“I don’t care what they say. I don’t care how tough it may be. I want to make sure you’re as happy as possible.” –Haruka Kasugano
When Yosuga no Sora is mentioned, the first thing that comes to mind isn’t the anime’s clever presentation of four concise but emotionally-powerful stories in an omnibus format, or the visually-powerful setting that is necessary to accommodates the story. Instead, topics of incest come to the foreground, and an anime like Yosuga no Sora would draw sharp criticisms for dealing with what is counted to be a verboten topic. However, there remains one fact: that there has been a steady uptick on people searching for Yosuga no Sora in my site metrics, and this has piqued my curiosity in revisiting the series again. While it has been difficult to find folks who look past the incest in Yosuga no Sora, into the numerous merits that Yosuga no Sora may have, it is an honour to welcome Dewbond of Shallow Dives in Anime into the discussion: we’d previously exchanged the idea of a collaboration, and this idea soon became a reality. I’m very pleased to present the first collaborative project this blog has hosted, and without further ado, let’s get into the post itself.
- Before we begin, I will note that there is a bit of a content warning for this post. Yosuga no Sora is known for its content, and in order to really make some of the moments in the anime felt, I’ve chosen to include screenshots that correspond to moments that Dewbond and I will cover. If anatomy is not to your liking, I recommend hitting the “back” button immediately: by reading past this point, you agree that neither Dewbond nor myself can be held liable for whatever happens when people see anime papilla mammaria. If there are no objections, then let us continue!
Dewbond, let me begin by welcoming you to this party. You’re the first collaboration this blog’s ever hosted, so I’m going to do my best not to butcher anything. I am very impressed with your multi-part breakdown of Yosuga no Sora that delved into what each arcs characteristics were. There is a lot to unpack in Yosuga no Sora, far more than just Sora’s…desire to be closer to Haruka!
Thanks for having me here Zen. I’m always happy to a do a collaboration post, especially when it is discussing anime that are too often ignored by viewers. Yosuga no Sora is one of those series, and I am glad we can take some time to have a chat about it. Let me start by asking a question: what made you watch Yosuga no Sora and want to talk about it on your blog?
That’s a great question, and the story is a bit of a funny one. After watching Madoka Magica, I was looking for a similar series, and was given Yosuga no Sora as a recommendation. I had no idea what I was getting into, but the synopsis was compelling: two siblings returning to the countryside to pick up pieces of a life and yearning for a peaceful life, but struggle as a dark secret unfolds? I was sold. It wasn’t until I’d reached the conclusion of Kazuha’s arc that I began to understand what I’d picked up, but the way the stories were told compelled me to stay, and I’m very glad that I did.
As am I. For me, I had seen clips and rumors of Yosuga no Sora for years, but I always just chalked it up to being a softcore hentai. It was only when I started this blog, deciding that I would start to review things are often ignored, that I decided to give Yosuga a full fair and balanced looked. I am glad I did, because beyond the memes and eye-brow raising final arc, it is actually a good interesting story.
It certainly sounds like you had a blast going through Yosuga no Sora. The series began in a pretty tame manner, although even the first episode immediately hooked me with its ending, only to reveal that Sora was really just trying to get Haruka to take her measurements for a school uniform. Out of the gates, Yosuga no Sora feels unassuming, and I’m guessing this is why viewers would’ve been shocked to see how open the series is about the physicality in a relationship. Kazuha’s arc, being the first of the series, acted as a hook to continue watching, and in many ways, set the expectations for what was to come. I certainly ended up being surprised at the end of Kazuha’s arc; the emotional build-up was natural and flowed well, but I certainly did not expect things to be quite as visceral as they were. As I was watching this on an iPad in campus halls after hours during the summer, I was fortunate not to have been spotted – after the Kazuha arc, I became more mindful and only watched the show with my back to a wall and headphones in!
