What a good day Monday is looking to be this season (apart from my sore eyes, tired fingers and lack of sleep). Ano Natsu de Matteru provides another terrific premiere.
OP: “sign” by Ray
It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen either Onegai series, fairly early in my anime fandom, and neither made a huge impression on me at the time. As a result my memory of Onegai Teacher is a little sketchy, but it definitely seems as if AnoNaMa borrows heavily from that premise – and that’s putting it mildly. It’s hardly surprising given that the writer and character designer (Kuroda Yousuke and Uon Takaru) are reunited here, but we’ve also got the kind of heavy-duty talent that made me think this show had a chance to be special – director Nagai Tatsuyuki (AnoHana, Honey & Clover) and character designer Tanaka Masayoshi (AnoHana).
I could see where someone might feel that this is too close to “Teacher” for comfort, but that doesn’t bother me much. What we have as a result of this combination of talents plays as a gloriously, unapologetically retro romantic comedy – the timeless variety that could have aired in the ‘80s, ‘90s or 2000’s. It’s ecchi in an innocent sort of way, full of schoolboy charm and mild fanservice, and the humor is sharp and clever while still being gentle and pretty broad. There’s nothing timely or trendy about this show, in fact nothing much that would place it in the present at all. As a result I think JC Staff might just be a good choice for the series. Their muted pastel art style can sometimes look a little fusty, but here it acts to ramp up the old-time charm – and cut through with the distinctive visual talents of Uon-san, Tanaka-san and Nagai-sensei, presents a completely charming visual presentation.
Nagai is good – damn good – and his talents are in evidence in the clever staging and cinematography at play in the premiere. The characters are shown off brilliantly, captured in a candid way that feels natural yet still stylish. Nagai is obviously a sure hand with emotional drama and romance, and we have some interesting (and certainly iconic) threads to look at. Our hero is Kirishima Kai (Shimazaki Nobunaga), a somewhat nerdy 10th-grader who lives with his older sister after the death of his parents. Kai’s passion is filmmaking, and it’s captured the interest of his friends. They include tsundere osananajimi Tanigawa Kanna (Ishihara Kaori), sleepy-eyed beauty Kitahara Mio (Asumi Kana) and hunkie best-friend Ishigaki Tetsurou (Ogihara Hideki). One day on the way home from school Kai’s eye is drawn to a red-haired beauty named Takatsuki Ichika (Tomatsu Haruka, disappearing into a role beautifully yet again) on a passing train.
Stop me if you’ve heard this before… But really, who cares? It’s all great fun, and really well-presented. It’s obvious almost from the first that Ichika is an alien, connected to the crash Kai witnessed at the start of the episode. She’s trying to blend in and not very well, too, and Kai’s lens seems drawn to her. Ichika ends up paired off with snarky and petite senior Yamano Remon (Tamara Yukari, hilarious here) who agrees to write the film Kai will produce and Ichika will star in. There’s an odd quality to Ichika in that she seems to be able to blur the lines between Kai’s delightfully boyish dreams and reality, and thus ends up invited to sleep at his house – a problem, as Kai’s sister won’t be leaving for her business trip to Bolivia for a few days. There’s also a niggling matter of a weird hickey on Kai’s neck, which reveals itself to be something far more serious as he collapses just as Ichika emerges from his bath. She calls on a weird creature called Rinon (Hidaka Rina) to assist in his treatment, which she seals with a kiss that’s witnessed by big sister and Kenna in a classic anime spit-take moment.
Original? Hell, no – tried and true at best, and self-plagiarism at worst. I don’t know if things will veer further off the Onegai Teacher template as we go, and the first ep was a sort of homage, but honestly I’m fine either way. Even if this is well-worn material it still feels fresh, because it’s so unencumbered by the popular tropes and flavors of the week we see in almost every anime with a hint of sex or romance in it. There’s a reason why this sort of RomCom used to be such a staple of anime, and I’m hopeful that it will find an audience in those too young and too new to anime to remember those days as well as older fans (like me) enjoying the trip in the wayback machine. All in all, this looks like the most interesting and potentially meaningful original series JC Staff has done in many years.
ED: “Vidro Moyō” (ビードロ模様) by Nagi Yanagi