a.k.a. Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm
After the invention of Anti-Graviton Shoes, aka Grav-Shoes, an experimental competition league is formed on a Four island Archipelago. Kunahama Institute is one of several schools specializing in a game based on using the new shoes, known as Air Circus or Flying Circus (a cross between Quidditch and baseball.) The anime follows the lives of several students as the new transfer student turns out to have a gift for the sport, as well as the ability to help a former ace rediscover his love for the game.
The visual novel was developed and published by Sprite, the same company that brought you Love, Election & Chocolate, was released in November 2014 and the Gonzo-produced anime began airing as a part of the Winter 2016 Anime season.
The anime currently can be viewed here for free at Crunchyroll for people living in the following areas: United States, Canada, Central and South America (including the Caribbean), South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Ireland, Scandinavia, and the Netherlands. Funimation released the anime on Blu-Ray on September 11, 2018, complete with an English dub.
A PS Vita port has been announced and released in 2016.
An Android (and later PC version) mobile game called Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm -ETERNAL SKY- was released in 2016. The visual novel was also released for the Nintendo Switch in 2020.
A sequel to the visual novel entitled Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm: Zwei has been announced at the AnimeJapan event on March 2016. However, it is officially cancelled following Sprite's announcement of its permanent closure at the end of March 2019. Good news is that they reorganized and announced a comeback in November 2019 and are now working on releasing EXTRA 2.
The visual novel got an official English localization for PC in 2019 courtesy of NekoNyan and are currently working on EXTRA 1. The English localization of the visual novel also launched for the Nintendo Switch on August 21, 2020, receiving both a digital release as well as a limited edition physical version.
This visual novel provides examples of:
- Archipelago of Adventure: The Four-Island Archipelago
- Air Jousting: Taken Up to Eleven, especially during FC (Flying Circus) matches. In the Visual Novel, there are many scenes (not seen in the gallery) like for example a battle of Asuka vs Saki◊.
- Always Someone Better: Realising this is a serious mental blow to both Masaya and Misaki.
- Applied Phlebotinum: Grav-Shoes aka Anti-Graviton Shoes
- Artificial Gravity: It's all about the anti-graviton membrane, baby.
- Beach Episode: The second half of episode seven has several of the main characters relaxing at a beach. Though Misaki doesn't join them, Mashiro has a brief Imagine Spot where Misaki shows up wearing a bikini.
- In the Visual Novel a similar scene features the entire club, including Misaki.
- Beginner's Luck: Asuka manages to score a point against Reiko in their first FC match. What makes it more awesome is that she manages to pull off an incredibly advanced technique that most veteran FC flyers have trouble learning, thus surprising Reiko when it's used on her.
- Bleached Underpants: The all-ages versions (HD Edition for the PS4 and the PSVita port), and the anime understandably scrubs out the naughtier parts of the original PC version. The English version of HD Edition is, by order of Sony, subject to even more cuts beyond what was already removed in the original Japanese version. Even the purportedly uncensored Nintendo Switch version is actually just the all-ages version.
- Boobs of Steel: Asuka and Misaki are considered the most talented athletes in the VN and anime at FC, are also two of the bustiest girls in the visual novel and anime.
- Cat Smile: Mashiro and Misaki both do this.
- Central Theme: No matter how good you are or become in a sport you should find the joy in it rather than playing just to win at all costs.
- Competitive Balance: Present in Flying Circus matches, there are three main types of players:
- Fighters are Mighty Glaciers (relatively speaking); they have the highest initial acceleration and mobility but has lowest top speed of the three, they focus on scoring by dogfighting other players, as exemplified by Misaki.
- Speeders are Fragile Speedsters; they have the highest top speed of the three but have slow acceleration and mobility, who focus on scoring points by striking buoys, as exemplified by Saki, Rika and Mashiro.
- All-Rounders are Jack-of-All-Stats; they're slower than Speeders, faster than Fighters, and equally adept at scoring by striking bouys or dogfighting. They focus on exploiting their enemy's weaknesses.
- Connected All Along: Misaki was brought into FC by playing with a girl she met when she was a kid and Asuka was given confidence by making friends with a girl she met on holiday. Both "girls" were in fact Masaya, who wore his hair very long as a kid. None of three initially realise this.
