「あの夏で待ってる。」 (Ano Natsu de Matteru.)
“Waiting in the Summer.”
Wow, talk about throwing a wrench into the works every few minutes. Ano Natsu de Matteru has always been, to me, a superb piece of storytelling, and in keeping with that, they did everything they could to keep us guessing up until the very last moment. I don’t know how many times it happened, but every time I thought I had a handle on how the story would pan out – whether we’d see a happy ending or bittersweet separation, or something in between – something else would happen to send it careening in the other way. First was Remon-sempai, Kanna and Manami, Tetsuro and Mio, and even Rinon keeping the pursuers at bay. Then we had the train, where Kaito and Ichika were throwing out separation flags like there was no tomorrow. Then there was the lake, and the crystal, and the images in Ichika’s mind, which were all positive…and which were just as quickly shattered when the tree they needed to see was shown to be gone. By that point I was reeling, but I was now preparing myself for the bittersweet ending…only for Inoue Kikuko to begin speaking. I feel like I should send director Nagai and writer Kuroda-sensei my medical bills for all this whiplash!
That’s not to say that the mood was erratic or anything; it was only my expectations that were veering all over the place like Manami fleeing from a rape robot. The mood was pitch perfect, sliding seamlessly between optimism and despair as all of the (purposefully) conflicting hints rolled out one after another. The soundtrack deserves mention here. I’m not one to notice these kinds of things too often, but from the stalwart opening scene, to the frenetic chase, and on down to the mournful train ride and the victorious MIB intervention, the soundtrack hit all the right notes at exactly the right time. And that’s not even half the episode! The ED playing during film viewing later in the episode deserves special note, but I’ll get to that soon.
But you’re all probably tired of listening to me yak on about how well the story was told. As far as what actually happened, there were three major events/revelations this episode, the third being the ultimate fate of our lovers. First was the revelation that there really were Men in Black, and that Remon-sempai was one of them. Oh my gods, that was amazing! I know some of you predicted that, so feel free to pat yourself on the back for that one. This also answers the question of why Manami and Remon knew each other, since Manami’s husband is apparently an agent as well. But better than that was finding out Remon’s true objectives. Like the rest of the main characters, she had no ulterior motives. Sure, she’s an MIB agent, but even if she started out with other motives, that wasn’t what drove her in the end. It was Ichika’s personality that did that. Remon-sempai met an alien, and found her to be kind, so much so that she now considered her a friend. That’s it. This is a beautiful love story, but it’s also a beautiful friendship story. I promise I’ll stop repeating that now (maybe). Moving on.
The second major event was Kaito and Ichika finding the place buried in Ichika’s memories, and the mark that was left behind…which was no longer there. All that, and a recording of Inoue Kikuko speaking, in the voice of (I presume) Onegai Teacher’s Kazami Mizuho. I know many of you have wondered where Ano Natsu fell in the Onegai timeline, since it has been obvious for a while that the two settings were the same. Well, there’s your answer – Onegai Teacher precedes Ano Natsu, with Ichika and the others almost certainly being descendants of Mizuho. Now, this may causes some continuity problems, when you consider what year(s) Onegai Teacher took place in, and the comparative technological levels between the three series (adding in Onegai Twins), which, from what I gather from your comments, are pretty much the same. How long ago did two two Onegai series happen? And if Ichika and her sisters are Mizuho’s descendants, doesn’t that make the times involved even harder to reconcile? Nowadays, technological advancement doesn’t stop charging ahead for anything, not even plot.
Still, I’ll leave all those questions up to you guys, because I never saw the two Onegai series, and I’m honestly not that interested in contemplating those questions. Sorry, no journalistic integrity here, I’m just some guy with a keyboard who likes to write. To me, what was interesting in that scene was that it answered our questions about the timeline, and that it told those of us who hadn’t seen the old series (and reminded those who had) that Mizuho was once taken away…and yet had children. Upon later reflection, I can’t imagine that Kuroda-sensei would have given Mizuho descendents by anyone other than her love, Kei, so perhaps that was a dead giveaway. If it was to those of you who have now seen both, tell us! I’ll have to settle for a scene that was sad yet beautiful, and enjoy the powerful emotions that it evoked. I’m fine with that.
And so we come to the end of this tale. Ichika leaves, Kaito stays, and it’s the original four friends once again once Remon-sempai departs to begin her career (ufufu~). I enjoyed the return of oneechan-san, who I had long missed, but nothing could compare to the first viewing of the group’s movie (the Incomplete Version). As I started to say earlier, playing the full ED during this scene deserves special mention. Yanagi Nagi’s “Vidro Moyou” has always been a superb match for this series, but playing it here was the best use of it yet. Here, it removed the need for almost any dialogue, which left us viewers alone with our thoughts. The music + the film + the character’s reactions all combined to remind us of the story we had just witnessed, and give us a catharsis of sorts, and one for Kaito as well. Brilliant.
