OP Sequence

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.

Random thoughts:

  • 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 Sequence

ED: 「明日への帰り道」 (Ashita e no Kaeri Michi) by Sphere
Watch the ED!: Streaming ▼



      1. But, but, but Stilts, my man! Nothing happened in this show so far. What’s so exciting about this?? Do you know something I don’t, like what happens 3 episode ahead? All I saw was:

        4 girls stood around some giant stone;
        2 girls fought for some silly nonsense as their estrogen hormone rages on for next 15 min;
        4 girls stood around that big rock again;
        Suddenly they were high as kite.
        …..What?? I don’t get it…. Wait a min, is this show about LSD?? Is that rock the secret spot to drop some acid? And were they just tripping off? That’d be awesome! (Somehow I feel I am getting off the track in attempt to induce some excitement here).

        some guy
      2. Sorry, cant read this much even if i tried, but then again what’s worth writing about??
        Just saw 4 girls bickering for 20m….
        Music’s got potential though…
        I’ll wait and see what happens…

      3. contrary to stilts words, this show definitely fits the bill for SoL.

        its a SoL anime. what did you expect? they at least put something mysterious/magical in the show, rather than do the typical “two girls fight, ignore each other, pushed by friends to make up, later make up”.

      4. I’m excited because I see potential. This show could go a lot of different ways, some of them wonderful, some of them terrible, but from what I saw this episode I feel there’s a good chance we’ll see something special. Not all stories should start off with a bang, after all. Besides, are you not curious what they will do when they have access to magic that can make them fly? Humanity has been dreaming of doing what they just did for thousands of years. I’m looking forward to seeing what they’ll wish for next. There are so many possibilities…

      5. Agreed Stilts. I’m not usually big on these types of shows but the supernatural element may add just enough for me to stick with this one depending on where it goes next as you said in that last post, there’s a lot of potential since it’s highly unknown where they might be going with this or if it’ll now settle into mostly slice-of-life. The staff also makes me want to see what this is actually going to be.

  1. Well I was disappointed with this episode and show… Nothing realy got in me in this show. Even characters felt weak.
    Still I d like to say animation and other stuff was great but uninteresthing

  2. The entire sphere is here!!!
    The story looked weird, but what the hell, I’ll stick with it till the end, only because of the sphere members!

    PS. sphere: j-pop band made up of the four main heroines of this show (just in case you were wondering)

  3. This doesn’t look like it’ll place among my favorite slice-of-life (can we call it slife?) shows, but the first episode does try to convey that sense of the enormity of time and its passing and how it can break ephemeral things like relationships—mono no aware, for those unfamiliar.

    The show also isn’t very sad or contemplative, which drops it down another notch from the kings of slife, series like YKK and Aria, that can make you happy and melancholic at the same time.

    …But the art…!!

  4. Ah, ain’t no better way to start a series about friendship with two best friends going at each other’s throats 😀

    I actually quite enjoyed this episode. It reminds me back in my childhood that the threats we make to other friends is “I won’t be your friend anymore!” And while the characters haven’t been fully introduced yet, I can understand the tension between the characters.

    At the moment, Saki did not leave a very good impression on me, even though I can understand the pain behind transferring schools and leaving your friends. My favourite character thus far has to be Yuka, who’s playful character reminds me of Saten Ruiko from Railgun.

    This looks like it will replace Ano Natsu de Matteru as the drama series which I will follow 😀

  5. i’m going to watch where this series is going, thouhh i do think th fight in the first episode is going to cost them some viewers. my feeling says that this could be an anime ghat has grow on me. The ending wkfh fhe rock made it very promosing for the future, so it’s on my possibly list. The design of the charachters is good and they also feel a little bitunique, but they eill have to grow on me

    Btw, posting this throug my vita, which is awesome i itself.

  6. Ah, well, if you don’t get this sort of thing, you never will, and there is never any use spelling out why people like this sort of show. You either understand the emotional narrative or you don’t. What happened. An awful lot happened if you were willing to invest.

    I found the OP lacking in some respects. Didn’t quite have the punch I was anticipating; hoping it will grow. The ED, despite the interplay with dialog, was fantastic.

    Good work, Stilts. Glad to see someone understands rare gems while they happen.

    1. Yeah, it’s that investment in the emotional narrative that can make shows like this so utterly amazing, or completely boring. To be honest, that’s a skill that I’ve only acquired relatively recently (among some of my older friends, I’m legendary for cynicism that would put Saki to shame =X), but it’s truly rewarding when you can let yourself sink into a narrative and really feel the characters.

      Either way, good to know someone will be sticking with me through this one. I knew going in that I’d probably be talking to an empty room by mid-way through the season, so glad to hear I’ll have a little company!

      1. Well, it isn’t so much talking to an empty room as it is talking to a room with folks that won’t make the effort. I understand why the effort isn’t made. As a casual fan, you want to sit down and watch something amazing. Full Stop. But slice of life shows like this require a bit extra, that emotional investment. Haters are gonna hate, that much is true.

  7. I was expecting the “miracle” to be their power of their friendship overcoming the challenges of growing up and moving apart… then they started flying… and I have no idea what to think any more.

  8. I’ll be the first to say it. I totally expected a giant robot to appear when they began holding hands. Darn you, Sunrise.

    Anyways, I don’t think this was nearly as bad as some thought it was. I’ll definitely stick around for the next couple of episodes and then form my thoughts on the series.

