Adachi Sakura and Shimamura Hougetsu, are friends and partners in crime, skipping class to play ping pong together. The way the ball is volleyed back and forth, the subtle tapping sound it makes when it bounces, and the way it sometimes misses the table and rolls away, is all pleasantly indicative of their delicate, tentative friendship, which seems to both of them like it could easily become more, if they let it.
They first met in that disused second floor of the gym, and even though neither school nor ping pong matters that much to either of them (this is not a stealth sports anime!), when they’re alone together, being bad, nothing else matters. Where they differ is that Shimamura has two friends in Hina and Nagafuji, but the two of them are closer than Shimamura is to either, and in any case she considers relationships with others to be akin to free diving (though the ping pong metaphor was right there…)
Adachi, on the other hand, has no other friends. No doubt that’s part of what makes Shimamura feel their bond is special. They didn’t grow up together, they found one another. So when she asks Adachi if she’d rather go to class or go home together, she knows Adachi will pick the latter. Shimamura rides with Adachi on her bike, and her house is out of the way, but she doesn’t care. It was a weird, but fun day.
Their little hideout is violated when Shimamura’s friends discover them playing ping pong, and regard Adachi wearily as a class-skipping delinquent. The next day Adachi doesn’t come to school at all, and Shimamura isn’t happy. She doesn’t want to share Adachi, nor does she want to subject her to Hino and Nagafuji, who seem somehow so much more superficial.
There’s a profundity to Shimamura and Adachi’s respective inner monologues about themselves and each other that keeps bringing them together, such that when Shimamura is dejected when she considers never seeing Adachi again, she happens to appear behind her on her bike, with the lunch they would have shared that day.
Adachi is glad Shimamura was alone, which makes Shimamura elated enough to fly around like an airplane. That elation gave her wings, and the courage to act silly for a while. She may not know Adachi the best, but she knows she wants less diving and struggling to breathe, more flying.
So begins a calm, quiet, highly introspective story of two girls gradually growing closer together as they try to figure out the lives of which we’re witness to slices. In fact, A&S is such a serene, almost mousey show, it threatens to be drowned out by the bombast of louder, flashier series this Fall. It has more fanservice than it needs, and I can’t begin to comprehend what’s up with that tiny astronaut, but I for one am glad to have it.