Grade: B for the series, B+ for the movie
Genre: Drama, Fantasy
Episodes: 13 episodes, plus 2 episode special, and a movie (reviewed here)
Notes: Based on a video game.
Screencaps are from the movie.
Kunisaki Yukito travels around searching for the 'winged girl in the sky' from a story told by his late mother. His journey takes him to a small seaside town, where he meets several odd girls. Could one of them be the girl he's been searching for? How do events from a thousand years relate to the present?
This review will contain spoilers otherwise the show can't be discussed coherently and it's the kind of show where you need help to understand what's going on.
Animation and music are probably the series' strongest points. The animation is clean, bright, fluid, with often stunning backgrounds. The "super-shoujo" character designs are a bit disturbing in that the girls' eyes are so huge they're almost scary. Several of the girls also look so similar that it's hard to keep track of who is who at first. There is only one male character of any significance, Yukito and his previous incarnation Ryuuku. The series has a strong score and opening and ending themes. The voices for some of the girls suffer from being a bit too high pitched and annoying, barely tolerable.
The series should be seen in order and then seen again in order to understand exactly what happens, but then again it may not be worth watching the first time if you're not into slow moving, ambiguous tearjerkers.
The story starts and proceeds at a very slow pace. Getting through the first few episodes takes some patience. Yukito meets several girls living in a small town who have various quirks and problems and who may be somehow related to the girl he's been searching for. After their problems are solved, the story settles down into the main story, the relationship between Yukito and Mizusu.
This series was apparently based on a game. If you just watch the 13 episode TV series, you will not know the full background story. There are a couple of episodes during the series, which fill in a bit of the background as to what happened 1000 years ago, but it is not enough to keep the show from being rather confusing. The additional 2 episode Air summer special also takes place 1000 years ago, but does not add anything more to the story, just to the relationship between the characters. The information I have gathered is from various forums and anime information sites.
The main story centers on Mizusu, an innocent, lonely, odd, sickly girl who is living with her irresponsible aunt after being abandoned by her father. Yukito moves in with them temporarily as he tries to make some money by putting on magical (but lame) puppet shows. There is some humor though at times it feels forced. Misuzu is fascinated with dinosaurs and says "Gao" all the time. A rare occurrence in anime is a guy betting up on a girl, but Yukito often bops Misuzu for her clumsiness. Their friendship develops slowly, and it doesn't seem very deep, yet Yukito makes a sincere wish for her that has the viewer wondering what the hell just happened?
This is what happens: Yukito is about to continue on his travels when he decides he wants to stay with Mizusu and help her. Through the magic in his puppet, he turns into a crow. Then the series goes back in time to the beginning of the series to show things from the crow's perspective. It's a very interesting story telling technique, but still doesn't explain the main question: What happened 1000 years ago? What happened: There was a race of beings with wings. A girl (Kana) and her mother are captured and separated and are used to say prayers for the benefit of the people. The girl is confined to the castle her entire life. She has a devoted maid and a bodyguard. They help her escape and find her mother. That much is clear from the series. However, the most important part is not explained. The girl is recaptured and she is "sealed in the sky" and cursed by the monks to an eternity of sorrow. Ryuuku, the bodyguard, and Uraha, the maid, have a child to carry on the legend in hopes that one day the curse will be broken.
It seems that though Kana is sealed in the sky, her spirit is reincarnated and suffers on earth in various forms, the latest being Mizusu, who feels lonely and unloved though she doesn't readily admit to it. But because of Yukito's friendship and sacrifice she starts to feel better both physically and emotionally. Her surrogate mother, her aunt Haruko, is the reincarnation of Uraha. She also has difficulty expressing emotion. Though she loves Mizusu she is afraid of being hurt and won't commit herself to being her mother, but in the end she realizes her folly.
The ending is very sad but not depressing, and if you know the background, it's actually a happy ending, I think.
Rated G. Recommended for shoujo lovers and those who love tearjerkers. Others may find it boring and confusing. Younger children will probably find this boring and the ending too disturbing.
The movie (B+) was better than the series in several important ways - less boring (without the side plots of the other girls), clearer (much easier to understand the past), better character designs (eyes a bit less big), and it was more obvious that Yukito loved Mizusu. Animation in both was great but the movie really used lighting/reflection effects to a great extent. One of the few anime movies I liked better than the series. However, the movie still doesn't explain everything that happened in the past.