Where Do We Go From Here? – Hoshiai no Sora Episode 12 Review & Final Thoughts

This is a review of the final episode of Hoshiai no Sora, or Stars Align episode twelve.

Check out my episode eleven review here!

This is going to be quite a long post.

The goal here is to mark the ‘beats’ of Hoshiai no Sora’s twelve published episodes in hopes to see where the story was attempting to go before being cut short by production. If you’d like to read my thoughts on how I feel about this in further detail, feel free to check out the post right here.

Episode 1

Mitsue watches the boy’s team with sparking eyes from the library. Takuto quits. Kinuyo introduction – the conflict: win a match in the summer tournament. Shinjo’s temper. Dirty club house (team locker room). Ryouma knew Maki was back before Shinjo. Maki and Mitsue meet. Track star Maki, astronomy and a love of math. Shinjo and Yuuta talk.

After the plot – Kitten and showcase of Maki’s reflexes, the deal is proposed – Maki says no. Yuuta is lurking nearby. Ryouma has a tennis magazine on his bed – does he still play? Shinjo’s mom on that BS. Mitsue rushes home for an online artist contest. The Moon and Venus in view – Shinjo meets Maki again. Yuuta gives intel on Maki to Shinjo – set up for later spying abilities.

Middle school Ryouma flashback – Maki’s hurt (his dad hit him?). Maki wants money to join the team. Shinjo proposes $10,000 a month, $30,000 to July, a bonus off $10,000 if they win the tournament – total of $40,000 to the summer.

(Basically $400 in total)

Why does he have so much money? The Moon and Venus in view. Maki’s no good father introduced. It’s only been 2 months since they last moved around.

Episode 2

Yuuta bullied, Shinjo has a reputation. Mr. Sakurai and his candy is very perceptive. Noticed the bruise on Maki’s face. The dirty locker room again. Maki wears a girl’s sun visor and takes Takuto’s tennis bag. Mitsue watching from the library, Yuuta from the sidelines – team mate introductions. Team dynamics. Nao’s delusions introduced – says his mom is first cousins with a famous person.

Track Star Maki conditioning – Mitsue and Yuuta watch from the sidelines. Katsuragi and Shinjo race.  Was this a childhood game? The boys then hold hands – call each other by their first name. Mitsue praised for art she doesn’t care about online “what kind of weirdos get excited over knee-highs” – Mitsue bullied at school.

Maki notices Yuuta’s crush – invites Yuuta to become manager. Shou introduction. Shou and Aya (Maki’s mom) discuss restraining order for Kenji (Maki’s dad). Maki learns the rules of soft tennis – the grasshoppers emerge. Mitsue joins the party. The kitten is shown again. Maki tells everyone about themselves (that they suck haha). Dancing outro is shown.

Episode 3

Shopping trip and cooking with the gang (Shinjo, Maki, Mitsue and Yuuta). Mitsue has no good food at home. Ameno Itsuki not in locker room. Mitsue watches from the sideline. Maki’s first volley (but not his last haha). Bully’s (Shingo and Tsubasa) exploit weaknesses during match. Shinjo is angered by dirty tricks and team conduct. Shinjo’s temper (throws racket). Shinjo’s mom berates him.

Changing of tennis roles in the library.

“Toma isn’t compatible…with mom” – what the hell is that supposed to mean?

Maki and Mitsue spy on the girls. Yuuta and Shinjo talk by the river. Ameno snaps at bully. Maki sympathizes with Ameno. Mr. Sakurai sympathizes with Ameno. Ameno backstory on how he got his scars. Rintarou supports Ameno – Ameno and sister Namie walk home. Ryouma takes phone call from Maki – 4 leaf clover in resin from pre-moving away childhood flashback. Shinjo puts the charm on his bag.

We're all in this together! Stars Align
We’re all in this together! Stars Align

Episode 4

Pair list revealed. Nao claims to have already known… (another delusion). Complimentary pairs. Maki the mastermind. Mitsue watches from sidelines. Joins Yuuta on court in the next scene. Rintarou feels left out and unneeded. Maki and Shinjo talk about Maki’s master plan. The student council talks about the club – Kinuyo spouts her elitist nonsense. The squad hangs out after school. Grasshoppers actually practice. Rintarou looks away at the progress. Rintarou’s home life is explored.   

The gang hangs out at Maki’s – Mitsue on her phone (reading/interacting with her art fans?). Maki’s mom Aya comes early home and joins in. Murou-sensei and Sakurai-sensei speak. Sakurai-sensei looks for Misaki Academy phone number – Mitsue draws cat eating Maki. Practice match with Misaki Academy announced. Maki’s pep talk. Sakurai-sensei alludes to an accident 5 years ago? 

“Pushed too hard, got hurt”?

Squad hangs out, Mitsue scoffs at effort. Maki’s dad on that bullshit once again. Breaks his racket.

