I missed Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu when it was first released. The general sense at the time was that it was pretty good, but somehow I never got around to watching it until now.
Now that I have, I can say the reviews were right. Iriya is an entertaining little series; I found it both funny and touching. It follows a young boy’s summer, as he meets and befriends a mysterious girl, Iriya Kana. The boy, Asaba, develops a relationship with Iriya, but discovers that she’s the last pilot capable of defending the planet from an extraterrestrial invasion.
Ok, so the premise seems a bit far-fetched. So what? If anime plots always had to make sense, then probably three out of four series would get classified as unrealistic. I found the plot interesting, and it kept my attention well. To be honest, it reminded me a little of the plot of Saikano, which is one of my favorite series; I won’t take that comparison too far, but I feel like Iriya does well with the premises it has.
The animation in Iriya isn’t astounding, but it’s definitely smooth and clean. I’m also happy to say that the CGI elements were well integrated into the show; the shots of the Black Mantas seemed natural, unlike CGI scenes in some other series (Last Exile is notoriously bad in this area). Likewise, Iriya‘s music is neither amazing nor terrible; it’s good enough to pass, but not so good as to stand out.
I really enjoyed the depth of the character interactions of the series, especially starting in episode 4; it becomes clear that Asaba and Iriya aren’t the only ones in the series with personal issues that will need sorting out. The “Ironman Challenge” between Akiho and Iriya was especially entertaining, and I thought it was an excellent way to resolve the conflict between the two rivals. I was really affected by Iriya’s assault in episode 5; afterward, I felt like Asaba was being an inconsiderate ass. However, Iriya’s subsequent… breakage… was crushing, and I felt really bad for both Asaba and Iriya. I was very happy that their relationship was finally resolved, but sorry to see that it couldn’t come to a happier end.
Unfortunately, Iriya has a couple of crucial weaknesses. First, the pacing of the show can only be described as “jerky” at best; I felt like the plot was taking huge leaps between each episode (or even during a couple episodes). This made the show feel unnatural, like it was uncomfortable in its own skin.
This was only exacerbated by the second weakness, which is the show’s length. As a six-episode OVA, there simply wasn’t enough time to follow up on some of the plot threads that were begun, or to fully develop all the characters. For example, we never get Enomoto’s full story, and we barely meet some of the other members of the Roswell project (or, for that matter, know what the Roswell project is at all). Likewise, we don’t know a lot about the club president’s background, nor do we ever find out what happened to him for most of the series. And while it’s strongly hinted, we’re never explicitly told the outcome of Iriya’s final battle; we can presume she won a Pyrrhic victory, but it’s never directly discussed.
I suppose you can write this off as being part of the mystery. I can accept that for some things; for example, I don’t mind that the actual war isn’t discussed much, since that’s not the show’s focus. But there are still too many questions left unanswered. Why was Iriya’s memory progressing backwards after Asaba yelled at her? What happened to the president? Who were the other Black Manta pilots, and how were they chosen? Why did the pilots have to be children at all?
I think if Iriya had been a full-season show instead of an OVA, many of the pacing and development issues could have been resolved. I suppose I’m a little frustrated that this wasn’t the case, since I enjoyed what was there; if only it had been complete, I feel like Iriya would have been an excellent series. As it stands, I feel it’s only slightly above average.
Iriya no Sora, UFO no Natsu has a lot of potential, with quality art and music, and a compelling plot and interesting characters. However, it suffers from pacing and length issues; it feels incomplete, and I think it would have been better as a full 13-episode series instead of a 6-episode OVA. Because of jerky pacing and unanswered questions, I can only classify it as a little above average. 7/10.