First Impression: AYAKA

As an island breaks apart, with magna spewing from the earth and scorching the surface, two boys escape to the beach where they and other islanders are being evacuated. Meanwhile, one man faces the elements, deciding to take a last stand to stop the evil creating this catastrophe. Years later, one of those boys, Yanagi, having lived in an orphanage since the event, is graduating middle school and returning to his island home. And there to pick him up is a gregarious, poorly-mannered, hard-drinking young man named Jingi. Despite his reluctance to go with the stranger, Yanagi relents after realizing that Jingi knows about the strange powers that he’s manifested—and has some of his own. Thus starts Yanagi’s new life as he returns to his old one and discovers that the powers that he’s been hiding throughout his life can be controlled and maybe even used for good.

Ayaka is the type of series that if streamed very early in your anime-watching experience, might become an instant favorite. It features a likable lead who is discovering his inner strength, quirky and lovable supporting characters, and probably lots and lots of action. But if watched somewhere later down the line after you’ve already seen more and better series in the same vein, it might be discarded on the stack of “yet another shonen.” There really isn’t anything here to get excited about apart from the usual conventions, and that’s problematic for a shonen series, where episode one really needs to show viewers something special and distinctive. Instead, the dialogue is stilted, scenes move just a little too slowly, and the animation looks dated—as if the series was made in 2010 rather than in 2023. And while you could do worse than Ayaka—and if you love love love shonen, you should try this series out—you could do a whole lot better, too, both within the anime action-adventure genre and just in general this summer anime season. I won’t be returning for a second episode.

AYAKA can be streamed on Crunchyroll.


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