Yes, we may as well get that out of the gate right now. One of the best things I like about Yosuga no Sora is that it pulls absolutely zero punches in its display of intimacy and sex. There are no cutaways, no clever use of framing, no censoring. It’s a story that involves people having sex, so it shows people having sex. There have been so many eroge and ecchi shows that have had to walk a fine line between what they can and can’t show. Yosuga deciding to go “fuck it, let’s fuck!” is a bravery I can respect. It helps make the romances land, the plot points matter more, and the characters beats feel more heavy. What was your take on the use of sex in the show?
I’ll admit that when I first saw Kazuha and Haruka getting intimate, I was surprised. The series had not given any indicator it was going this way. However, as more arcs passed by, I found it to be a powerful part of the storytelling. In particular, it adds the weight you mention into each scenario: Yosuga no Sora’s a busy anime and making a compelling romance work in the space of three episodes is a challenge, so they really had to show only the most critical of moments. I think the series has succeeded in this area, and after the initial shock, on revisitation, I think the series has done a superb job of using the physical side of a relationship to augment the fact that each arc is memorable. Of course, the series does become a little more wild in it’s second half, what with Nao and Sora’s stories!
Absolutely I thought the sex worked extremely well, and it was portrayed in a way that was sexy, but it wasn’t “hentai-sexy,” if that makes any sense. I also enjoyed how the sex was escalated for each consequitive arc, which I think is how much of the arcs actually go. Before we get to the heavy stuff with Nao and Sora, let’s talk about Kazuha and Akira. I’ve mentioned that Kazuha’s arc is my personal favorite, what was your take on the both of them?
I’m getting ahead of myself here. Kazuha’s arc was a superb one in many ways. Not only did it set the precedence for what Yosuga no Sora intended to tell in its story, but it also establishes the kind of person that Haruka is: he’s someone who, despite being in the difficult circumstance of having to look after his frail twin sister and make things work in his new life, does his best to help those around him. Haruka ends up demonstrating to Kazuha that her father does in fact care about Akira, and this finally puts her at ease.
In Akira’s arc, this side of Haruka leads him to search for a pendant belonging to Akira’s mother. Although unsuccessful, this act does show Haruka’s commitment to those he cares about. I admit that, as you’ve said, Akira’s arc feels distinctly like something out of The Young and The Restless. Of course, being Yosuga no Sora, I’m glad a solution is reached. Overall, both arcs show Haruka in what would be a clean slate, portrayal the growth of a relationship that comes about very naturally. The first two arcs are what I count as being the purer side of the series; this is appropriate in allowing us to see the series at its most idyllic.
I agree with that both arcs are the “cleaner” version of Yosuga. I would also agree that Akira’s is absolutely the most soap opera out of all of them. It’s also the weakest arc, because a lot of what Akira is has been done before so many times in anime, and done better. The girl who hides her pain behind a smile, that’s not something new to anyone who’s been round this artform for a while. Yet again, it is never not bad, just not as good as the rest of the three.
Kazuha however, is my favorite for two reasons. Her connection to Haruka is shown to be quite genuine and real, and there is a clear attraction between both her, and Haruka throughout the story. You can feel the literal push pull between what Kazuha wants, a relationship with this boy, and the self imposed duty she has to Akira, who turns out, is just doing quite fine. It’s a simple effective story to really ease you in to the anime’s world and setting, which brings me to my number two point. The setting and the music, which I think we both agree is second “secret sauce” to what this anime works so well. Now I’m going to let you just gush about that, because I really like your take on the world of Yosuga no Sora!
