Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm is set in a world where people can take to the skies, soaring above land and sea. An area called the Four Islands Archipelago has a technology called Grav-Shoes, which allow the wearer to fly. Aside from simple transportation, people also use these shoes in a competition called FC (Flying Circus). To score points, they either touch buoys floating above the ocean, or their opponent's backs.
The energetic but ditzy Asuka Kurashina transfers to Kunahama Academy, a high school in the Four Islands Archipelago, from the outside world. She joins Misaki Tobisawa and Masaya Hinata's second year class. Her lack of experience and general clumsiness make her classmates worry if she can learn to fly properly, but she quickly develops an interest in FC, and she, Misaki, and Mashiro, a freshman, join the school's tiny FC club. But Masaya seems reluctant for some reason, even though he seems to know a lot about the sport.
Every season needs a sports anime (I mean, I guess?) and while this anime is not labeled as a sports anime, it is. Just not soccer, tennis, basketball, or whatever other sport. It features its own sport called FC, or Flying Circus. I'll save the details because the basic rules of the game are explained above in the synopsis- although I have no idea why-
so I'll leave it at that.
Lemme just get right into it and say that this anime is heavily focused on its sport as one might expect to hear given my previous statement of it being a sports anime. The characters are reliant on the sport, their backstory is reliant on the sport, and the whole story itself is reliant on the sport. And lemme tell ya
The sport is fucking stupid. At least in the way it's presented and how it's played.
If you've ever heard of American football, you may know some basic "do's" and "don'ts" regardless if you've never played it before. Such as, if your purpose is to get to the other side and someone's blocking your way but standing still, you go around them.
In FC, it doesn't work like that. The buoys are labeled 1-4, and they must be touched consecutively if the goal is to score by touching buoys rather than going attack-mode (in that buoys can only be touched by one player per loop). So in such situations where one player is much faster than the other, they do a thing called "taking a shortcut" and just block the way of the other player.
But in a 3 dimensional play zone where up, down, left and right are all viable methods of motion and there's no real restriction of playzone, a spectator would think that this "block" would do fuck all. That they could just go around the player with speed from a further distance and out maneuver them again because, well, that's what made the other player take the shortcut in the first place.
Except shortcuts don't make sense either, because a player could play by just literally waiting at the second buoy, and then touch it once the other player hit the first and make way to the third. The Pythagorean theorem tells us that the player who waits at the second buoy would have a significant distance advantage to the third buoy, and thus, could easily score the leading point and do the same back to the 2nd, then 3rd again, etc.
The end result is likely a draw
Because the game itself is broken. Thank god the characters don't play like that because that'd make for an extremely boring anime
So what about the characters. Well, we have generic moe main female character who is indefinitely going to be the main character's love interest some time soon. A moe wannabe cat girl who's best friend with her moe lesbian one-sided lover. An imouto of big brother-desu and big brother-desu as the captain of the FC team, both of which are pretty alright. And then the most boring, typical main male character who is honestly my personal nominee of worst main character ever. His job is so minute that it could be replaced by literally any other character. His backstory JUST (episode 8) got shown- barely- and it was to SUPPORT another character's development. How this guy is the real main character, I don't know. He has zero development throughout the story, and is literally playing a support role in FC (as of episode 8). He's uninteresting. Hell, the teacher who shows up once every two episodes or so has had a backstory before him which displays her development as a character over the course of time. That's just... Sad.
When it comes down to the story, it's pretty standard for what you might think of a stereotypical sports anime with drama. A team needs players, players are found, MC is somehow dragged into it, MC is fairly uninterested but stays because cute girl is on the team, he sees a girl changing. The girl he saw changing turns out to be on an opposing team, she forgives him because you need to hint at romance every once in a while if you want to keep that romance tag on MAL. Generic new girl who never played FC before nor really knows a whole lot about it ends up being the best player on their team. She goes against the "undefeated champion" and barely loses because you need to entice drama. More drama happens in the team. Blah blah blah. Now someone's crying.
What the fuck.
To put it simply, it's very difficult to understand the direction this anime is taking because every episode is a spontaneous advancement of the plot, and it's hard to see any rhyme or reason or rhythm
(huehue) to it. But, it does well to accomplish a typical Slice of Life type of genre to adapt to a very stereotypical type of sports anime with the occasional drama. So it's great if you're into that, but I'm more of a "I watch a drama because I want my heart to be touched in ways it's never been touched before." Hence why I rated and believe that Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso is the best 10/10 anime of the list of 10/10s I have.
The art and animation are very (depending on the style, I'm not too picky) nice when it's not choppy. The FC scenes definitely had a lot of time and effort put into it, and there are moments where you actually feel engrossed in the flight with a feeling of 'epicness' as you witness the beauty of the paths they take which are mostly graceful. The brawling during FCs are also very engaging. There are moments where you are left ecstatic to how the characters react and respond to situations (albeit, very stupid ones) to create what I like to think of as sky art.
Such times it feels like the anime made up for all the shit it has.
- TL;DR The FC scenes are greatly animated, but the story, characters, and sport that is the backbone to everything this anime has to offer is severely lacking.
Should you watch Ao no Kanata no Four Rhythm? No. Unless you like really, really moe wannabe cat girls.