Even the OP snuck up on me!
Paying attention is the name of the game in Hoshiai no Sora/Stars Align
(well, Hoshiai no Sora means something like “the sky where stars meet up”, so “stars align” is just a more eloquent way of putting it). Don’t even skip the after-credit segments – you might miss the drama.
Sidebar: Apparently (according to the bottom of the anime website), the name of the anime comes from a quote in an anthology called the 建礼門院右京大夫集 (Kenrei Mon’in Ukyo no Daibushuu), where “Kenrei Mon’in Ukyo no Daibu” is a lady. More info here.
Stars Align is a bit hard to watch because I know somewhere along the line Maki’s father will show up and make things terrible again (and he does at the end of episode 4). Either that, or one of the other terrible parents will, because between them, they’ve covered adoption, gender/sexual identity, helicopter parenting and abuse…which is a lot of ground to cover for 12 episodes (plus they have a supporting character who is outright stated to be mixed-race and acknowledged to be attractive in-universe, which only adds to the issues explored here).
People may have initially passed up on Stars Align because of its end-of-ep-1 twist hitting too close to home – which is fine if it is – but if you just passed up on this series because it’s a sports series, then you definitely don’t know the half of it! Its dance ED, which may have been controversial at first due to the lack of credit (as lack of credit always is in the artistic community), is a study in conveying character through actions and visuals (such as the fact the student council president is the only one that gets a “fanclub” for her dance, which is an indication of how good she is and her popularity, possibly due to her position).
…Well, this is a sports series, but once the tennis stuff comes around, you’ll need it because that drama is some tough stuff. Clubs are meant to be a reprieve from the everyday and studies, so the show uses club activities in much the same way real life does.
As for that “gender identity” business I alluded to earlier, I guess it kind of reminded me of my own experience since I started out thinking I was “wrong” on the male-female spectrum (that is, I was thinking about whether I was non-binary, gay or meant to be trans) and read resources accordingly. Y’see, in 2012
(had to chase that up in my library records), before LGBTIQ+ visibility was more of a norm, I read a book about a person who was FtM (although revealing the exact book would reveal my location, so I won’t state its name or author) because I thought it would be gender-bending stuff…well, it is, but not in the same way I was expecting it to be back then.
To be honest, I think the thing that tore me up the most was having it be acknowledged that study isn’t everything. I’ve spent most of my life studying and now I don’t really have anything to show for it except lording it over you guys here, because that’s what I do. In that sense, you could argue the fact studying is the only thing I’m good at is why I’m a blogger in the first place – because I “don’t get out much”.
Sidebar 2: Speaking of lording said knowledge over the readers, here’s a bit of a joke which might’ve flown over people’s heads. There’s a Stars Align character called Arashi (name in katakana) and in real life, there’s this show with the group Arashi (name with kanji for “storm”) called, rather unsurprisingly, Versus Arashi…that’s why there’s one line that’s a clear call-out to that show.
Also, this character’s last name is made up of kanji for “king” and “temple”, but it’s read the same as the word for “prince” (ouji, written with characters for “king” and “child” in that order). He’s so haughty, you just can’t overlook such a naming choice…
Hindsight is 20-20, as they say…and in this case, it hurts pretty bad. So, what have you gotten out of Stars Align this season? Or are you not watching it and waiting to see what other hands the anime has for us before you watch it for yourself?