- Conveniently Seated: Anyone who's watched a school anime before knows where the three main characters sit.
- Continuity Nod: Takafuji Academy is the Fukuru branch to Takafuji Private Academy, which is the setting of Sprite's previous game Love, Election & Chocolate.
- Curb-Stomp Battle:
- The students at Takafuji generally win their matches against Kunahama, the school the main characters attend, since have a full fledged team with some elite players. Meanwhile Kunahama's team mostly devolved into a fan club until Mashiro, Misaki, and Asuka join.
- Shindou's match against Inui ends in one. Inui's unconventional tactics, such as flying extremely high and maneuvering a lot to force the other player to follow them and prevent them from doing anything aside from chasing after her, completely shatters the playstyle he's used to.
- Asuka's match with Inui in episode 8 also ends in one against Asuka's favor.
- Dangerous Forbidden Technique:
- Inui's playstyle can be interpreted as this. In episode seven she draws on a style used by Aoi once where a player uses very unconventional tactics such as flying extremely high in the air and then forcing the other player to chase after them rather than attempting to fight or simply speed past them. While effective, it's not very sporting, and defeats the purpose of Flying Circus, as one player is essentially dominating and forcing the other player to do whatever they want, rather than simply attempting to fight or get past them as was the usual playstyles. Shindou is caught off-guard completely by this in his match against Inui as a result.
- Inui's second trick is that her Grav Shoes were designed to be able to adjust their settings mid-air. The anime simplifies this in that she turns her balance limiters to half power or fully off, showing the viewer that everyone else on the planet has been flying with the equivalent of training wheels, while she's practiced for months without them. Asuka turns hers off as well for their final match and hoping that she adjusts to it quickly enough, which she did.
- Angelic Halo is a very high level move that only Aoi can pull off perfectly. It involves very precise membrane manipulation to quickly circle the opponent near the end of the match to seal off any form of retaliation or escape. She sealed off its usage after only using it once during the 3rd round of the World Cup as it removed the fun out of Flying Circus and traumatized her opponent into retiring from the sport after the match, something which she still feels guilty about. A variation of this move is used by Asuka to quickly accelerate during her match against Saki.
- Demoted to Extra:
- Masaya in the anime adaptation, thanks to his status as main character being relegated to Asuka instead.
- To a certain extent, Rika too since the anime doesn't adapt her route and because she's not a student of Kunahama High, unlike the other three heroines. It's also because of this that Kasumi, the antagonist of Rika's route, gets this treatment too, being reduced to merely Cannon Fodder, who doesn't even have more than a few minutes of screentime, for Asuka to show how much she's improved in the summer tournament.
- Didn't See That Coming:
- In Asuka vs Shindou's match in the Summer Tournament, Shindou didn't expect Asuka to turn the tides on him by chaining multiple Air Kick Turns consecutively. He wins in the end due to Asuka's inexperience in keeping her head cool in an intense match.
- In Misaki's Route, Misaki vs Inui's match ends this way. Misaki kept her ability to do inverted flight hidden until the last minute, which kept Inui from going all out like she did in Asuka's route. Once Misaki reveals it, she quickly manages to turn the tides and scored, so it was a matter of running down the clock against Inui who is now trying to touch her back with her Grav shoes' Power Limiter removed. Needless to say, Inui was pissed at getting cheated out of her dream match.
- Speaking of Asuka's Route, the final match between Asuka and Inui is also a back and forth of this trope between them. Coming from Asuka being a lot better than they thought, to Inui releasing her Grav shoes' Power Limiter, and to Asuka turning off her Grav shoes' balancers. It was a highly intense match until the end.
- Evolving Credits: The final shot of the ED changes starting from episode 9 onwards, symbolizing how close Asuka and Misaki have grown during the series.
- Dramatically Missing the Point: In her route, Mashiro misunderstood Masaya when he was talking about a clear blue sky as him wanting to see one when he's actually traumatized by the sight. She even drags him out of his house early in the morning just to show him the scenery. It ultimately helped Masaya's trauma. She also did this to Misaki by assuming she liked udon and kept giving her udon in the past when Misaki actually hated it at that point in time due to nearly choking on it as a kid. Needless to say, it turned her into the udon maniac we know her as by the time she was introduced into the story in the present.