Episode 5

Maki tells Toma he “dropped” his racket. Mitsue and Yuuta talk about Maki and Shinjo’s absence on the court. Maki opens up and confides in Shinjo. The money revelation. Why did Shinjo just have more rackets laying around?

Yuuta now has a uniform. Track club comes to the locker room to harass the soft tennis team. Team sticks up for Yuuta. Rintarou jealous (??) at Ameno giving Maki a nickname, Shinjo is an absolute piggybank. Show takes a turn and becomes a horror film: stand off with Kenji, verbal threats from Kenji to Maki and Shinjo.

Did the original ending have both Shinjo and Maki murdering his old man?

Kinuyo’s tortured rich girl life. Glimpse of how she sees herself – Who is Kaori?

Shingo presents the grasshopper dance he made up with his little sister. A dose of astronomy. Rintarou tries to feel useful and writes strategies during class. Rintarou gets good grades. (no word if he’s also good at sports like typical popular protagonists). Rintarou has a meltdown in front of Shinjo. Yuuta points out Mitsue’s crush during practice.

Mitsue shows up for the practice match. The team enters the academy grounds. Shinjo is super fired up. Arashi insults the team, fires them all up.

Enemies turned good friends (and with the help of animal feed), Stars Align
Enemies turned good friends (and with the help of animal feed), Stars Align

Episode 6

Yuta’s been spying on Misaki to gather intel. Grasshopper dance before the first match! Taiyo/Nao pair lose, gain confidence and learn what to improve on. Itsuki(Ameno)/Rintarou pair – Maki praises Rintarou. 3 -1 game. The bullies are up! Shingo/Tsubasa – this match will always be hilarious to me. Maki/Shinjo vs Arashi/Sunaga. Shinjo’s temper. Student council board towards end credits.

Maki has a plan to win the match, cause he’s an expert on psychological warfare.

Episode 7

Yuuta prays for Shinjo. Shinjo/Maki get to a final game against Prince Oji and his spare.

I just noticed how big these star players egos are. Because the grasshoppers are humble, they can outsmart them and win a round. Or at least, until the others get out of the shock of being upstaged by “losers” and realize that they are being exploited. How smart!

“This is fun, Toma!”

The team commends Arashi for his stamina before the revelation of why he’s so good (upper class ‘rich’ upbringing). They lost, but had fun and learned from their mistakes.

Tsubasa and Shingo stretch into the great beyond. Ameno comes to the locker room to change. Mitsue watches the team from the steps.

Sakurai-sensei advises them to not push ahead without rest, they’ll run out of gas – from experience. Obligatory beach episode – I mean BBQ episode.

(Seriously, why didn’t Mitsue and Maki leave together?)

A wild Arashi and Kamuy appear. Yuuta watches Mitsue during lunch. Shinjo isolates himself, confides in Yuuta – antisocial, bipolar disorder? Maki and Arashi hit it off. Grasshopper dance for the win!

Also Nao’s mom complains to the school.

The stress is taking a toll on Nao...Stars Align
The stress is taking a toll on Nao…Stars Align

Episode 8

Nao’s overbearing mother – he is an absolute push over. Her reasoning for why she does the things she does – the current Nao is an embarrassment to her. Prizes academic feats over social development. Club suspended for a week – a history of his mom doing this. Maki sympathizes.

(Is Kusakabe Joy an Instagram model?)

Yuuta hatches the idea to spy on Hatanooka. Izumi and Akari support their little brother.

The team talks about soft tennis strategies in the library while Nao draws and scribbles an endless black hole (showing his mental state). Maki and Yuuta have the conversation about gender identity. Maki experiences existential crises due to abuse? Maybe Shou and Yuuta were supposed to meet at one point?

Maki’s room has a telescope and star decals.

Yu asks Shinjo what he thinks of the disguise – seems disappointed by his answer.

Takuto returns! And the disguises work pretty well! Mitsue is bullied again by other girls. The boy’s compliment her on her…bravery? Yu is still confused about his identity, but he has loads of time to decide ☺.

Nao’s defeated mentality shines through. Murou-sensei agrees to a practice match at Sakura-sensei’s behest. Mitsue speaks to Sakurai-sensei about her art. Maki’s special superpower is perception. Also, Mitsue might have a crush on him.

Yu gets caught with women’s clothing by his mother.

Yu tries to figure it all out. Stars Align
Yu tries to figure it all out. Stars Align

Episode 9

The relationship between Shingo and his little sister An is introduced and explored. Nao’s horrible sterile home life and his dead anime eyes. Shingo is able to rely on the club. Maki’s mom Aya is so cool and supportive of her son. More Nao drama and showcasing his dysfunctional home. The team shows An how to play soft tennis, Nao sits off to the side in a daze. Maki notices but is interrupted before he can comment.

