Stars Align focuses on the male members of a junior high soft tennis club who discover they will be disbanded unless they seriously improve in their performances within the sport. The team's captain, Toma Shinjo, recruits a new student named Maki Katsuragi to join the club under condition of paying him. As all the members of the soft tennis club improve their skills and learn more about each other, all of them have their own family problems that affect them in various ways.
Stars Align is a bit of a mixed bag in trying to be both a sports anime and family drama that delves into a variety of issues that effects the boys of the soft tennis club. But before dabbling into the rather divisive latter element of the series, let's get into the sports element of the series as that is actually pretty straightforward to dabble into. Like many sports anime of its ilk, Stars Align is focused on the improvements of the performance of the soft tennis team. At the start of the series, the majority of the team doesn't take participating in the sport seriously and this negatively affects their reputation among the school. This greatly frustrates Toma, who is determined to do his best in playing the sport and recruits Maki to help him get the rest of the team to take practicing more seriously and develop the confidence to improve themselves. The improvements of the other team members are gradual throughout the anime's run and Stars Align does a solid job at showing off the soft tennis team's efforts start to pay off by later in the series.
Now onto the family drama element. To attempt sticking out from other sports anime, Stars Align explores the family lives of each of the members of the soft tennis club and all of them have their personal issues with family affecting them in some form. Attempting to mix this focus in with a sports anime is a bit of a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the series believably explores a variety of issues that affect teens in some form within Japanese culture. Issues such as family abuse, adoption, divorce, parental pressure, and gender identity are explored within the series and each member is affected by one of these issues in some form when the series explores their family lives.
On the other hand, the family drama has a bad habit of getting in the way of the developments of the soft tennis team, as it often felt added in just for the sake of drama. It seems a bit too convenient that all the team members happen to have their own family issues affecting them. The attempt at trying to blend Stars Align's focus on both slice-of-life sports and family drama causes the story direction to get quite muddled at points, most notably in the show's second half when more of the soft tennis club member's family lives get explored within the series. For a 12-episode TV anime, trying to focus on so many characters within such a short episode length doesn't work too well within this series and it especially doesn't help that the series doesn't have the time to resolve the personal family issues that it chose to focus on.
The final episode of Stars Align features a rather dark twist in its ending that leaves things inconclusive following the light-hearted mood shown with the soft tennis team participating in a tournament. This sudden twist feels quite anti-climactic and clashes badly with the more somber and dramatic moods depicted from earlier episodes. To my understanding from some recent news I've heard, Stars Align was originally planned to be a 24-episode series, but the production committee of the series chose to cut the series length in half. Because this news got to animation studio 8 Bit well into their production of the series, they didn't have the time to restructure the anime's plot into a 12-episode format thus having to leave the series as it was up to that point. What makes this behind-the-scenes issue especially bad is that Stars Align is an original series and not based on any ongoing source material thus there's no way for fans of it to be able to see what happens with it beyond the anime, regardless of their thoughts on its premise. Whether or not a second season comes along to continue Stars Align's plot will likely come down to the show's popularity with fans and developments in the production of a possible follow-up.
Overall, I suppose my thoughts of Stars Align is quite mixed. The developments of the soft tennis club are solid to see unfold. But while the attempt to explore personal issues with the family lives of th the club members is an admirable one, it often gets in the way of the team's developments feeling added on just for the sake of drama and the show's 12-episode length was just not enough to devote focus on the personal issues of so many characters, even with the recent news that came out with the anime's production issues. Setting aside the messy behind-the-scenes situation and the inconclusive ending, your mileage will likely vary with how well you warm up to the mix of slice-of-life sports and family drama offered with Stars Align.
Rating: 6.5 of 10
Someday I’ll be gone To somewhere that we belong And God has never played his role 'Cause I’m the one who saves my soul It’s a perfect world we’re longing for
Old Man Dream: ...later titles in the Macross franchise can finally come stateside with all involved parties finally coming to a truce over how to handle things with the Macross trademark and all later anime in the franchise associated with it.
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Apr 10, 2021 1:55:16 GMT
Master Menos: F for Respects. DMX did all his work while suffering from a drug addiction, and I almost never knew until a point. I hope his next life treats him far better.
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HungryWorld: Sorry for taking so long for the things i have to do, have been suffering from some health issues (including mental health deterioration). Anyways hope i can be a bit more active here soon enough once i am properly patched up again.
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Taka: No worries, health, family, school, and work take priorities first.
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