- Surprisingly minimal considering the anime's roots, but the girls' FC suits sure are a tight fit...
- The scenes where Masaya keeps seeing Rika in her underwear from the visual novel were kept intact in the anime.
- In the visual novel, Masaya ends up peeking into the girls while they were changing into their FC suits.
- A blatant one is done in episode six, when Misaki unzips Asuka's suit to help her cool off after the latter appears to be suffering from heat exhaustion. The camera then does a Male Gaze focus on Asuka with her suit hanging slightly off her body for a few moments.
- Fictional Sport: Known as Flying Circus, players score points via touching their opponent's back or tagging buoys at the points of a diamond, similar to running the bases in baseball.
- Asuka to Misaki and vice versa. Asuka is the Naïve Newcomer to the world of Flying Circus, falling in love with the sport after witnessing it for the first time while Misaki is the Experienced Veteran who quit a while back due to being bored with the sport. Asuka is the epitome of a hardworker and has a mind for FC, but needed to train her body so it can do what her mind wants it to while Misaki is the Brilliant, but Lazy genius who easily got the hang of flying, but has a hard time working up the motivation to improve and relies too much on her innate fast reaction time to think. Asuka looks up to Misaki as a player and doesn't let the fact that the latter is better bring her down. Misaki, however, became insecure and jealous once Asuka's talent starts to bloom and loses her motivation for the sport.
- Forgotten First Meeting:
- The VN and episode 9 of the anime all but states that Masaya befriended Asuka when they were kids, and that inspired her to fly.
- The novel also reveals that Misaki was the newbie who beat him in her route.
- Girl Next Door: Masaya and Rika's bedrooms are right next door to each other, mere feet apart. As a Running Gag, Hinata keeps running into his new neighbor while she's changing clothes in her room. Queue the simultaneous screams.
- Golden Ending: The "True/Grand Ending", which only unlocks after reading all four routes where Masaya summarizes the events of the novel. It is in fact a What If? that follows the Bad Endingnote , which lead to Masaya's comeback as a Skywalker in the Fall Tournament, which doesn't happen in any of the 4 playable routes. It also reveals that Masaya didn't focus on any particular player but still managed to train Asuka and Misaki to the same skill level as in their own respective routes while also helping Mashiro and Rika improve considerably, and allowed Mashiro to develop the same love for FC that she did in her own route.
- Green-Eyed Monster: Misaki started to feel this way when she saw the match between Shindou and Asuka. Made worse by the fact that Asuka is a total beginner at Flying Circus, yet was able to hold her own against the top student player for most of their match. Her route elaborates on this.
- Harem Genre: True to the genre, the game lets you couple the male lead with one of the girls. Averted in the anime, where the romance takes a backseat to the Flying Circus aspects.
- Heroic BSoD: Misaki suffers one after watching Shindou's match against Asuka and Inui in the Summer Tournament, which causes her to leave the club in her and Mashiro's routes.
- I Am Not Left-Handed:
- Though Shindou is already a great athlete, he doesn't utilize his full potential until his match against Asuka. He is caught off-guard when she manages to successfully counter some of his attacks, forcing him to go all out.
- Inui wins most of the Summer tournament and the entirety of the National tournament by only playing as a Speeder, as revealed in Asuka's Route. And it turns out that she still has more up her sleeve due to her Grav shoes' ability to change its settings mid-flight which involves adjusting the balancers.
- Instant-Win Condition: Reiko says that if Asuka can score one point against her in their FC match during the first episode, she would win. She does this because Asuka is an absolute beginner at flying, so was providing some handicaps for her. Despite Reiko's lead in the score, Asuka manages to score one point, thus winning said match.
- Late for School: Asuka and Masaya flew to school after finding the key to Asuka's house even though Masaya wants to avoid flying, as he wanted to avoid incurring Aoi's wrath.
- The anime starts similarly, but Misaki ends up joining them.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: In Rika's route after Masaya and Rika get together he receives a text from Rika saying she loves him. Masaya idly speculates what the other three main girls might have done under similar circumstances. He is, naturally, right on the money as to what happens on each of their routes.
- Mercury's Wings: The Grav-Shoes gives the visualization of wings on the wearer's feet.
