I like how the Astronomy Club of Uchihama Academy is the de facto “mediator” of interclub scuffles; as they’re always up in the stars, they’re literally “above the fray.” Of course, in both mediation cases we witness, the Astronomy Club ends up resolving things by beating up both sides, suggesting they’re capable of being in any number of clubs that make better use of their prowess; they just choose not to be.
That is a good thing from my perspective, as the club is made up of likable if flawed members with nice chemistry and an easy rapport. We’ve got the sarcastic, dense Akiyama Sou, his childhood friend Sasaki Kaori (who also lives with him and is in love withhim), the lovely combat specialist Hasekura Airi (who also likes Sou), the mischievous, conniving senpai Hanamiya Nagisa, and the American exchange student Kenny (who is not killed here, you bastards!).
It’s a good group, and they all exude distinct personalities and motivations, and their interactions are fun to watch, helped by a tight and efficient script. The characters appear to be CGI in design, but far subtler and smoother than, say, those of Ars Nova or Sidonia, and every scene is carefully, beautifully established and shot. In this regard, the show is already calling to mind the Suzumiya Haruhi franchise; not a bad start.
What I also liked about this first episode was how close it held its cards. It painstakingly builds this placid, if somewhat wistful, portrait of a club of quirky but warm characters, and an unfortunate love triangle. Then Airi defers to Kaori, who finally, nervously confesses (a fantastic job by her seiyu Takada Hatsumi) to Sou, then proceeds to head home without getting a straight answer and gets squashed horribly by a runaway bus.
The brute force of that event, followed by the hospital scene shot in near darkness that follows, is straightforward but powerfully staged stuff that gave me a sinking feeling in the stomach. Still, I kinda new the weirdness wouldn’t end there, so wasn’t too shocked when time rewinds to the day the club decides to build a planetarium for Nagisa’s last festival, there’s a boom that shakes the school, and Kou finds a wet, naked, silver-haired girl upstairs.
That, and the very first shot (which doesn’t make much sense at the time) of the episode shows us that very girl, apparently the subject of a failed experiment. Suffice it to say, strange things are going on at initially normal Uchihama Academy, which is generally what we expected of a show whose title is based upon a 4,000-page Proust novel.