Oh boy. This is another anime that wasn’t in my seasonal previews at all but it only drew me in because of the good reception. And all I can say is they didn’t lie. What’s seemingly a sports anime on the surface has so much pain, suffering, questioning, and a whole lot of incidents that surely did happen in real life.
It’s been there since their younger days. Not only that this is the first time a series actually made my head hurt because of how alarmingly real all their miseries are depicted. A group of characters joined together in a team since it’s a temporary haven from their own ordeals. Plus having (mostly) awful parents being a major factor in their development makes it all the more believable. If you cannot relate to any of the drama the characters are facing consider yourself lucky growing up in a different neighborhood. This doesn’t limit to Japan, it can happen almost anywhere.
Each character has their own form of damage addressed in the show. They weren’t working together as one team until Maki arrived. Maki was also the reason why he was able to detect their own problems through their own body language because he himself is a victim too due to his own abusive father. The sport they’re playing, which is soft tennis, does get their own screentime but it is only a fraction of what makes them a whole.
Despite how helpful he is to the team he still has something that cannot be within his own control. Maki’s mother did issue a restraining order against her husband but he finds a way to slip through the cracks. The only person in the team who knows Maki’s situation is Touma, the team captain. Seeing Touma standing up for Maki even if it only happened once was the best solution one could make in such circumstances. I still find it an asshole move that Maki’s dad can still go to their house as long as he pleases when the mother isn’t around so he can manipulate his son. Yet, when you see situations like this it doesn’t go away quickly. It can take so much time and it’s been a recurring theme where the problems are still there lurking in the background.
I also commend this anime for its representation for one character who identifies themselves as non-binary even if they were assigned as male at birth. Yuta, or I properly address them as Yu, tackles the issue with utmost respect. Yu’s introduced as the manager of the team who has a one-sided crush with Touma. They were made fun of because a male track team member catcalled them for being into men and the same person even flexed in front of the whole team. Seeing the team huddling up in support of Yu was a step in the right direction. They even needed to understand their own identity through a book which is vital for their own growth. Their conversation with Maki was a major turning point.
Yu’s love for crossdressing with support from their sisters but then being rejected by their mother since she keeps instilling that she only see them as her son was the heaviest part for me. Here’s some background: I came out as pansexual at a family gathering. They were shocked at first as I said it when no one expected me to say anything. The good thing is they supported me for who I am except for my mother at first. It didn’t went to the extreme as how the anime showed it but my mother was in denial since she told me to find a girlfriend at one point. Take note: I’m a guy. When I said my own side that this is who I am to her she had no other choice left because she knows that I am stubborn towards her at times. I don’t crossdress but I’m okay with any person to spend time with. The difference is how she let me be who I am since times have now changed. I still want to discover who I am especially with that scene shown. Oh, and one thing, call me he/him. I know who I am.
There’s a lot more to pick up in a drama-heavy show like Stars Align for a short 12-episode series. If you’re in it for the sport you might want to reconsider. But if the themes are right in your alley you better prepare for the torments it will give. I got uncomfortable with watching certain episodes but that’s also part of life in general. When the pain does go away it doesn’t remove the fact you’ve been through it. No matter what, it is best to keep your chin up.