Version 5.4 ~ Haruhi gave rock and roll to you.

19 September 2008: Saikano v. Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu (Part Three) ~first impressions~

Nothing ruins a shopping expedition faster than carpet bombing.

We know Saikano won't end well because it begins with a voiceover by a tall, tired-looking fellow with emo glasses who speaks in the past tense about the girl he loved. From there we backtrack through a 12-episode flashback to the beginning of the story. We meet the meek Orikasa Fumiko-voiced Chise as she calls out to the impatient Shuji. We can tell they are somewhat close by the familiar names they call each other. We learn that there are soldiers in town even before we learn that Chise and Shuji are dating. A small convoy of deuce-and-a-half trucks loaded with soldiers rolls by as Chise and Shuji walk to school. Fighter planes patrol overhead. Additionally, there's a communication blackout in effect: No cell phones and no Internet. Obviously there is something going on, although the local citizens don't seem to know much of the details and nobody seems too concerned about it. It could be this is one of the aspects Stripey finds hard to stomach.

Nothing ruins a carpet bombing expedition faster than an air-supremacy schoolgirl.

So Chise is the ultimate weapon, but it's never explained how her abilities function. Conservation of mass doesn't apply, and neither do the law of conservation of energy nor the law of conservation of happiness. (Wait, never mind the part about the law of conservation of happiness. I've been re-reading Aa! Megami-sama.) Inexplicably, the military seems content to allow Chise to lead a semi-normal life and only watches her from a distance instead of, you know, rigidly controlling her every move.

Iriya Kana didn't know how to swim.

Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu also begins with a voice-over. Here, Iriya reveals the existence of a shadow war about which the general public remains unaware. Unlike Saikano, the first episode includes an OP showcasing missile-spamming, thrust-vectoring foo fighters dominating the skies. We never know for certain what time frame the voice-over belongs to, but we do eventually learn the story behind the air battle depicted during its voice-over.

Asaba and Iriya
Asaba Naoyuki teaches her.

Asaba Naiyuki and Iriya Kana meet one night while they're both trespassing at the school pool. It's not exactly a Meet Cute, but it does get them together. The show never explains why Iriya fixates on Asaba so much from then on, but it doesn't really matter since she doesn't have any other suitors.

Akiho and Asaba
Akiho tries to keep Asaba in line.

Both Saikano and Iriya no Kana, UFO no Natsu include Loud Friends. Shuji and the quiet Chise's loud friend is Akemi. I'm not sure why Akemi calls Shuji senpai when they're in the same class. Maybe it's out of habit from before he got held back. Shuji is the kind of doofus I could see flunking a grade or three. That would also explain why he's so much bigger than his classmates. (He's not from America.) Possibly he just has a defective pituitary gland. Asaba's loud friend is Sudou Akiho. As far as loud friend types go, Akiho is a lot more charismatic than Akemi, probably in no small part due to her unkempt hair and her wonderfully cranky Chiba Saeko voice.

Saikano military dweebs
The soldiers in Saikano aren't the most competent ones you'll meet.

As in Saikano, the military also has a pronounced presence in Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu. The characters refer to the nearby Sonohara Air Base frequently, and Suizenji (the chairman of Naiyuki and Akiho's club) is obsessed with its secrets. There is also a black ops contingent with secretive intelligence personnel and other agents behind the scenes. They watch Iriya more closely than Chise's goons, and monitor the local citizens for good measure. They even know embarrassing details about Asaba's early private life, suggesting that they were watching him at least a year before he and Iriya crossed paths. By the series' midpoint, the viewer discovers that these agents really are everywhere, watching Iriya and Asaba closely.

Asaba and Enomoto
Trust no one.

The distinction makes sense when you consider that Saikano focuses much more on Chise's battles and her trauma and the fallout from her classmates struggling to cope with the horrors of war—even a cartoonishly unrealistic one. UFO Boobs is more about secrets and conspiracies and uncertain motivations. It's about shifting loyalties and not knowing who to trust. This is not to say that Iriya is an anime X-Files—not at all—just that it takes a different approach as to what its characters have to deal with. But trust is the key to Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu. And it's what makes Asaba's betrayal later in the series so gut-wrenching.

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