Aokana – Four Rhythms Across the Blue is set primarily in the Kunahama Institute, a school in an alternate universe Japan where, through anti-gravity technology called “Grav-Shoes”, people are able to fly. Naturally, any such inventions has given rise to a popular sport called ‘Flying Circus’, a kind of airborne tag, a game that practically everyone in this world is obsessed with.
At the beginning of the story, you are introduced to our protagonist (and world’s luckiest pervert) Masaya Hinata. You experience the world and story through his eyes, and it is quickly revealed that, although he was heavily into Flying Circus (or FC for short) when he was younger, a mysterious incident resulted in him quitting the sport with no intention of returning.
This is until the cheery, but ditzy, Asuka Kurashina transfers to his school. Her lack of experience with flying results in Masaya helping her to learn and starts off a sequence of events that lead him to being the coach of the Kunahama Institute FC Club entirely against his will, and with him training them to enter the various regional tournaments in the sport.
It is a typical underdog story, if truth be told. I mean, we’ve seen these kind of narratives in films like The Mighty Ducks, anime like Yuri on Ice!, and even in other video games like – I don’t know – Mario Strikers Charged. The reason why these stories endure and are still enjoyable is because they are so timeless and wholesome as to be almost entirely unbreakable.
However, there is a glaring issue with Aokana in that the serviceable albeit well-trodden plot is broken up by flashes of fan service so sudden and unnecessary that I’m considering suing for whiplash. Potentially heartfelt moments and story beats are interspersed with panty shots and questionable dialogue that evaporate any possible investment in the plot.
When mentioned earlier that Masaya was a pervert, this is seen constantly throughout the story with our noble hero taking any opportunity he can get to see a flash of panties, spy on the girls changing, or listen in on them all taking a bath together. This might be a personal thing, but it doesn’t really endear him as a protagonist, more indicate he should be on some kind of list.
Inexplicably, you can actually date the main girls in the story, with each of them having a specific plot thread related to them that can be followed through the various choices the game gives the player throughout. This means there is a large amount of replayability here, should you choose to seek it out, and that the story can even end prematurely with certain player decisions.
The problem is, that the girls themselves (and all the characters for that matter) are anime tropes on legs. They’re all here: the unstoppably cheery one, the obsessed with food one, the snarky one, the one obsessed with one of the others, it’s like a checklist was brought into the planning. As such the characters are all distinctly one-note.
One aspect that does feel distinctly fleshed out however is the world design. A lot of care and attention was clearly paid to making FC feel as realistic as possible with a written history and well thought out rules. It could actually pass for a real world sport, if the technology existed for it to be made possible. Although, seeing as people insisted on making Quidditch exist in real life, anything’s game at this point.
Another part in which the game shines is in the aesthetic. The music perfectly suits the various narrative beats and the static backgrounds the character images wiggle in front of are colourful, distinct and full of detail. This extends into the character designs as well, all of which are very pretty and (mostly) visually distinct. Even if the male characters are arguably less so.