What’s it about? Following a volcanic disaster, young Yagini Yukito was evacuated from his home on the Ayaka Islands and left in foster care on the mainland. Now that he’s graduating middle school, a letter arrives from someone claiming to be an old friend of his father’s who will be taking him back to Ayaka and acting as his guardian. Who are these people from Yukito’s past? And do they have anything to do with the strange water powers he’s been trying to control ever since his childhood?
What? You’re telling me this generic orphan who was always a bit of an outcast secretly has a supernatural family legacy and gets to go live on a cool island? Neat! I wonder if he has a grand destiny he’ll reluctantly have to fulfil, too!
Okay, I actually don’t want to bully AYAKA too much—yes, its setup feels cliché, but in a charming sort of way that makes me nostalgic for the stories I used to hand-write in journals with my friends when I was 11. Yukito has a blue color scheme and has elemental powers connected to water… do you think that the boy with red hair will turn out to have control over fire? Ooh, I can’t wait to find out!
The first episode of AYAKA is honestly fine: familiar, a bit boring, but altogether inoffensive. This could pave the way for a by-the-numbers but ultimately fun supernatural action adventure in which our hero learns to control his powers; networks with the various disciples of his cool, mysterious, and conveniently deceased father; and puts together what really happened the night he fled the island as a child. While his withdrawn and misanthropic attitude make sense, I wish Yukito was a little more dynamic as a protagonist so he could carry this familiar plot with more pizzazz. Still, at least he’s not out-and-out a dickhead like some teen boy fantasy heroes. The bar is low, I know, but I have to give a little smattering of applause for every new anime that clears it.
The supporting cast around him skew overwhelmingly male, but there are a couple of women characters introduced and/or teased in this premiere. One is very much in the role of The Mom, but there’s also a girl who seems to be much more part of the action; so that potentially gives us a range of female character types even if they’re outnumbered by the boys. This episode’s focus on Yukito and his green-haired, beer-chugging, self-described older brother figure means I unfortunately don’t have enough material to make a call on how the show is going to treat its gals, at least not yet.
So, there’s not much to flag here, but honestly not much to write home about, either. AYAKA seems fine, dare I say it even seems fun, with its wet fish protagonist, familiar wish-fulfilment setup, and its promise of fights with supernatural monsters. The premiere’s final moments offer enough of a shred of intrigue and mystery that I’m even tempted to give it three episodes just to see if it does anything interesting. Ultimately, while there’s nothing egregious happening here, there’s nothing too dazzling either, and depending on what else this season has to offer AYAKA may just sink quietly into the horizon.