Of course, the third and final major event was, as previously noted, the fate of our five lovers – Ichika, Kaito, Kanna, Tetsuro, and Mio. For the latter three, if I had to guess I would say that Tetsuro is beginning to lean towards Mio, thanks to some of his recent reactions, not to mention him inviting her to see a movie with him the episode prior. That may just be wishful thinking on my part, though (sorry Kanna!). As for the main two…thank the gods, it’s a happy ending after all! Objectively speaking, with the title of the series, the tone they set, and everything that happened in the last few episodes, this was the most obvious resolution, but that didn’t stop it from taking plenty of twists and turns on the way to getting here. It was worth it. I would have liked a few more seconds of lovey-dovey stuff to squee over at the end, or at least a properly lovey-dovey end card to go out on, but I have no complaints other than that. Their love, their true love was fulfilled, and the hopeless romantic that I am cannot help but be happy for that. Congratulations, you two! Now, it’s time to work on giving Mizuho some more descendants, ne? Ufufu~
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – A beautiful love story, & one that reminds us that true love, though hard to find & harder to hold onto, really can happen #AnoNatsu
- Remember when Remon openly admitted that she was an MIB agent back in episode nine? You know, when Kanna and Mio immediately rejected the idea. No one can say she didn’t warn us! Heh, classic.
- A quick note: please don’t start talking about how that final scene could have been special effects or something! Ichika’s there, she’s wearing the Bolivian shirt oneechan-san got her, and that’s that. No arguments!! *froths at the mouth for his beautiful love story*
- A quick comment on the seiyuu for this series, because I’m not going to get to it in the final impressions below: they were fantastic. Every seiyuu that appeared did a great job, but special mention goes to those of the three female leads (that is, the ones who weren’t the amazing Remon-sempai). Tomatsu Haruka (Ichika) and Asumi Kana (Mio) both played roles that were out of their normal type, but did a superb job of conveying the intense emotions of their characters, with Asumi Kana being especially impressive in both of these regards. As for Ishihara Kaori (Kanna), she’s a name to look out for. This plus Lagrange’s Madoka? Oh my. Mark my words, she’s going places.
Unlike my other favorite series of Winter 2012, Rinne no Lagrange, Ano Natsu de Matteru was definitely on my watch list from the get-go. Its pedigree was undeniable, with the minds behind the successful Onegai franchise (writer Kuroda Yousuke, producer Ogura Mitsutoshi) teaming up with director of AnoHana and Toradora (Nagai Tatsuyuki) to craft the perfect romance. That said, I always approach every show with a heavy dose of cynicism, because I’ve been burned before, and J.C.Staff has been implicit in quite a few of those. I find best to keep my expectations at a level where I can still be pleasently surprised, so I start them low.
Fortunately, as was the case with Lagrange, this series set about exceeding my expectations immediately, though it took only one episode for it to shoot to the top of my weekly watch list. Some people have said this was a copy of Onegai Teacher, but that has never really bothered me. Yes, that’s largely because I haven’t seen Onegai Teacher, but even if I had my point would stand. In my eyes, there are two ways one can really excel. One is to do something that no one else has done, to do something new, exciting, and innovative. That’s all well and good, but that takes a special mind to accomplish that, and besides, “innovative” doesn’t always equal “good.” Then there’s the other way to achieve success, which is to do something that has already been done really, really, really well. This is the route Kuroda-sensei and the others chose, and with so many people with so much excellent experience in the genre on board, they stacked the deck heavily in their favor from early on.
It shows. While breaking little new ground, Ano Natsu is one of the most adroitly executed romantic comedies I’ve seen in a long time. In our five lovers (with a little help from the amazing Remon-sempai, ufufu~), we were treated to a love chain that seemed to have no good solution. As many of us said time and time again, there were five of them, so somebody was going to be heartbroken…and yet that didn’t happen, not really. Sure, not everyone’s love was fulfilled, with Girl C (Kanna) coming up particularly short, but there wasn’t really a Bad End for anybody. How did Kuroda-sensei and the others paint themself into such a tight corner, and then so deftly climb their way out? Because this wasn’t just a love story. It was a friendship story, and a growing up story, and a learning story, and a losing story, and a story of our characters staying true to themselves, so that they can continue to live their lives with few regrets. Some characters lost their loves, but all gained something in return, and were better for the experience. Wow. Wow.
Of course, perhaps there was a lost opportunity here. After all, it’s always the things we want to happen, but don’t, which stick with us the most – the could have beens, the what ifs, the lives cut tragically short, and the loves that will forever remain unfulfilled. It’s those things that leave the most enduring memories, through the scars they leave on their audience’s hearts. But I don’t care. Some stories exist to affect us, to teach us and hurt us and change us into different people for the experience…but not this one. This one is a tale of true love, and that’s a story that many of us already believe in, no matter how much reality constantly assaults it. That’s where Ano Natsu comes in. It’s not new, innovative, or ground-breaking. It doesn’t deal with world-shattering ideas or mind-expanding themes. Its themes, in fact, are as old as dirt, stretching back to the first humans who dared to think that they could be with someone other than whoever their parents chose for them. That nostalgia you feel watching this show isn’t from seeing the work of an old team of storytellers coming back together to give it one more go. It’s from hearing, once again, a story that we have all heard a thousand times before: the story of true love. They didn’t make it up, but they are daring us to believe in it again, to believe that true love really can exist, and that lovers can be together no matter what obstacles stand in their way. Ano Natsu de Matteru is many things, but above all else, it is a beautiful love story. Here’s to hoping there’s an equally beautiful love story somewhere ahead in each and every one of our lives.