  9. I disagree with Stilts’ character liking: personally I find Natsumi and Saki’s interacting chemistry the most interesting. It is refreshing seeing some of the protagonists acting like this, because it has a realistic feel to it (friendship is not always idyllic). On the other hand, I’m not too fond of Yuka’s personality: in my opinion they went a little overboard with the cheerful attitude and I fear it may become a source of irritation rather quickly…
    But the series itself has good potential!

    1. I can respect that. I’ve come to like honest idiots like Yuka more and more, but I can see how that personality could quickly tip over into annoyance. Natsumi and Saki definitely paint an accurate picture of how friendship often is (unfortunately… heh :P)

    2. I agree with J-Luke; a bitch-fight that lasts days makes them tremendously like real girls, and that makes them more interesting as characters rather than the cardboard cutouts, which sadly the other two are at the moment (the “quiet one” and the “chipper one”). I say this even though I like quiet ones.

      Also, votes on whether the rock is either:
      A) Totally trolling them. Its spirit will laugh at their expense and never grant another wish despite their pleading.
      B) It just cast Levitation on them to make them bugger off for a while. Its in a shrine, so it clearly likes the piece and quiet. It might be entreated to do other things reluctantly.

      Well, I assume the above; it’ll be a rather boring turn for the series if it suddenly starts handing out wishes like sugarlumps at the doctors surgery.

  10. Unlike most stories about female friendships in anime, there are very few yuri undertones here

    Stilts, I think your goggles need adjustment.

    Also, Natsumi said, in complete seriousness “we promised to go to the Nationals together”, which is the yuri equivalent of a marriage proposal.

      1. Then your failure to reference the “Go to the Nationals” line is even more shocking!

        Anyway, they naturally paired up the girls, and Saki and Natsumi’s spats positively rippled with sexual tension.

        I’d suggest they need to spend some time locked in a room together, and one way or another it’ll work out.

      2. Okay, I’ll give you that. Still, there have been no yuri blushes, so I’m sticking with this as a friendship anime for now! It’s up to Sunrise to prove me wrong.

        I’m all for Fencedude’s lock-them-in-a-room-together initiative, though. That would be interesting now matter how it turns out

      3. In all fairness, I have spent most of this week watching the entire first season of Saki. Compared to that, there is no yuri to be found here!

        I cannot wait to read your review of the yurilicious Episode 2. Natsumi x Saki FTW!!!

        John Hayabusa
  11. I was worried the show might turn out to be another generic slice-of-life about 4 schoolgirls so you can imagine how happy I was to be proven wrong right off the bat. Kicking off with the drama between Saki and Natsumi and the magical stone that can grant wishes were good choices and I can’t wait to see more, not to mention we have Sphere’s music to look forward to. Hopefully they’ll slip in a couple of hand-drawn dancing performances, that would make me a big fan 😉
    Thanks for the encoded video. Stilts leveled up!

    Seishun Otoko
  12. I’m starting to think this may be a biographical piece on how Sphere became a singing group…THROUGH ALIEN TECHNOLOGY!

    Or…GHOSTS! Or…whatever whatever they’re using to float. Either way, I’m psyched.

  13. OK, I will freely admit I’m only watching this for the sole purpose that the seiyuu group Sphere is starring in a seemingly feel-good “slice-of-life with fantasy” show.

    Toyosaki Aki and Kotobuki Minako needs no further introduction since their rise to fame via K-ON, ditto for Tomatsu Haruka (I particularly liked the energetic voice she’s using here as she has used in Hanasaku Iroha). I’m not too familiar with Takagaki Ayahi as most of the shows I’ve watched doesn’t feature her, though I’ve seen her in a few side-character roles.

    While her way of thinking is kind of extreme and wrong, I can sort of understand Saki’s decision to distance herself from her friends emotionally when she realized she might never see them again due to her moving out of town. Standard melodrama fare, but still well-executed.

    I’m just going to treat this as a slice-of-life, i.e. enjoy the experience and not worry too much about whatever “plot” this magical rock will provide for our lovely heroines.

    Kinny Riddle
    1. The Saten similarities are even more obvious in the fact that Yuka hangs out a lot with Rin, a soft-speaking girl voiced by Toyosaki Aki.

      Pity she isn’t voiced by Itou Kanae, though that’s not taking anything away from Tomatsu Haruka, who manages to get her energetic character spot on.

      Kinny Riddle
  14. Enhhh this show is on my chopping block :/. It’s just not doing it for me :/…I’ll probably give it another ep to see if it can hook me, but the odds aren’t in its favor :/…

  15. Stilts. You need new goggles.

    Though, yeah. This one has lighter yuri tones than most shows I have seen that has Romantic Girls’ Friendships.

    No, now you are into girls with (slight)lesbian potentials?

    Your move Stilts.

    The Moondoggie
  16. Flying was a little out there, but I think it was just to demonstrate the power of the rock and their combined wishes (hence, the strength of their friendship). All in all, great first episode; I’m definitely keeping my eye on this one! Looks so cute and nostalgic, and just fun :3

  17. Seems like this anime is going to take the fantasy-slice-of-life slot for me after Anohana and Anonatsu. Differs though as there are no male characters in this one (yet?), just 4 girls. Wonder will next season’s ‘Tari Tari’ have any fantasy element?

    So far it don’t seem like becoming an idol group is the main focus, if it does take center stage then it would be like Full Moon wo Sagashite (industry-centric with record companies, managers, rivals etc) or like Idolmaster? Don’t think it will head that direction.

    Or it will be delusional days with the magic rock 😛

    With just these 4 girls, they better do something interesting or it could get boring.


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