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AKA: 天体のメソッド (Sora no Method)
Genre: 天体のメソッド (Sora no Method)
Length: Television series, 13 episodes, 24 minutes each
Distributor: Currently licensed by Sentai Filmworks, but also available streaming on Crunchyroll.
Content Rating: PG-13 (Vague allusions to mature dramatic elements.)
Related Series: N/A
Also Recommended: Ground Control to Psychoelectric Girl, Nagi no Asukara.
Notes: This show also has a manga adaptation made of it (the anime is the original work), written by Naoki Hisaya and illustrated by Yuka Namisaki, and is serialized in Dengeki Daioh magazine.
Rating:

Celestial Method

Synopsis

Returning to Lake Kiriya City after seven years absence, Nonoka Komiya finds that the UFO that arrived as she left is still there. And so are her friends, whom she had to leave behind all those years ago, some of whom are happy to see her, and others who... well, aren't.


Review

Celestial Method is one of two shows -- the other being Glasslip -- that I thought sounded interesting when I read about them, but turned out to be the exact opposite; trite and irritating. But where Glasslip had a somewhat interesting beginning that lead to absolutely nothing, Celestial Method is almost the exact opposite; it staggers about trying to elicit an emotional response, but seemingly doesn't know how to do so.

Also, like Glasslip, Celestial Method is quite the pretty show. Lake Kiriya City is a gorgeous place, and the UFO in question is a very visually attracting spectacle, which isn't lost on the story, as it turned the place into quite the tourist spot.

Nonoka is not a tourist, however. Before moving away, she lived there with her mother and father, and one of her last memories there is centered around a fireworks festival that she can only vaguely remember. Part of that is because during her absence from the town, her mother had passed away, which... might be the reason why it took so long for Nonoka's father to return? Maybe? Like everything else in this show, her death is treated more or less like a "it happened" situation. If they mentioned how she died and what effect it had on Nonoka and her father -- outside of the relatively normal grieving process, that is -- I missed that part.

One of my first grievances with Celestial Method is found in its obstinate refusal to establish anything. We know that Nonoka's mother died, but we never really learn how that influenced either her or her father outside of a dumb plot revelation in the middle to last half that doesn't seem to understand how memories work. Indeed, Celestial Method has a huge thing about being secretive and mysterious, only offering the vaguest snippets of explanations for why anything happens. And yet, it's certainly possible to put some pieces together. Problem is, they only bring more questions to the table.

The biggest mystery, except not really, is Noel. The show quickly reveals that she's also the UFO that's been hanging over the city for seven years, and that she was called there by Nonoka and her friends when they were kids, right before her father moved them all away from Lake Kiriya. She doesn't age like the others, which means she looks exactly the same when Nonoka finally returns. To the kids' credit, they weren't really aware of this, but the implication is still staring us in the face; they left her hanging -- and waiting -- for seven years.

To make matters worse, not all her old friends are happy to see her again. Noel aside -- she's happy to see basically anyone -- Koharu Shihara and Souta Mizusaka are the two who are the most ambivalent about seeing her again. Koharu runs a souvenir store in town, and represents the part of the city that actually benefited from the arrival of the UFO. Sota is the sole male member of the friendship circle and the brother of one of the others. He is the most deadpan of all of them, and his life and actions aren't really considered all that important compared to the girls'.

Said sister, Yuzuki Mizusaka, is happy to see Nonoka at first, but that only lasts until she realizes that Nonoka is the girl they knew when they were children. She runs a one-woman "get rid of that UFO" operation, which consists mostly of holding one-woman rallies and generally being a public nuisance. The show tried playing up her reasons for doing what she did as a slow-burned reveal, but the problem is; the eventual revelation turned out to be... less than stellar.

And then, there's Shione. While Yuzuki's initial hostility tended to be loud and abrasive, Shione leaned more towards hateful ostracization. "Why did you even bother returning" is literally the first words we see coming out of her mouth towards Nonoka. While she is considerably less loud and booming in her dismissal, she holds on to hers a lot longer.

It's frustrating. Celestial Method wants its big drama scenes. It wants people to snap at each other so that it can have its tearful reconciliation scenes, yet the characters in the show all walk around like a bunch of question marks. Its idea of a story reveal is a brief one-second flash of Yuzuki standing forlorn in a hospital hallway, or Shione standing outside in her winter coat and ear warmers looking sad and lonely. But it never builds to anything. More often than not, we don't really learn why the girls are angry at Nonoka until after they have forgiven each other, if even then. And so, it would seem Celestial Method expects us to see several episodes of Yuzuki and Shione snap at Nonoka or act hostile towards her without us thinking they're being a bunch of unreasonable bitches. It does at least explain that Yuzuki is upset because when the UFO arrived, things changed, but it doesn't really go any further than "I can't send up fireworks anymore, boo hoo." Which is still more than Shione's constant "No, I won't tell you why. Piss off!" mode.

Eventually, they all learn who Noel is, and why she's there. Of course, this happens long after we all figure out she's the UFO, but it gives the characters in the show a new reason to make all the worst decisions possible. I once said about Glasslip that one of the things I liked about it was that the characters acted like reasonable humans, talking whichever differences popped up amongst themselves, which lessened any potential overblown drama. Celestial Method does the exact opposite of that. Some of the characters go straight into "full sacrificial mode", refusing to talk to the others, which leads to various dramatical situations being dragged out to ridiculous levels. Said decisions also make absolutely no sense if you stop and think about it for a while, but the show hasn't shown any inclination of doing so at any point, so why start now? Again, all this does is make it blatantly clear what kind of ending Celestial Method wants, which removes any kind of surprise or elation about the ending that the show seems to want you to have.

And that's the thing with dramatical highs in shows; you have to build up to them. We need to learn to know the characters, and, in the case of wanting good things to happen to them, they have to earn it. You can't just artificially stretch out any drama you have on your plate, and you should definitely not make it so that said drama gets stretched because your characters are inflexible asshats. In better shows, Celestial Method's big payoff scenes might have been poignant. And it's not like they're all terrible. Nonoka tries her best, she really does, and Noel herself is a proper sweetheart. They're trying so hard the both of them to give the show at least a bit of goodwill, bless their sweet little hearts. But the show is just so unpleasant to watch. It would have made more sense for the show if Yuzuki and Shione were actual antagonists, but they're not. Even worse, the final hurdle -- the last story arc -- makes use of a time skip (or a time return, if you will. You'll... see) AND memory alteration to drive the drama, and it all just becomes a forehead-slapping mess that has you beg for the show to just finish already.

How does one recommend any of this? Do you like being kept in the dark all the time? Do you like wondering what the hell is wrong with some people? Is having story progression all the way up to the big emotional payoff too much work? Well, if you answered "yes" to all of those, then you will probably be happy with Celestial Method's arbitrary but inevitable happy ending. All the others, especially the logically minded ones, might be in danger of having their skulls cave in from all the questions you'll have as you watch.

One extra star for Nonoka and Noel; they really tried, bless their little hearts, and as such, they did at least make the show a little more pleasant than it otherwise would have been.Stig Høgset

Recommended Audience: Aside from all the stupid drama that has some roots in mature situations, this show doesn't have much in the way of violence OR fanservice. It's perfectly safe in that regard.



Version(s) Viewed: Digital stream on Crunchyroll, Japanese with English subs.
Review Status: Full (13/13)
Celestial Method © 2014 Studio 3Hz, Bandai Visual.
 
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