「行かないで、先輩。」 (Ikanaide, Senpai.)
“Don’t Leave, Senpai.”
No matter how much it hurts, no matter how much it lessens the chance of them being with their beloved, these six friends always do what is best for one another. If nothing else, I think that’s why this show is amazing. Friendship, through thick and thin, no matter how weak or hopeless each of them are alone. A beautiful love story. A beautiful friendship story. I mentioned this yesterday in regards to Rinne no Lagrange, but it’s a rare story that can make nearly all (or really, in this case absolutely all) of its characters likeable. Generally there’s a bad guy, a particular story’s fictional version of Satan or Hitler or whoever your go-to bad guy is. Yet this show manages to make every character not only likeable, but someone that we all want to root for…which causes certain problems, given the love situation.
The central conflict in this episode centered around Ichika’s sister, Takatsuki Emika (Horie Yui). Having rented the fastest ship she could find, she got to Earth ahead of the search party and found Ichika alive and happy. I have to say that the writers went to great lengths to make it difficult for Ichika to stay. Every possible way out that the “normal” characters could think of (normal here being defined as all characters who are not the amazing Remon-sempai) was quickly shot down. Points go to Kaito for quickly suggesting that he go into space with Ichika. This was one of the resolutions that many people have mentioned in the comments, especially last episode, so quickly dealing with it prevented anal retentive bastards (like me!) from having to scream at the screen “Why didn’t you suggest that!!” They kept whittling down the ways out, until very few remained.
But as has happened so many times before in this series, it wasn’t events that conspired to force the characters to act – it was the characters themselves that did that. And it’s not just Mio, Tetsuro, and Kanna who did this…Ichika’s onee-san did as well. I love this. It’s not that she went out of her way to help Ichika stay, but when she was presented with a way – thanks to the amazing Remon-sempai – she took it. She’s a good onee-san, and a character which could have easily been hated avoided that. And somehow, that fits this story best. Throughout, it hasn’t been other people that have pushed the protagonists. It has always been themselves, and the faceless forces of love, time, and the machines of the search party that propelled them forward. Hate has no place in Ano Natsu. There is only love, and striving to move forward without regrets.
I think now is a good time to briefly reflect on how important Remon-sempai is to this story. For most of this show, she has been the quintessential troll, the character who seemingly did whatever she wanted in order to get some lulz (and good footage). But especially since episode 9, she has been far more than that. First she told off Kaito when he was being a bitch, and got him moving forward. Now, it is her that gave the characters a chance at happiness. I don’t know why she does what she does – perhaps it is just for the movie, which she is presumably going to license to Hollywood for millions of dollars – but she is pushing forward the story more than any other character. I know, as a wannabe storyteller, that this is why she is in the show, but she fits into her role so well that I cannot help hate the writers for it. I’m a sucker for a character well designed, and a story well told. What can I say, it’s a weakness of mine.
And then there was the final few scenes, the search for Ichika’s special place, and the chase. When Mio found the place that wasn’t on Ichika’s people’s maps, my heart leapt – which was the perfect time for the search part to arrive, as indeed it did. Rinon’s teleporting eing disabled was obvious, as was the chase that followed. What wasn’t obvious was that Remon-sempai would show up (covered that in the last paragraph), and that Tetsuro and Mio would separate from the ground and lead the drones away. But more than that, it was Tetsuro asking Mio if she would like to go to the movies with him that was so sweet. Is Tetsuro turning towards Mio?? As a diehard Mio shipper, I hope so…but considering Tetsuro’s character, I think he’s just giving Mio a chance, so that he can see whether she’s the girl for him, or whether he should keep chasing after Kanna. I hope we’ll find out the answer.
Over all, what I got from this episode is that we’re being set up for a Happy End. And by that, I mean an Ichika x Kaito end. It’s possible that this won’t happen, of course – and the fact that his is a possibility fills me with ice-cold dread – but to me all the signs point towards it. To give us this glimmer of hope and then cruelly dash it would be more than the fanbase could bear. This is not a Nia moment (side note: I will take any excuse I can to refer to Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, no matter how flimsy), where the battle is won and only then does it turn bittersweet. For the battle to be won at all, Ichika and Kaito must stay together, or else the touching confessions that Mio, Tetsuro, and Kanna will be invalidated when the dynamic so seismically changes.
…but what if I’m wrong? The storyteller in me, the one who would like to be holding the pen and thinking “Hurm…what should happen next?” says that a Happy End, after some more suitibly harrowing strife, if what will happen next. But the emotional viewer, the guy who was pulled into the chase when the ED started playing, and who is looking forward to the climax which, by Remon-sempai’s admission, was still coming…that person is unsure. Go to the comments if you have a thought one way or the other, but for me, when next Monday comes around, I will be counting down the minutes until this episode is released. The van slid with something under 10 kilometers still to go. Those last few kilometers will mean everything to the lives of these characters, these characters who I’ve come to love and feel for so much. Fight on Kaito, Ichika, Kanna, Tetsuo, Mio, and Remon-sempai. Fight on, and show me the results of your struggle next week. I look forward to seeing your victory. I hope. Ohhh man, I sooo hope.
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – A beautiful love story. A beautiful friendship story. #AnoNatsu is not groundbreaking, but it’s a story we all would like to live. One more.
- Why are Ichika and her onee-san’s names (both first and last) Japanese? It’s one of those things we’re probably supposed to gloss over, but I feel like they should have made at least their last names a little bit weird. Hell, the only character whose name isn’t easily pronouncable by Japanese people is Remon-sempai, if they go ahead and try to say it like the fruit. Probably best not to think about this too much.
- Now this show knows how to use an ED properly. Hearing Yanagi Nagi’s “Vidro Moyō” play as the action climbed the last few steps to this week’s conclusion…why, it’s like watching Toradora all over again. And anything that reminds me of Toradora is automatically getting high marks. Can’t wait for next week. Can’t wait.