An goes exploring. The team searches for An. Nao finds An and locks her in the infirmary – uses her as an excuse for the match to be cancelled to please his mom. The match is delayed. Taiyo and Makimaki confront Nao.

The entire team apologizes as one. Nao is having an absolute meltdown.

(Was the rest of the match cut here or was this intentional and would have been a flashback in a later episode?)

The squad discusses Nao’s mental state. Clearly there was supposed to be a bit more build up here. Maki is triggered by Shinjo saying that Nao’s dad “couldn’t care less” about home life.

Tsubasa’s home life is explored. Most likely meant to be in another separate episode of his own. Seriously though – no one helped or did anything after Tsubasa was slapped down the stairs by his father??!

Shingo is being raised by his uncle and his wife? An is his cousin?

Heart to heart about soccer and disappointed parents in the park between Shingo and Tsubasa.

Kusakabe Joy-kun, Stars Align
Kusakabe Joy-kun, Stars Align

Episode 10

Taiyo and Nao have such low self-esteem. Maki’s mom Aya has extra money. Maki and Shinjo buy animal feed. A wild Prince Oji appears. Introduction of Itsuse Sora and Riku. (Spoiler: they are jerks.) Ryouma pair won semi-regionals or regionals two years in a row during their time. Ryouma and Shinjo talk about Maki at home. Shinjo seems jealous…

The nonsense with Rintarou’s parents. The nonsense with Shinjo’s…’mom’?

“I never wanted to be your mother. If only Ryouma had stayed out of it.”

“Huh?”

Mitsue’s new art subjects aren’t going over well online. The death of knee-highs strikes again!

The boys are allowed to use the court at the same time as the girls. Kinuyo and her passive-aggressive nonsense. The match line up is revealed…and the boys have the absolute worst luck. What did Shinjo and Sakurai-sensei talk about after hours?

Maki gives the remaining money back to his mom. Taiyo’s parents show up for the match. They are embarrassing. Taiyo’s parents don’t want him to take responsibility for his actions – but thankfully he does. Rintarou/Ameno match. Match with the girl’s team interlaced with the current. ~ Rintarou forgets to stretch.

“It’s all a part of the game” – Shinjo with a distant look in his eye.

Nao/Taiyo pair. Interlaced with animal feed and Yu taking notes. Maki tries to encourage the pair along with the bullies. Shinjo foresees the pair will run out of gas. Shinjo is rightfully pissed when they do so.

Episode 11

Shinjo/Katsuragi pair. Mitsue hides from the bullies. Mitsue calls Yuuta “Yu”. A wild Prince Oji materializes. Joy-kun is full of himself. Nao is super optimistic for some reason – ignores phone call from his mother. (What caused this change?)

“I’m…different now” – Are you really?

Ootomo/Kusakabe pair is out of sync. Shinjo is serious about the match. Joy just plays to show off. Maki reminds Toma to just have fun with it and relax. Shinjo thinks of Ryouma’s advice on strategies to win. Shinjo wants to live up to his brother’s shadow in his mother’s eyes. Mitsue is fired up about the match.

Flashback montage with the amazing opening song interlaced – huge emotional response for audience (or at least me) – more hints at Shinjo and Maki’s past friendship before Maki moved away. Maki and Toma win! Sakurai-sensei is shocked. Kinuyo is…satisfied?

Joy just quits after one loss. Nao’s mom and her nonsense, reminiscent of a cartoon villain in her speech. Has a photo of baby Nao as her cell phone wallpaper. Does she think of him as still that age? Puts her hands over the screen where Nao is in frame – smothering him. I guess he would have had a bad ending had we been able to see it?

Itsuse twins talk about and compare Shinjo Ryouma and Toma. Team meeting with Sakurai-sensei.

Shinjo/Katsuragi vs Sakai/Yamashita pair.

The boys make light work of the 3rd years. Arashi wins his match.

Shinjo/Katsuragi vs Kimura/Nakatani pair.

“They’ve totally hit their stride”. – Shinjo/Katsuragi against the reigning champs the Itsuse twins.

Rintarou’s birth mom shows up in disguise. Arashi reveals the Itsuse brothers have no weaknesses. Ryouma and his mother talk about the impending divorce? Ryouma gives his permission or blessing to it.

“I’m going to protect those two no matter what” – which two? Maki and Toma? Why?

The ball is in their court! Stars Align
The ball is in their court! Stars Align

Episode 12

Track star Rintarou runs to find his birth mother. All that conditioning really paid off. Except in his match. When it actually counted…

Rintarou decides not to confide in Ameno and keep the missed encounter to himself. But, he seems happy about it.

Opening sequence cut short – tennis racket rips.

Production of Stars Align cut short at its peak.