You’re absolutely right, Dewbond: there’s a certain, almost indescribable magic about the aural and visual aspects of Yosuga no Sora that is the series “secret sauce”. However, if it were indescribable, there’d be no post, so I’ll try to put it into words as best as I can. I think it makes sense to start with the setting, since that’s so prominent in the series – Yosuga no Sora‘s tagline, “in solitude, where we are least alone”, is sourced from Lord Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Lord Byron suggests that being alone, is not as lonely as one might think. This cleverly applies to Yosuga no Sora, in allowing Haruka to pursue a relationship in a place of peace, solitude. This is where the setting becomes so critical: the choice to set Yosuga no Sora in the inaka, the rural countryside of Japan, creates an incredibly lonely environment. As Haruka and his friends walk to school, there’s hardly another soul in sight on the road cutting through the verdant fields, leading into distant mountains and a seemingly-endless sky. The neighbours are far away, parental figures are distant or outright absent, and this really serves to reinforce just how isolated Haruka is. In his solitude, he finds companionship, support through any one of Kazua, Akira, Nao or Sora, and the loneliness conferred by the countryside allows Haruka the space and time to really focus on his relationships, which in turn, gives them more depth.
Admittedly, while I’ve always enjoyed the music of Yosuga no Sora, I’ve never really given it much thought until now. Composed by Manabu Miwa and Bruno Wen-Li, similarly augments things. The main theme is particularly insightful: through the use of piano and strings, this song creates an incredibly wistful sense of yearning. There are points in the main theme where two instruments perform solo, yielding a lonely, contemplative sound. Together, the theme becomes immensely rich and complex, but also retains its melancholy. It cleverly links all of the different arcs together, and suggests to viewers that the relationships Haruka pursues all have their ups and downs. We could probably spend an entire post just dedicated to the music: Yosuga no Sora‘s main theme is not the only piece of note, and there are other pieces that capture Kazuha’s gracefulness, the joyful world Akira sees, Nao’s yearning and Sora’s own feelings. The setting and music, so masterfully used to set the stage for Kazaha and Akira’s arcs, now come to play as we move into Yosuga no Sora‘s darker side. This opens with Nao, whose story happens to be my favourite. Dewbond, you’ve previously mentioned that her story was tricky to talk about because Nao’s conflict is internal. This invariably leads to the question of whether or not Nao’s action, when she was younger, is something that can be accepted: while Haruka was surprised, can we, as the audience, be as quick to forgive Nao’s choices?
Well first off, this is why my blog is called “Shallow Dives” cause you said things about the setting and music far better than I could! You are absolutely right in that the setting is crucial to having this story work. The countryside does create this vast plain of loneliness and solitude that allows what happens to happen. It is both the literal solitude of them being so far away from the city, and the metaphorical solitude of two children with no parents, trying to pull together their lives out from a tragedy.
I didn’t really have an issue forgiving Nao, because she clearly feels guilt about forcing herself on Haruka when they were younger, but also because Haruka himself seems to have accepted, even enjoyed it. Their conversation in episode 2 where they just confront the drama helps lay this out. Yes he was shocked and surprised, and it probably stayed with him, but there wasn’t any lasting damage. It was clear he enjoyed it and it remains a fond, if strange memory of this youth. This is what makes Yosuga brave in some regards. It pulls zero punches in what happens sometimes among young people. They don’t know their bodies and they fuck, it happens, it’s there. To deny that reality is sticking your head in the ground.
Personally, I was curious to see what Haruka himself had made of it, and hearing is conversation with Nao sorted things out on short order. I agree that Yosuga no Sora‘s openness about these topics gives the series a chance to properly explore the topic, where other series would either downplay or turn into comedy such a moment. This was probably the most visceral of the moments for me, and from there, once Nao and Haruka come to terms with what happened that day, the main challenge Nao and Haruka faced was really getting Sora to accept them. At this point, things become a little more cut-and-dried: it took a lightning storm to give Nao a chance to demonstrate to Sora that her objective isn’t simply to take Haruka away from her, but once a resolution is reached, we viewers are treated to a bit of love making as the arc comes to a close.
