Anime romances can be aggravating due to their tendency to dissolve into an endless chain of misunderstandings in order to stretch the story out. Yet, as anyone who has been in a romantic relationship for more than three-fifths of a nanosecond can say, misunderstandings happen. A lot. Ano Natsu once again shows us the way by having our two potential lovers misunderstand one another, but instead of just laughing it off once the misunderstanding is resolved and returning to the status quo, they grew closer. Yes, instead of taking the Love Hina route, Kaito and Ichika-sempai come to a better understanding of one another, with very d’aww results.
But before we get to that, let me back up. The episode starts with Ichika-sempai finally revealing that she’s an alien, and to the other character’s credit, they take it quite well. Sure, they were amazed – anyone would be – but they didn’t freak out, start screaming, or tell her to get away and never talk to them again, all of which are stupid things each of us have seen characters do before. They just go “Wow, didn’t see that coming. Yeah, we’ll keep it a secret. So…can we look around?” Heh, nice. Hell, Kaito even claims he knew already, and that he wasn’t surprised at all. Strangely enough, that’s what surprised me. Sure, he has good reason, but I didn’t expect his memory to snap back and for him to accept it so readily. Still, I’m glad. These characters don’t sweat the small stuff, and instead save their attention for the really important stuff – who loves who. Because that’s really what we’re all here for anyway.
The focus of this episode was on the misunderstanding between Ichika and Kaito. It’s not a misunderstanding about some singular event, where Kaito accidentally groped Ichika-sempai after stumbling in on her changing. Rather, it was a fundamental misunderstanding about each other’s feelings, fears, doubts, and motivations. You know, the kind that actually happens in real relationships. On the one hand, there’s Kaito. He took the whole “Sempai is an alien” thing pretty well, and now he’s ready to help her find her special place, so he thinks he’s pretty much in…but she rebuffs him, going off to search alone. As for Ichika-sempai, she’s convinced that she will have to leave the planet soon, even though she doesn’t want to, so she avoids getting closer to Kaito in order to avoid hurting him…and herself. Neither of them understands what the other is thinking, or even what they themselves are thinking, so they cannot come together.
I don’t think I can quite explain why this was done so brilliantly, but perhaps that’s the reason…because I can’t explain it. Misunderstandings in real relationships are oftentimes so vague and hard to grasp that you don’t even know what the problem really was until you’re sitting at home (alone) months later snuggling with an industrial-sized tub of ice cream and watching reruns of Three’s Company. This is even more true from Kaito’s point of view – he truly was doing most things right, so his frustration was understandable – but Ichika-sempai’s dilemma was so understandable that I didn’t begrudge her it. Though, perhaps that’s just because I’ve made that exact mistake before myself. Fiction is best when it holds a magnifying glass up to life and lets us see reality in ways we might not have seen otherwise, and that’s what is done here…with very real misunderstandings, and very real problems. The whole alien bit is just thrown in to spice things up.
Now, enter the cupids. On the one side he have Remon-sempai. Where usually she’s just amusing herself, I immediately realized that Remon-sempai was not messing around here. She immediately castigates Kaito for being childish, for only thinking of himself and not of Ichika-sempai…and as usual, she’s right. Meanwhile, Kanna is in the middle of ripping out her own heart in order to tell Ichika-sempai what she needs to hear: that she’s scared, making excuses and running away. But most of all, she tells Ichika-sempai that she really does have a choice. I’m not going to lie, of all the girls in this show I’ve always preferred Mio, Ichika, and Remon-sempai to feisty little Kanna, but she rose immeasurably in my esteem here. She’s right. You always have a choice. The other options might be crappy, but even in the darkest of hours, you always have a choice. Even not making a choice is a choice in and of itself, and it was the self-destructive one that Ichika-sempai was making. And, for all the damage she did to herself, Kanna made her see that.
But there’s still the elephant in the room – how can there be a happy ending for these three? With Kaito and Ichika finally together, only two of the remaining three can be happy…and those two will feel terrible about what they will have to take from the third in order to obtain that happiness. I don’t know, I truly don’t know. Someone is going to get left out, and where before I was hoping Mio would end up with the Tetsuro prize, after her selfless act on behalf of the one she loves, I can’t stand the thought of Kanna crying again, all alone.
Only a few more episodes to go until this one wraps up. I imagine we’ll hear more from Ichika-sempai’s alien friends, but as usual it’s the relationships that have me eagerly awaiting next week. Will Kaito and Ichika-sempai’s relationship survive further extraterrestrial intervention? What will happen with the tragic three? All I can say for now is that I hope, before the series ends, that Ichika realizes where the place she’s looking for was all along – right next to Kaito. Oh man, I’m such a hopeless romantic for saying that. Someone get me tissues and an industrial-sized tub of ice cream. I have manly tears to cry.
- Am I the only wondering whether Ichika-sempai’s species is fully, uhm, compatible with humans? I mean, it’s a big universe out there! The, you know, parts might line up, but, uhm… You know what? Never mind. I’m just embarrassing myself now.
- Here’s a question for you: do you all think this show be as good if Ichika wasn’t an alien? The way I see it, it would be almost as good, but not 100%. There actually is a narrative reason for Ichika-sempai to be from outer space – escalation. In the original Romeo and Juliet, it was enough that the two lovers were from rival families for the tragedy to work. Now, that seems weird to many people, as few nowadays care whose family their significant other comes from. If it were written today, the lovers would need to be from warring nations, or brother and sister (hey, this is an anime blog) for the same effect to be achieved. Same thing here. The story would still work if Ichika-sempai was from Canada, it just wouldn’t have quite the same punch.
- Ahh, the sound of glasses touching when you go in for the kiss. Hello, high school memories. *grabs the ice cream*