I’ve been talking about a lot of “cute” stuff lately: things that gain my affections by raising joyous emotions, yet do not resonate with me in a way that allows me to identify with the object. I realize that’s a weird definition for “cuteness,” but that’s what I’m trying to get at when I say cuteness is immanent. Cute things are situated in a way that puts them on display for subjects like you and me to be entertained by their looks or their actions.
However, I also believe that cuteness can also take on a transcendent form: one that is very active. Such cute things raise joyous emotions in us (or me, if you don’t agree) and display virtuous characters that resonate with good traits of humanity. For the lack of a better term, I call this transcendent cuteness “beauty” (it’s a working definition). And while I designated the last two series that I reviewed as cute, this series on the contrary is beautiful.
Celestial Method (Sora no Method) takes place in the small, rustic town of Kiriya. Here, Nonoka Komiya and her father return after seven years of living in Tokyo. But when Nonoka sees her hometown, she notices a lot has changed!
There is a mysterious saucer floating in the sky, peering over the entire town! How did it get there? When did it get there? And what purpose does it serve? Nonoka doesn’t know how answer these just yet, but will find out soon enough that this saucer will change her and her friends’ lives forever.
Not everyone agrees that having this saucer in the sky is a good thing. Sure, the town novelty shop adorns it in everything that they sell, and not a day goes by when townspeople gaze upon it in wonder, but there are others who will resist. Yuzuki Mizusaka is convinced that Nonoka will help her in getting rid of the Saucer, despite the fact that no one else will support her. Yuzuki hates that saucer because it has caused trouble for her and her friends ever since it appeared. Since its appearance, she had become the lone protester against the Saucer.
Many anime fans have what is called a “4-episode test,” to see if they want to watch a series, but are unsure if they want to invest in it until the very end. Yuzuki was my personal test for this while I was simulcasting it in Fall 2014, because she displayed acts that felt like she was setting herself up for failure. I remember a lot of fans hating this series just because of her. I suppose it’s because she’s trying to get rid of the thing that brought upon the very premise of the series, but does it in a way that makes an impact on some of the audience. I don’t know about you, but I find myself fighting for causes that I feel like I’m alone in trying to fight, going against the popular opinion, and feeling frustrated that no one else agrees with me! And yet, Yuzuki displays all of those emotions early on, and there were many times I wanted to reach out into my computer screen and give her a hug!
That’s what I mean when I say that Yuzuki’s actions are beautiful; and consequently, this series as a whole is beautiful. I won’t judge you had you decided to stop watching after the fourth episode, but if you did manage to stick around, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed!
But there are a lot of things that also make this series incredibly adorable. Noel is one very happy girl, and will brighten anyone’s day just by being present. I suppose you can say that’s an aspect of immanent cuteness (which isn’t really a bad thing), but she does mean well.
Noel is the anthropomorphic embodiment of the Saucer. Her spirit came to this small town to grant a heartfelt wish for five young children: Nonoka, Koharu, Yuzuki, Souta, and Shione. And while I won’t spoil exactly what those wishes were, it should be somewhat obvious that it has something to do with keeping them together. True friends don’t fall apart that easily, and this small, but simple wish is most beautiful to Noel.
I’d also like to point out that the setting itself complements the beauty of this series.
The town of Kiriya contains so many unique structures, from small statues in the park to the Saucer in the sky. And as I watched this series, I couldn’t help but think that the scenery was very much alive, telling a story of its own. The planetarium in the scene above is given a lot of detail. This location, however, becomes very significant, as it has become Noel’s home. It looks unsightly and overgrown, but I felt like I could walk into the very scene of this original anime.
But of course, you can’t forget about the Shiihara Shop’s Kiligon.
No matter how many things change in this city or the story, Kiligon always remains steadfast as a novelty photo op cutout in front of Koharu’s family shop. Inspired by a kaiju movie, Yuzuki, Souta, and Koharu made him from scratch! But as time went on, people changed and attitudes changed, but Kiligon always remained unchanged in front of the shop. He never displays any particular emotions, and I suppose he doesn’t really have a mind to begin with; but his very spirit throughout the series acts as both a symbol of joy as well as a symbol of sorrow, as he continues to remain as the one thing that doesn’t really change in any scene. I’m actually convinced that he, too, is a character; and I wouldn’t be mad if someone said that he’s the best character in the series. While I wish we can just ask him what he’s thinking, I think I know just by looking at him. Such implanted emotions on a simple figure are beautiful.
This series is made for all ages, but there is a certain level of maturity involved that indicates just how beautiful the characters are, despite the fact that slice of life series like this one are often ascribed as “plain” and “unoriginal” to most fans.
For me, the main difference between one series and another is not the genres or premises that come out of it. It’s the execution. And for this series, a very delicate boundary between the beauty of the heavens and the beauty of the earth made this one stand out to me. While Nonoka is often tagging along with Noel, she is also reminded of the bonds she has with her mother.
Nonoka’s mother passed away recently from a terminal illness, but not a day goes by that her mother’s spirit continues to thrive in her. A relatively “ordinary” scene like this one feels much stronger just when you realize how much Mom impacts Nonoka’s character: to be a strong, caring girl who looks out for herself and her friends, but never forgets her roots.
Now my regular readers should know that I give away a lot of spoilers in my reviews, because I like to reflect on an entire series once it’s complete. But unless you have finished watching Celestial Method or don’t mind spoilers, please do not read beyond this point!
As I’m sure you’re aware, this series raises a lot of emotions out of those who see it. And right when everyone has their wishes granted, Noel is just about ready to say goodbye. Anime fans compare this moment to a certain other anime series, but I think it goes back to something even further: roughly a thousand years further!
Celestial Method feels like a contemporary version of Kaguya-hime (The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter), one of Japan’s most well-known folk tales. Like Kaguya-hime, Noel is a girl whose origins come from the heavens (albeit Kaguya-hime was born of a bamboo stalk). They are both well-loved by the people on earth, and desire fairly material things. But where these two tales depart is right here at the climax of the series.
In the original Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, Kaguya-hime is forced to return to the heavens, and is taken away by celestial goddesses, never to be seen again. The people on earth wept for her ascension, but no one seems to remember her life on earth. It’s a truly tragic tale.
Similarly, when Noel departs from Kiriya, she turns back time to when Nonoka had just moved back to the town. Nonoka seems to have remembered Noel’s goodbye, but the town she had come back to had no recollection of a Saucer of any kind. Having seen Yuzuki’s forlornness at the beginning of the series, Nonoka is forlorn in trying to get Noel back… or so it seems.
In the aftermath of a scenario similar to The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, Nonoka and her friends make it a point to bring Noel back! Their friendship is beautiful, but it is not complete without a proper goodbye from the one who helped them realize it. And in hopes that Noel might return, they come together once more to make one more heartfelt wish.
I cried during a lot of moments in this beautiful anime, but the very end of it made me smile with a very high sense of joy. In the advent of so much anime that is made digitally, the final cut brings us back to a more childlike style of animation, complete with pastel coloring and paper-cut effects. It is a big surprise to anyone who has sat through the whole series, and I’m sure many have had different reactions to it.
Noel returns in what seems like storybook quality, announcing that she has returned to a place where she feels at home. It is a very open-ended finish to what I consider an overlooked gem in anime. For the story ends here, but the memories that Noel and her friends will make are still to come.
So if you’re looking for an anime that transcends as a work of art from the other things that entertain us, watch Celestial Method. And thank you for putting up with this lengthy review if you managed to read all of it. As I’m sure you’re aware, I can’t talk enough about this!