OP: 「Non stop road」 by Sphere
Watch the OP!: Streaming ▼
「11回目のナツヤスミ」 (Ju-Ichi-Kaime no Natsu Yasumi)
“Our 11th Summer Vacation”
This show has a lot of potential. Good pacing, deft atmosphere, likable characters, and hook at the end that left me wondering what will come next. And that’s the key word, “wonder.” Life leaves many of us cynical and jaded, but this show opens up the heart to the gentle wonder of what could be. Are you willing to believe again, even for just half an hour?
First of all, for those of you who are still wondering whether to pick this one up (yes, you should), here’s a quick summary of the episode. Tennis club member Aizawa Natsumi (Kotobuki Minako) wakes up early for morning practice, only to find that her best friend and neighbor Mizukoshi Saki (Takagaki Ayahi) has skipped practice again. Natsumi goes to the classroom to confront her about it, but they end up getting in a fight, with Natsumi proclaiming “you’re not my friend anymore!” It turns out the reason for Saki’s sudden change in attitude is that she and her family are moving, and she thinks it’s better to forget a promise than break it. With the relationship between two of her best friends strained, Tamaki Rinko (Toyosaki Aki) texts both of them saying that the fourth member of their group, Hanaki Yuka (Tomatsu Haruka), has collapsed at her family’s shrine. The two rush over, but Rinko and Yuka’s plan to get them to reconcile over another wish on the shrine’s rock (like they did as kids) fails, as Natsumi and Saki keep arguing. All this changes (temporarily) thanks to an innocent wish from Rinko: “I wish I could fly.” The rock answers.
Seeing as this is a slice-of-life show, let’s start off with the most important part – the main characters. Right from the beginning Natsumi, Saki, Yuka, and Rinko establish themselves as unique and interesting characters. I found myself especially liking the cheerful and energetic Yuka, though Rinko’s steady, detached personality has a nice calming effect next to her best friend’s whirlwind personality. I don’t dislike Natsumi or Saki, but they definitely didn’t start off as likable, though since they were fighting with one another from the get-go that’s understandable. Saki is especially handicapped here, as cynical characters (that is, those who would be correct in our world, but end up looking crotchety and unrealistic in fiction) rarely come out looking real great. More on that later.
On the subject of Natsumi and Saki’s fight, initially I questioned the wisdom of starting the show with that, as it didn’t really have an effect on me since I wasn’t attached to the characters yet. That said, I think it may turn out to have been the right move. This wasn’t a fight to make us cringe at fractures opening up between beloved characters, it was a fight to move the plot forward, which it did. Hopefully they’ll be able to establish Natsumi and Saki’s likability better within the next few episodes.
Art, atmosphere, and pacing. The art was what initially drew me to this series, and it didn’t disappoint. I won’t claim it’s KyoAni movie-level work, but Sunrise isn’t slouching either. The background designer was clearly having the best time of anyone though, as the characters were utterly shown up by the beautiful backgrounds. Pick any scene with trees in it and you’ll see what I mean. That leads me to the atmosphere. Between the backgrounds and the music (more on that in a minute), the atmosphere is perfect for what this show needed. Everything constructs this image of a peaceful, rustic city full of ordinary people living good, peaceful lives. This idyllic image serves both to make the setting more mundane (thereby maximizing the effect of the final scene), while keeping just enough of a supernatural tinge for the rock’s power to not seem out-of-place. The pacing was a bit slow during the first half, which I think that was more a function of the story focusing on a fight between characters we weren’t yet attached to than anything else. I don’t expect that to be a problem going forward.
Music. The soundtrack was extremely understated, but that fit the setting well. A lot of music would have overpowered the atmosphere, so it was rarely there, and we were instead treated to natural sounds like chirping crickets, the rustling of the wind, and silence. It’s rare to see a show so ready to use silence, which proved a great tool to bring out the awkwardness between fighting friends. As for the OP and ED, whether you like those will depend on whether you like Sphere’s music, but I for one enjoyed them. No surprise there since I chose to cover this show, but I already know I’ll be listening to the OP a lot whenever the single is released because of the images of young friendships, innocent dreams, and always moving forward into the future that it conjures in my mind. As for the ED, while perhaps not as strong on its own, it fit the scene at the end where the girls were flying superbly.
And then there’s the deal with the big rock behind Rinko’s family shrine, and the “wonder” it created. I said that the art was the first thing that attracted me to this show, but the preview video that hinted at this wonder is what hooked me in, and I wasn’t disappointed. Between the atmosphere of the city and the silly, youthful wishes the girls had made before, it sounded like the rock was nothing special, just an object of childish belief rather than an item of true occult power. That’s why, when the four girls took off into the sky and flew, my jaw literally dropped. An undeniable show of the rock’s power like that was a great way to suck viewers in, because it ensures that the characters will have trouble denying what happened. That means they’ll be back around that rock shortly, with more wishes to make.
Like I said before, I feel like this show has a lot of promise. With the stone’s power already revealed, I’m curious as to where the story will go from here. What would you do if you had access to a stone that could grant wishes, so long as you agree on them with your three best friends? Oh, and believe. I have a feeling that the reason that the other wishes didn’t work – I don’t think there was a flash of light like this one, or they would have remembered that – was because the four friends didn’t truly believe in them. Probably it was Saki’s cynicism that stood in their way, and will again, so it’ll be interesting to see how she moves towards truly believing. If she does, that is. That’s the thing I love about original series! This could go anywhere, and there’s no spoilers to avoid. We’re all in this together, discovering what these four friends will do with the power they have stumbled upon. I wonder what will happen next…
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – A gentle tale of 4 friends, living peaceful lives…when suddenly, a wonder happens. I’m calling it, #natsukise for the sleeper! Just watch.
- I’m not sure calling this slice-of-life is totally appropriate. Slice-of-life shows are generally the ones where nothing actually happens, or if it does it only happens very slowly. Here, the “wonder” of the big rock is a plot device that could deliver some real plot, and the fight between Natsumi and Saki smacks of drama, albeit the mundane sort that we all have to deal with. I guess it still probably is slice-of-life, but what I’m trying to say is that there’s more here than just four cute girls playing around during the summer. We’re just not sure what yet.
- The seiyuu did their jobs well, though once again, it was Yuka and Rinko(‘s seiyuu) that were my favorites. I’ve liked Tomatsu Haruka’s work since back when she did Kannagi, and her work in Ano Natsu de Matteru only cemented my respect. As for Toyosaki Aki, I much prefer the gentle voice she used here to the high-pitched chipmunk one she used for Yui in K-ON! Feel free to crucify me if you disagree, but that’s just how I feel!
- Unlike most stories about female friendships in anime, there are very few yuri undertones here (other than the hand holding, though I think when you’re floating around at 50,000ft, that’s pretty much mandatory). Take that, people who think I only cover ecchi shows! You’ll have to wait until my Saki post in a few days for that 😀 Ohandbytheway, that’s the mahjong Saki, not the cynical Saki. Important difference!
- This show will be funny in a few years, when Sphere is old news and they can’t get on TV anymore either. I hope the four of them had fun with that. Possible while lying on a huge pile of money, Orz.
ED: 「明日への帰り道」 (Ashita e no Kaeri Michi) by Sphere
Watch the ED!: Streaming ▼