This article is presented by HIDIVE. Ahiru no Sora’s first season is currently streaming on HIDIVE, with new episodes available on Wednesdays. All opinions expressed in the article are of the author’s.
“Basketball this and basketball that. What the hell is so fun about it?” The sports sub-genre of anime has always been fascinating. There is practically an anime for every sport imaginable. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell which sports anime series are worth your time, and which create something unique within the genre. Ahiru no Sora is a recent example of a basketball anime, but it’s already proving itself to be a creative, entertaining spin on the format that shouldn’t go overlooked.
The series, which premiered in October 2019, centers around unpopular teenager Sora Kurumatani. As a basketball player, he may be under-sized, but what he lacks in height he makes up for in passion. Sora is desperate to join Kuzu High’s basketball team, but he quickly learns that the club is a joke and filled with layabouts who are more interested in beat downs than layups. Sora further indoctrinates himself into the basketball team and a strange camaraderie slowly develops. Against all odds, this joke of a team—with Sora leading the pack—becomes reinvigorated and are suddenly on track for success.
Ahiru no Sora stands out as a particularly special anime series because it’s a curious mash-up of a sports anime with a delinquent high school comedy series. This turns into an unusual series that will appeal just as much to fans of absurdist humor as it will basketball junkies. The series is full of stunning basketball matches, entertaining characters, and unexpected humor that all make Ahiru no Sora such a fun experience. We’ve broken down some of the best and most enjoyable moments that have happened so far in Ahiru no Sora’sfirst season to help you make the jump if you haven’t already!
Sora’s First Basketball Practice
So much of the first episode of the series revolves around Sora’s passion for the sport, but he doesn’t actually get to play the game until the episode’s final moments. Not only is it a thrilling, satisfying way to cap off the premiere entry of the series, but it also highlights what the show’s animation is capable of and what the show’s basketball sequences will actually look like. It’s an exciting moment that does not disappoint. Even though the following episode features more of this match against Momoharu, it’s this first taste of Sora’s skill that really resonates.
Sora Gets Beaten Up
The opening scene of the series is also perfect in its introduction of Sora because it subverts typical hero expectations. After Sora challenges a bunch of bullies to a battle, the humbling results not only establish that Sora is not a macho protagonist, the plight that he’s faced all of his life, but also effectively highlight his intense passion for basketball, his one true escape.
Momoharu Gets His Groove Back
During the earliest episodes of the series, Momoharu is introduced as an antagonist to Sora and someone who fails to take basketball seriously. It’d be easy to write this character off or let him remain a one-dimensional threat, but a series of flashbacks explain just what broke down Momoharu in the first place.
It’s Sora’s dedication to the craft (with 1,000 baskets a day, no less) that dampens Momoharu’s rampant aggression and reminds him why he loved basketball in the first place. It’s the first time that Momoharu gains depth and sets him on his journey for the season.
Sora’s Pep Talk From His Mother About His Height
One of the most enjoyable aspects of Ahiru no Sora is how exciting the basketball games are, but it’s also an anime that resonates on a deeply emotional level. One of Sora’s biggest hurdles, and area in which he gets ridiculed, is his short stature. A touching flashback between Sora and his mother sees her point out the advantages of a shorter height to her son. It’s a very endearing sequence, but it also marks the impetus of Sora’s optimistic attitude and how he’s learned to turn a disadvantage into an asset.
Sora’s Three-Point Basket
The early episodes of Ahiru no Sora deal with Sora attempting to make up for his short size in other major ways. He puts in a ton of practice and training, which culminates in the end of the show’s fifth episode. Sora sinks a difficult basket from nearly halfway down the court. It’s not just fun to see Sora make the shot, but he’s genuinely in bliss after he accomplishes something that used to seem like an impossible goal.
Kozu High’s First Match
There are a lot of stakes and excitement that revolve around Sora and his new team’s first game. Not only are they a member short, but the team is beyond nervous and feel like this may be too early for them. What follows is an exciting example of teamwork and just how skilled Sora and Momoharu are when they pool their talents together. Everyone becomes aware that this team is now something to watch out for.
Kenji’s Home Life
In the eighth episode of the series, expelled student Kenji re-enters the picture and nearly gets the boys’ basketball team disbanded by his negligence. He’s introduced as a major nuisance and threat to Sora and company, but then later Sora overhears a phone call that he has with his younger sister. Kenji has a family that he cares about, but he’s been exiled from it. His sister is chastised for talking to her brother. It’s a difficult moment that helps humanize a villain and highlight the wealth of problems that are bubbling under his surface. It’s also the catalyst that’s necessary to bring Kenji into Sora’s good graces.
