Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ano Natsu de Matteru – Series Review

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To say Ano Natsu was an easy series to like is an understatement.  For me, it was impossible not to love.

Mondays have been bizarrely good for anime this season, but this Monday is a tough one – I feel a real tug at the heartstrings saying goodbye to so many great series, and this one certainly falls into that category.  Ano Natsu is what happens when good writers and great directors with a ton of experience team up to execute a good idea.  It’s effortless without being slick, dramatic without being overwrought, and relaxed and gripping at the same time.  It’s not supposed to be as easy as these guys made it look, and if you don’t believe me just look at all the failed romantic comedies scattered by the roadside.  I got a lot of pure joy from this show, which almost never missed a step.

I feel as if my weekly posts pretty well summarize what I like about this series, which I think surpasses either of the Onegai series for which Kuroda-sensei is best known.  Pacing (within the individual episodes and for the series as a whole), dialogue, real character development of the kind Nagai-sensei (Toradora, AnoHana) seems peerless at conveying as a director, genuine depth of feeling – for a long-standing anime fan who loves character-driven romance and comedy, this was a perfect storm.  I’ve called Ano Natsu “old-fashioned” and there’s no doubt it is, but perhaps that doesn’t do the show justice.  There’s nothing inherently passé or fusty about it – it simply strips itself of the unwelcome trappings that have attached themselves to most series these days like lampreys on a shark.  If that makes it old-fashioned, may we have more old-fashioned series in the future.

The science-fiction elements are integral to the story and for the most part quite well-done, but they’re the vehicle to drive the premise – not the premise itself.  This is a show about people – teenagers mostly, as this is anime after, all, but complicated and likeable ones with pretty realistic emotional vulnerabilities and hang-ups.  While the romance side of things is obviously crucial, I think Ano Natsu is a show about friendship as much as anything.  That’s as old-school a theme as you can find in anime, but my goodness, why aren’t there more shows built around it?  Each of the main group – Kaito, Ichika, Tetsuro, Mio, Kanna – are caught in their own relationship tangles, but they also exist as part of the group – a group each of them values, and no matter how difficult things get on the romance side, they never forget it.  They get angry, they deceive, they feel sorry for themselves – but they never come to hate each other.  They’re just nice kids coming to realize that human relationships don’t sort themselves out for our convenience.  Most of the time we love the wrong person, and it’s nobody’s fault – it’s just how we’re wired.

There’s not a lot of flash here – the visuals are pretty and often impressively detailed, but this is JC Staff and we don’t get KyoAni or P.A. Works levels of brilliance.  Likewise the performances are generally understated, but I think universally spot-on.  Tomatsu Haruka is her usual brilliant self as Ichika, but I really enjoyed relative unknown Shimazaki Nobunaga as Kaito – he was a breath of fresh air, a new voice who sounded young and unaffected, the perfect foil for Haruka-san.  Their relationship is at the heart of the series of course, and like the rest of it not flashy – just as straightforward as a human-alien relationship can be.  These two are the lucky ones – they do love the right person, and their romance is direct and simple and refreshingly free of BS and games.  They just love each other, and they act like it, and they try and stay together.  Nothing extra needed here, really.

If anything, that lack of pretense and conventional padding is what I love best about Ano Natsu.  The cliffhangers aren’t drawn out – they’re dealt with, and the series actually gets to the interesting part of the relationships – what happens after the misunderstandings are cleared up and the truths revealed.  That’s the stuff that most romance anime never get to, probably because it’s scary and hard to write when compared to endless misunderstandings and relationships that are all build-up and no resolution.  Again, it all sounds very easy – but if it were, every relationship series would be this good.  The fact that nearly all of them aren’t should tell you all you need to know.

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13 comments:

  1. Man. What a great show.

    Not quite as tense or heartrending an ending as I really wanted, but maybe I can blame that on doing homework while watching.

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  2. Thank you Enzo for blogging this. You are the man!!
    But what is this I read?
    Is brilliance and detailed not good enough for you? This is the first anime series that makes me wanna take a plane to Japan. RIGHT NOW! Not so much the animation. But how all colors blend in together. More of an art concept and imagery than actual animation quality.
    ZENkoji!!

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    1. If that sounded like a complaint, it wasn't - it was more a comment that the visuals here are like the rest of the show, great but not flashy. Certainly as pretty as anything JC Staff has done in many years.

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  3. What an ending and what a show. I think what most people felt when watching Ano Natsu was nostalgia and this ending was all about that.

    I though the film scene at the end was particularly excellent and pitch perfect for this show.
    This show was not just a love story but love itself.
    It changes, it cries, it feels triumph and loss but at the end of the day it will come back to us.

    Kudos to JC for this truly spectacular show and may many more follow.

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    Replies
    1. And to Enzo for blogging it

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  4. Hm... I've been avoiding this series thinknig it was onegai teacher redux. I'll give it a chance whenever I have the time.

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    Replies
    1. do not give it a chance. take a rifle and shoot through it! 2.5 hours should do it.

      I feel like doing a Kono Natsu o Matteru (waiting for this summer)!
      Summer trip to Nagano anyone?

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  5. Agreed.

    This was a very good series - very well done.

    Glad to see that the hints for Remon being an MIB (supporting her not seriously taken statement a few eps back) became more and more "obvious". :)

    - Flower

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  6. Thanks for all of the hard work. Ano Natsu was a great ride. :)

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  7. well worth my time and waiting on the subs to finally make their appearance. Wasn't as impressed by the choices this fall, only Bakuman2, Amagami SS and this series held my attention. Still a sucker for a good romance and this one showed love in most of its facets, tender, caring, passionate and cruel and disconsolate.

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  8. Thank you for your thanks - this was a fun one to blog!

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  9. One of the few anime that i cried watching...

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