LOL SPHERE ANIMU.
Okay, so let me try this–I’m not really a big Sphere fan; I enjoy the works of the voice actresses on their own, and some of their singles are pretty fun to listen to. I also have a couple of their albums. But somehow I have these conceptions, perhaps true, perhaps not.
Ayahi is the least popular. I think it’s unfortunate that given a group of real-life idols you’re going to have a person with more fans than others, but that’s just how it is. It’s not even for the fact that she might be the most talented out of the group, as people generally recognize that Ayahime probably has the best singing voice out of the four.
Minako is the prettiest, at least by recognition. But she is probably the least capable actress in the group.
Aki and Haruka are the most prolific, but obviously Aki is the most popular and Haruka, aside from being boosted by her solo stints pre-Sphere, is a little more of a controversial idol. At any rate the two of them just have done more, be it singing or voice acting; I believe a lot of the times they land roles simply because of their relatively diverse skills and in Haruka’s case, a great range of voices she can do.
I don’t think he’s too off base to say that Saki has a major part in the show and she might be the “best” character. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that Minako and Ayahi have a lot of lines; in a way this anime is made to showcase the girls in Sphere, especially those who do not get lead roles so often. I also think the four characters, in some way, match their voice actors in terms of their perceived personalities.
What you get in return, though, is that Minako just doesn’t quite cut it. I thought it was tolerable but the scene on the boat during the episode when Natsumi confronts Saki about Saki’s feelings really tested Minako’s ability to do a convincing job. I thought she passed; given Yuka is probably one of the most phoned-in role from Tomatsu in recent memory, it doesn’t behoove to be overly strict about Sphere voice acting in the Sphere anime when the characters are simply takes on the girls themselves.
Indeed, what do you have left? Aki’s Rinko is adorable, but given how little she speaks and that the passing bar is “adorable” it is a shoo-in for Aki. Ayahi’s Saki, again, carries the torch. I thought the Yuka-as-Saki episode is one of the most interesting thing I’ve seen in a long while, at least from the voice acting perspective. I suppose in the end there’s still something to be said of hearing Minako as a straight-and-narrow tomboy, which just never really happens.
As for the story and production value and music and whatever, well, I have no complaints. The writing saved this show. Seiji Mizushima has solid chops. I have liked Nijine’s sound in the past and Masumi Ito’s involvement probably helps a bit. The animation was tough and rough at times but they doubled down when it counted. The theme and the plot devices works to both obfuscate the basic premise and add a predictable but comfortable depth to the characterization that subtleness has room to grow. Like the hug Yuka gave Natsumi at the end.
Let me unpack that a bit. The character chemistry pairs off clearly from the start; it’s Yuka and Rinko, Natsumi and Saki. But there are a few precious moments like when Rinko flashes her flushed smile at Natsumi, or how Yuka’s own sense of joy about life infects Saki. It’s a bit like Rinko’s mom, knowingly squint at Natsumi’s mom in the last episode.
I thought that was probably the climax of the series right about there. Except that was probably a few weeks ago when they visited Saki’s new home-to-be.