Chiaki Proves His Worth
There are plenty of honorable characters within Ahiru no Sora, but right from the start, Chiaki comfortably fits into the role of comic relief. The early episodes of the series spend a good deal of time hinting at Chiaki’s immense talent on the basketball court, but they hold off on actually showing it for quite some time. Not only is Chiaki’s return to basketball as satisfying as it should be, but the episode also explores the harsh circumstances surrounding why he stopped playing in the first place. It gives depth to a character who is easy to not take seriously.
Sora Uses A Basketball To Break Up A Fight
This is the first major bonding moment between Sora and Momoharu. Momoharu is getting seriously beat up, when all of a sudden a basketball careens into the frame in an effort to stop the violence. It’s a super powerful entrance from Sora, even if it does result in him getting beat up just as hard as Momoharu. It’s a major catalyst in their friendship and reinforces how basketball is often treated as the solution to problems in this show, whatever that may be.
In the middle of the show’s first season, Momoharu takes the injury of another player incredibly hard and gives quite the heartfelt apology to her to show just how much this news plagues him. It’s a simple, small moment, but it highlights just how far Momoharu has come, how seriously he takes his position on the basketball team, and that heviews his team as a family.
The Boys Gamble Against The Girls With Madoka As The Prize
Ahiru no Sora Episode 12 puts Sora and company into a training camp to improve their skills, and part of this process involves pitting the boys’ team against the girls’. Since these are high school students with more hormones bouncing around than the basketballs, the wager between the teams becomes a little lewd. Madoka is put up for collateral, or rather more specifically, Madoka will need to strip if the boys’ team beats the girls’. Although this wager is initially made at the end of episode 10, the payoff doesn’t happen until two episodes later. Ahiru no Sora is not entirely averse to fan service, but they resist the opportunity here. Sora and company receive another humbling lesson in sportsmanship and Madoka thankfully gets to retain her dignity, although her reactions throughout the whole experience are just as priceless.
Reality Sets In
Once the boys’ team begins Nao’s intense training camp over their holiday, it becomes clear which players on the team are more experienced and which are still new to the sport. There’s a dichotomy of game strategies brought up, where players like Kite are incredibly aggressive, but Chiaki has a more empathetic approach to his team. Meanwhile, players like Nabe and Chucky are basically amateurs. This starts the conversation of why they’re really on this team, what their end goal is, and the degree of sacrifice that’s necessary to achieve it. It starts to shift from a fun group to deciding if someone’s lack of skills is going to hold back everyone else and whether that’s okay or not.
It’s become a fairly standard trope for anime series to resort to a gratuitous trip to a hot springs or bathhouse at some point, and Ahiru no Sora indulges in episode 13. During the team’s training, they visit a bathhouse as a detour and it results in not only some of the better humor to come out of the series, but also puts many characters in the hot seat while rampant embarrassment sets in. Momohau and Chiaki are especially susceptible to unfortunate misunderstandings that get them pretty eager to return to training. What makes this all the more enjoyable is that during all of the lechery, Madoka and Nao actually have a deep conversation about their doubts on the court.
“Do You Think Basketball Is Fun?”
In Ahiru no Sora episode 14, Chucky and Nabe become discouraged because they’re new to basketball, whereas Sora has been playing since he was three years old. They resent players like him and think it’s impossible to get a leg up. Sora tries to commiserate by asking if they at least have fun when they play the sport. They’re so flummoxed by the question that they just leave, while Sora is left to think of how basketball can be a very different game for others that don’t have the same relationship with it that he does. This realization takes him out of his bubble a little bit. Furthermore, it begins to weigh on Chucky and Nabe and as the show takes an extended look at them, it begins to show how Sora’s attitude slowly influences them.
Walking A Mile In Nao’s Shoes
Leave it to Ahiru no Sora to take something as pedestrian as running sneakers and turning it into a major plot point that’s heavy with emotion. Earlier in the series, Sora makes it clear how important his shoes are to him when he plays basketball and that they’re almost like his lucky charm. It’s therefore a major pivot for Sora when his shoes get damaged and Nao lends him her shoes for a few episodes. In episode 15, Sora’s shoes finally get fixed, but he opts to continue wearing Nao’s because they’ve brought him such good results. Whether Ahiru no Sora intends for Sora and Nao to get together or not, the simple gesture turns into a major bonding moment between the two of them. Furthermore, the act fans the flames of rivalry between Sora and Taro, who happens to pine for his cousin (yeah…).
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, and Bloody Disgusting. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and that Hannibal is the greatest love story ever told. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.