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A Bridge to the Starry Skies -Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi- PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 09 August 2011 00:00

A Bridge to the Starry Skies -Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi-

If there's something that can be said for the simulcast scene, it's that there are an awful lot of harem shows featuring. A Bridge to the Starry Skies -Hoshizora e Kakaru Hashi- is just one in a very crowded scene, and one that at first glance doesn't offer a hell of a lot to make it stand out from the crowd. Don't dismiss it entirely, though...

Many years ago, Kazuma Hoshino met a girl - just in time for him to be leaving the town he was visiting at the time. They promised to always be friends, but as is often the way he hasn't seen or heard from her since. Now, he's moving back to the countryside with his brother Ayumu. Initially, they'll be staying at a traditional Japanese inn that their father knew of, but the brothers get lost on their way there - and while wandering the streets, have a chance encounter with a young woman...

Traditionally, the first young woman that Kazuma would (should?) have run into would have been the one from his past, ready to renew their promise and live happily ever after. Uh, no. The girl he meets is Ui, a slightly-flighty, always-hungry girl that fate (and a slippery rock) has decided will be his first kiss. While Kazuma does eventually run into the girl from the flashback - a shrine maiden by the name of Madoka, who these days really isn't too keen on being around boys, she's quite a way down the introduction list. This being a harem, there are of course a string of other girls to be introduced to, as well: Ibuki, who's very protective of Ui and doesn't trust Kazuma one bit (at least at first); Tsumugi, who lives at the local public bath-house and is wise beyond her years; Kasane, Tsumugi's little sister; Koyori, the local tomboy and warrior for justice; and probably a few more that slip my mind at the moment. Add the owner of the inn that the boys are staying at, Senka Yorozu, and there are a lot of people to keep an eye on - and some of them are, to be honest, instantly forgettable.

So far, then, Hoshizora (as I'll call it for simplicity's sake) is as by-the-numbers as a harem show can be. Girls, accidental meetings, embarrassing blunders, and a male lead who really doesn't deserve it? Check, check, check and check. Add in low-level fanservice (a few panty shots, and that's your lot), and you've got the receipe for every mediocre harem series that's ever graced the airwaves.

Except, if your mind is in the gutter and you have a certain sense of humour, this series will play with you just enough to actually make it damn good fun. Kazuma's played for an idiot at almost every opportunity, can't seem to do anything without screwing it up (best intentions notwithstanding), and in the opening episode rounds off a first day in the country that he'd rather forget by having Yorozu make fun of the size of his manhood. I nearly spluttered beer all over my keyboard. The show's humour is positively evil in places, and displays that wickedness often enough that it was reason enough for me to keep watching past the lackluster first episode.

After that, it began to work a little magic on me. Yes, it's as generic as hell, but it's pretty to look at, some of the characters are very well-realised (Ibuki being my personal favourite, but Ui, Madoka and Tsumugi aren't lacking for appealing aspects either) and there's enough of a sense of fun about the way each episode plays out that it's hard not just to like it for the shallow fluff that it is. It also scores a major point over just about every other recent harem series by having a definite conclusion, and by spending several episodes towards the end of the series dealing with the girls that Kazuma doesn't choose and their reactions to that. I haven't seen that done since Shuffle!, and while Hoshizora doesn't have the emotional intensity and plot twists that Shuffle! had, I have to say that it's up there with it in terms of simple enjoyment. And that's what we're looking for, ultimately.

Worth checking out, then, if harem comedy is your thing. It's not something that will set the world alight, but amongst a sea of harem shows that are looking ever more similar these days, it manages to be entertaining enough to stand out a little.

Rating - ***