Overall, because of how Haruka and Nao resolve the obstacles driving their relationship, the fact that the love between them is the most strongly rooted, and because Nao’s attributes makes her a category of her own, this is why Nao’s arc is the strongest in all of Yosuga no Sora for me. We’re now left with the Sora arc, and this is where almost all of the discussions, memes and disdain for the series comes from. The other arcs explored the different progression for more conventional relationships, but the Sora arc really opens the floor to topics that are much more challenging to discuss in the open. Now that we’re here, though, it’s a little hard to pick just one thing to talk about. What do you think, Dewbond: where does one begin for the Sora arc?
Well I think the first thing one does is go to the train station and buy a ticket to “incest central”
Sorry, had to get that joke out somewhere. The Sora arc is absolutely the most controversial, and frankly the most interesting of the four. It very much serves as a sort of a mirror image to the Nao arc, but where Haruka is unable to push away his feelings for his sister. I liked that the divergence point took place actually after the heart to heart he has with Nao, which puts that plot point to bed for both stories.
Like with Makoto in School Days, Haruka is a man shaped by his environment. One with no parents or wise adults to help guide him through this difficult time in his life. As you said before, the sheer solitude both he and Sora find themselves in, pretty much in the middle of fuck no where is important, as it cause them, and especially Sora to look inwards to themselves, and find a way to cope. While Haruka has chances to build relationships, Sora is unwilling to, and clings to her brother as the last thing she has left. If you take that, mix it up with teenage hormones and place yourself in a setting with zero adult supervision, I’m not surprised things ended up the way they did.
The progression leading up to Sora and Haruka making their relationship physical is a very logical one, then: it does not come out of nowhere, and what we viewers see on screen is a very raw, genuine portrayal. It’s not mean to titillate; when I saw it, I saw a relationship that was inevitable given the tragic and isolated circumstances that Haruka and Sora found themselves in. The Sora arc, in a way, does what School Days did: in dramatic circumstances, people are compelled to actions that they might not otherwise take. For Haruka and Sora, watching them go at was very moving because it showed very vividly just how alone, even broken, they were – to go to these lengths to find a meaningful human connection has its implications, and their pain was very plainly conveyed to me. My reaction in watching the Sora arc is equivalent to Kozue, not because of any emotional connection, but because of the aforementioned implications. While it may be the most taboo of the arcs, the Sora arc was also the most emotionally powerful: every relationship previously stemmed from a desire for closeness, but here, the absence of family, and love, creates a vacuum that saps at both Sora and Haruka.
I don’t know if it saps them, since the story ends with both Haruka and Sora accepting they are in love, and leaving to go and rebuild their lives. Instead of being separated again, they decided that what they have is more important and go stake out their own future. That gives them a happy ending, but a sad and bitter one for the rest of the cast, especially Nao, who seems to have returned to be depressed and lonely.
I do agree that the Sora arc shows how lonely they were, and how much they needed a emotional, even physical connection. Sora probably the most, because like I said, she is unable to form any connections with people who aren’t her brother. She even says it after they are caught by Kozue, she tells her brother to just “look at me.” That’s the point you can tell that she really doesn’t give a damn about what other people think, probably because unlike like her brother, Sora doesn’t have any social circles to try and fit in.
Overall, I still believe what I said in my blog. This should have been the entire story. I like the other arcs, but the Sora/Haruka relationship is the most interesting and thematically compelling. Making that the entire series would have been very interesting to see, but it speaks to the strength of Yosuga that it is able to make it work with the limited amount of time they have.
I should clarify: the isolation is what makes it so difficult for Sora, hence the sapping at their well-being! Sora’s isolation makes her arc all the more poignant; in the other arcs, she begins attending school and presumably begins to warm up to the others, but here, being unable to connect creates that loneliness. The amount of material, the cause and effect of isolation leading to Sora’s desire for a relationship with Haruka, could indeed be an entire series on its own: you’re absolutely right in that Yosuga no Sora’s biggest strength is being able to condense it into a short space and still clearly convey its ideas. With this in mind, there is one thing that’s bugging me. In the epilogue, Nao, Akira and the others return to the now-empty Kasugano home and find Sora’s room utterly destroyed, with her stuffed rabbit shredded as though by a feral force. However, when Sora and Haruka are headed for their next destination, her rabbit seems intact again. What do you make of this?
