gritty and serious than one would expect, which might look like a case of Cerebus Syndrome, but the tonal shift is properly foreshadowed from the beginning, and even incorporated into the story itself. “Wasn’t space fishing supposed to be about hopes and dreams?!”, asks the exasperated MC, while standing under a rocket nozzle, body-blocking it from ignition.
Characters. While the early part of the show is about training routine/slice-of-life, and the last is the story culmination, the middle one is dedicated entirely to the development of the cast. It’s an ensemble of six girls and each one of them gets a focus episode and a legit story arc. What’s more - they have actual relationships between each other. Many ensemble shows suffer from a problem of the cast only existing as a single entity - this is not one of them. For example, the MC is your typical hyperactive idiot, yet another girl is an even bigger hyperactive idiot. What happens when they interact? A positive feedback loop of hyperactive idiocy that threatens to tear the space-time continuum and demands intervention of the other cast members. Meanwhile, the group leader is a straight-laced no-nonsense type, and the MC seriously rustles her jimmies. Yet they quickly find a common ground - competitive spirit and desire to succeed, leading to a healthy rivalry that drives them both to improve.
Production values. This series has a very distinct “independent movie” feel to it. Meaning, it’s unconventional/refreshing/bad because the creators are either incapable of following medium conventions or choose not to. The most obvious area is voice acting: many VAs has this as their first job ever (which you can hear) and are deliberately doing regional accents that are equivalent to irish/scottish accents of English, i .e. unintelligible eldritch chanting. To me it sounds refreshing and unique, not being “generic anime girl voices”; to others it may be grating. Same with the writing/storyboarding - often the only appropriate reaction to a twist is “lolwut?”, which can be seen as either entertaining or aggravating. Use your own judgement.
Humor. More precisely, comedic timing. Deserves a special mention for being really good. Many sudden cuts made me burst into laughter.
7/10 because this series is fun and compelling with forgivable issues that don’t detract from enjoyment.