- Mr. Exposition: Masaya, befitting his position as the club coach, explains a lot of things related to FC.
- Mundane Utility: The Grav shoes, which allow anyone wearing them to fly. This allows people to travel faster and further than they normally could by simply walking or running.
- Pragmatic Adaptation:
- The anime merges together Asuka's and Misaki's routes (though Asuka's route remains as the anime's main focus), trims down certain scenarios to make sure their character arcs and events don't conflict with one another's so the narrative doesn't wind up as a mess, demotes Masaya's role in favor of making Asuka the main character of the anime, and completely removed the romance so the anime can focus more on the Flying Circus sport instead.
- It also changes quite a few things from the VN, such as Misaki being able to use the Air Kick Turn, to Saki's Grav shoes having one extra mode and that it's a lot more technical in the VN than simply turning off the balancers.
- Scenery Porn: Quite a lot of time is spent showing the beauty of the Four-Island Archipelago.
- Super-Deformed: Like you wouldn't believe, since it was part of the original game play.
- Sweat Drop: Various characters are afflicted, due to the art style.
- Tender Tears: In the anime, After Asuka loses to Inui, badly, and after falling into the sea as a result of her Grav Shoes suddenly failing in mid-air requiring Misaki to go rescue her, Asuka sheds these. And was it a sight to behold.
- Training from Hell: In their respective routes, Asuka and Misaki undergo this.
- In Asuka's route, Masaya focused on training her so she can beat Inui, which included improving her reflexes by trying to dodge attacks from 3 different directions at the same time and a sparring match against Shindou who was emulating Inui's playstyle. This caused her to collapse. Thankfully she recovers. She also undergoes a similar training off-screen in Misaki's route.
- In Misaki's route, Masaya was temporarily removed as coach so he can focus on Misaki, who quit the club prior. Unlike Asuka, Misaki's problem stems from her inability to use her head while playing and relies too much on her reflexes and her lack of stamina, which is why at first, most of her training involved mental simulation and stamina training. Afterwards, they developed a method of countering Inui's "Bird Cage", which was to master inverted flight.
- The anime combines both off-screen. Is also likely the case in the True Ending of the VN.
- 20 Minutes into the Future: Far enough into the future to have had anti-gravity devices for 10+ years, but near enough into the future to have absolutely no differences otherwise, not even flying cars or toys. This is due to the fact that researchers into Anti-Gravity haven't solved the output problem. Grav shoes themselves have a limit of about 300kg, and by that point, you're barely floating above the ground.
- The Watson: Asuka, who has dreamt for years of flying, enrolled at a school where everyone has flying shoes, yet has never heard of them before. She's even wearing a pair. This is graduate-level cluelessness, so everything gets explained to the audience through her.
- Wham Episode: Episode seven of the anime ends on one, with the main characters meeting each other at the club room save for one. Misaki puts in a resignation letter stating that she's quitting the club, after failing to understand how Asuka and Shindou can still be so upbeat after their losses in the previous tournament.
- Worthy Opponent: A few worthwhile examples:
- Misaki towards Shindou, which is why seeing Shindou go all-out against Asuka damaged her self-confidence. In Misaki's perspective, he didn't take her too seriously during their matches, and almost seems like he's just goofing around while she's trying to put up an actual fight. This doesn't sit well with her after she sees his match against Asuka, where he is forced to go all out due Asuka managing to tie him in points. The truth of the matter is that Shindou wanted to win at all costs and didn't want to fight Misaki in dogfights because there's a good chance he'll lose, so he did what any decent All-rounder would do and exploited Misaki's fast reaction time and confused her.
- Shindou towards Asuka. Despite only learning how to fly and play the Flying Circus game recently, she manages to give him a run for his money. Though she ultimately loses, both of them had a lot of fun playing against each other, as Asuka's random tactics catches him off-guard a few times, which then forced him to go all out, something he's never done before due to playing against lesser skilled opponents.
- Shindou towards Masaya. Shindou was (and still is) a fan of Masaya back when he was still active as a Skywalker and wants to try fighting him a match due to knowing Masaya's history in FC, though he settled for Masaya's players after it became clear he isn't going to budge. At the end of Asuka's route, he gives Masaya a glance before leaving, fully expecting his return.