The stuffed rabbit is a gift from their mother, and Sora holds onto it as a memento of her mother and the family life that was ripped away from her. She destroys it in anger when Haruka attempts to reject her, which I think is an admittance from her that her family is completely gone.
The rabbit that is at the end of the series I think is a new one that Haruka bought for her, and serves as representation that Haruka, not her parents, is the most important thing to her now. Destroying the room and the rabbit I think, serves as a metaphor for both of the twins finally putting their old lives behind them, since they both decide to journey into the unknown to start a new life together. So in a sense, I think it is the death of their old lives, and the start of a new one, because they pretty much decided to cut all ties. That’s why Nao looks so forlorn and sad at the end, she knows in her heart that she’ll probably never see either of them again, but knows that it is for the best.
Dewbond, that clears things up considerably and helps me to appreciate the ending of Yosuga no Sora to a greater extent than before. I’m certain that our readers will, as well. With Haruka and Sora starting anew, it leaves the others to wonder how they are, and I’ve heard that Nao does fall into depression afterwards. The Sora arc was powerful in this regard, and marks a powerful end to a series that ultimately dared to be bigger – looking past the negative reception, memes and misconceptions, Yosuga no Sora is one of those series that not only takes a difficult concept and explores it, but explores it in a mature, even insightful manner. Folks who appreciate Yosuga no Sora are decidedly rare, so it is a joy to be able to share thoughts on what made this series more than initially anticipated. I came in looking for a Madoka Magica-like experience, and when the series is done, I cannot say I’ve been disappointed.
Indeed, it has been a pleasure talking about this series and giving it a fair and honest appraisal. Is it a masterpiece? I don’t think so, but as you said, it attempts to tell a difficult story and does it exceptionally well. It respects its viewers by not pulling any punches, and deals with the taboo subject matter as best it can.
Overall, I think Yosuga no Sora is a important series in the anime medium. It’s controversial, taboo and yes, even a little bit sexy, but it’s existence helps show that anime is more than willing to tackle tough and interesting stories, and actually do them well. That is something to be respected and admired, not shunned and laughed at.
Yosuga no Sora definitely will be one of those anime that will be remembered – we’re approaching the anime’s one-decade anniversary this October, and the conversation I’ve shared in this collaboration shows that there is a series here worth watching. Truth be told, when I finished watching Yosuga no Sora for the first time, I was not expecting there would be people who were willing to look past the more controversial parts of the anime, so being able to talk about this series in the way that Dewbond and I have here was superbly refreshing and enjoyable. I certainly hope that more people will be willing to give Yosuga no Sora a shot, and I’d like to thank you for having suggested the idea of a collaboration. It’s been wonderful to have the change to speak to you and learn of your thoughts, Dewbond. Thank you very much for making this possible!
Thank you for playing host Zen, this was a great conversation to have, and I hope we can do this again with another series real soon!
There we have it! It was a fantastic discussion, and I would love to do another collaboration at some point in the future. I think that this wraps up the bulk of our discussion: the final verdict is that Yosuga no Sora definitely has its moments that make it worthwhile, and remains unique in being able to cover difficult topics with a brutal honesty, removing comedy from the equation to tell a more moving story. While the collaboration comes to a close for the present, I will leave readers with a few more links to posts both Dewbond and I have previously written on the anime. Perhaps this will help to sate the curiosity of the folks who are curious to learn more about Yosuga no Sora, and I further hope that, that for whomever is driving the inbound searches for this anime, this collaboration and set of posts below will be helpful in some way.
Dewbond‘s Yosuga no Sora Posts
Infinite Zenith’s Yosuga no Sora Posts