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Stars Align: Will the Cult-Hit Sports Anime Ever Get an Ending?

Anime is a tricky business. Due to time constraints, studio politics or a simple lack or popularity, beloved shows are often left unfinished. Such appears to be the case with the tennis anime Stars Align.

Stars Align was one of the unsung favorites of the Fall 2019 season, sensitively navigating issues like domestic violence and queer identity. The anime original was plotted for 24 episodes, but it was cut down to just 12 at the last minute. To this day, the anime’s story is incomplete, the first season ending on a major cliffhanger. This was a blow to the small but passionate fanbase. It was a bigger blow for director Kazuki Akane, who felt especially bad leaving his fans on a cliffhanger. In a recent interview with Anime News Network, he expressed his discontent with the stifled ending, explaining that, so far, securing a second season has not been easy.

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Akane is still eager to complete his story. He makes it clear that a lack of popularity is holding Stars Align back from this goal. Specifically, he mentions that Bluray sales are still important to financiers:

Like I was saying before, there are things about the animation industry that haven’t changed in 30 years. Continuations still rely so much on DVD and Blu-ray sales.

It seems archaic for Blu-ray sales to be valued so highly, but Akane knows what he’s talking about. He expresses discontent that factors like a show’s foreign fanbase are often neglected.  Stars Align doesn’t even have any home video release yet in the English market! Akane mentions a desire to flag the foreign fanbase to those ignoring it, hoping that could motivate a second season. He also says that anime original series often experience difficulty in the industry:

Also, a lot of anime in the Japanese anime industry is made to promote a game or a manga, like a commercial. Before, it was popular manga that was getting adapted, but these days, it’s stuff that’s projected to get popular in the future that gets an anime. The way a manga with high sales potential gets an anime to promote it further makes anime become even more like a commercial.

Classics Neon Genesis Evangelion and Cowboy Bebop are both extremely popular anime originals, but it’s true the promotional forces often favor adaptations. Even the most mainstream original shows can struggle to achieve a follow-up season — Yuri on Ice2016’s explosively popular skating anime, was a huge international hit and sold well on Blu-Ray, but has not yet received a second season. Psycho Pass and Puella Magi Madoka Magica are recent anime originals that have amassed multiple seasons or spin-offs to their name, but these shows are more popular than Stars Align. 

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With all these factors, it’s been a nightmare securing a second season for Stars Align. The cliffhanger ending makes the anime-only status even worse, as fans cannot take refuge in the manga to see how the plot resolves. Still, Akane is stubborn — he is reluctant to adapt the story in a manga or novel format, insisting that anime is the only medium for Stars Align. As the story was written with anime in mind, his frustrations are understandable. It’s also hard to imagine a one or two episode OVA bringing the 24-episode plot to an acceptable ending.

Akane says that crowdfunding is a poor solution, as anime productions are simply too expensive nowadays. Hesuggests that intervention from streaming services could result in a much the much-needed second cour (Stars Align is current available for streaming on FUNimation and Hulu). Sadly, that’s not looking likely. With a second season unlikely, completing the story in a different medium may be the only solution. At the very least, it would resolve that painful cliffhanger.

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Despite its foreign fanbase and very passionate director, Stars Align is struggling to secure a much-needed second season.

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