Mitsue yells at the boys for lamenting their impending loss. Sakurai-sensei gives up on them. Maki is still positive despite not having a plan. Maki and Shinjo get it together. The twins are rattled. The twins are starting to fight due to Maki and Toma’s psychological tactics. The pair learned from their teammates and use their tactics in this final showdown.

Final Game!

Sora and Riku are having a meltdown.

“Toma, soft tennis sure is fun”.

The twins are screwing up because they are too tense. Maki and Shinjo are having fun. Putting less pressure on themselves allows them to think more clearly. Theme song time! Sora slaps Riku, Riku slaps Sora.

Maki and Toma laugh at their situation. They are having fun.

The boys lose. But did they really?

Feel good moment is cut short. Team tournament is up next. Is this what we would have saw after this episode’s natural progression in the storyline?

Ryouma doesn’t have his phone on him. Toma’s mother declares she detests the young child.

Maki arrives at home. The aftermath of a struggle between Aya and Kenji? Did Aya find out about the money? Maki decides to stab his father with a dollar store knife. He is on a budget, after all.

Mitsue isn’t receiving any attention on twitter anymore. Did sensei help her out? Her art has improved a considerable amount.

Empty bottles of vodka and trash line Kenji’s apartment. A pile of cigarette butts, he must chain smoke. A DXRacer chair. Is this the life of a failed twitch streamer we are seeing?

Is Kenji an alcoholic?

“This can’t go on.”

Maki most likely stabs the bastard. Hopefully it actually works, those dollar store knives are flimsy.

Plot points to be dealt with through episodes 12 – 24/26 that were unfortunately cut short:

Ryouma’s backstory and relationship to his mother and Toma.

Who Ryouma referred to as his “little brothers” – was it Toma and Maki? Was it figurative? Or literal?

Why does Shinjo have so much money available for withdrawal? Who is sending him checks? Was it Ryouma purchasing the extra tennis rackets and supplies he had on him earlier?

Kinuyo’s identity crisis.

Arashi’s rich boy identity crisis and his acquaintance with reality.

Nao’s delusions and mental state – either culminating with him standing up to his overbearing “helicopter” mother or snapping in some fashion.

Shingo’s parentage and his relationship with his little sister.

Tsubasa’s household and the exploration of the soccer backstory.

Maybe a throwaway scene with Namie and why she likes tennis – Ameno’s backstory already seems pretty solid. He had an outburst, but his friends and family supported him.

Whatever is up with the Rintarou and his birth mom storyline. Maybe Rintarou comes to terms with Maki’s role in the group and re-develops his self-esteem and feelings of worth. Or, maybe he is overjoyed when Maki goes to juvie for murdering his dear old dad Kenji.

(Although it seems that in Japan’s Penal Code crimes committed under the age of 14 are nonpunishable – depending on the severity and the defendant’s home environment. So, how old are these kids again? 12?)

Who knows? Looking forward to finding out when Akane-sensei finishes this story.

Diagnosis of a personality disorder for Shinjo, or the root of his anger. The backstory on why bullies are afraid of him at school. The backstory on why his (mother?) is afraid of him.

A possible meeting between Shou and Yuuta. Like a mentorship of sorts, someone who can relate to him.

The relationship between Yu’s mother and whether or not she will eventually come to accept her son’s wishes.

Whatever Soga Tsubasa’s father’s issue was.

Why soccer was so important to the Soga family. (written twice for emphasis)

Shingo’s real relationship to An.

The culmination of Mitsue’s art journey. (& the death of knee-highs and ‘zettai ryouiki’).

Kusakabe Joy’s actual end – or whatever sport he ended taking up in place of soft tennis.

The fate, or final scenes, with Itsuse Sora and Riku.

If Prince Oji actually ever catches on that Maki was half using him for intel/half being his friend when convenient.

(Unless he already knew the whole time and just really liked those noodles)

Mitsue maybe making a girl friend or two, or at least fully standing up to the bullies.

Whatever Shinjo went to discuss with Sakurai-sensei in his office that day.

The final status of Shijo Minami Middle School’s soft tennis team.

The final status of Katsuragi Maki’s bank account.

The final status of the kitten that took a liking to Katsuragi Maki.

The explanation of the source of middle schooler Shinjo Toma’s abundant and overflowing bank account.

Does Takuto ever get the girl? Is he the star player on his basketball team? The world may never know.

Leave your thoughts in the comment section below, I’d love to hear from you! Also be sure to follow us for more reviews. Thank you everyone for reading these reviews! It’s been so much fun being a part of this community! ☺

終わりました。

☆ In Asian Spaces

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Author: In Asian Spaces

I write in my personal time and I haven't published much at all. I don't know if that qualifies me as a writer or not, but I'd like to change that. I have a deep passion for travel, cinema and (mainly) East Asian things, but I plan on writing various things to keep it spicy. Let's prosper together ~ よろしくおねがいします。

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