I have to give JC Staff credit where it’s due. They’ve gotten their share of criticism from me, but with Ano Natsu they’re really stepped up in their game in every respect. They’ve made the Nagano area look really lovely, and the classic watercolor JC Staff palette has never looked more natural than when paired with this material. It was no surprise given the staff involved that this would be a good series, but it was never a done deal that the production values would be do justice to the writing and direction. I love the level of detail that’s gone into small things like the interior of Kaito’s old house and the signage at the castle park – and the detail in the writing and acting, too, like the little “Uwah!” Kanna blurted out when she saw the leak in the ceiling.
In terms of the episode itself, I’d place it just about on par with the 3rd as the strongest so far – not that there have been any bad ones. “We’d all like a happy ending.” Indeed, Kanna – that could easily be the catch phrase for the first five eps of the series. But it’s not really possible, is it? The math just doesn’t add up, even if the theories about a tragic end involving Kaito’s mysterious bruises prove false (as I hope they do). This episode was a symphony of wonderful dialogue, and I can’t think of a another series in many a season that’s been able to convey so much information from the characters who aren’t talking. Keep your eyes on the ones in the background and you’ll know all you need to know about the complex polygon that’s formed around these characters.
One thing I’ve long suspected I’m now just about ready to declare an unequivocal fact – Remon knows exactly who Ichika is. The really interesting questions are still outstanding – how does she know? Who is she, exactly, and what’s her motivation for toying with Ichika like this? With her “script” being what it is I don’t there there’s a doubt anymore that she’s aware of the big picture, but she doesn’t seem like the M.I.B. type – the vibe she gives off is closer to that of a trickster God, toying with people because she can. Indeed, she seems just as interested in having fun screwing with the others’ romantic entanglements as she does with Ichika’s alien nature.
I’m certainly not complaining, because I love the way the movie-shooting scenes are being used as a way to nudge the characters forward in their relationships, and I thought the scene where Ichika grilled Kaito about how he’d react if she was really an alien was especially well-written and executed. Kaito’s answer – while perfectly in character – makes things seem almost too easy between the two of them now. I’m sure there are major obstacles about to be thrown in their path, and not just Kanna – there’s that little matter about it apparently being illegal for Ichika to take Kaito with her into space, for one.
Coming into increasing focus is Tetsuro’s role as a sort of fulcrum in all of this brewing romantic angst. He thinks himself pretty clever for having figured out Kanna’s feelings (not that it was all that hard) but it’s funny how he’s totally oblivious to Mio (who treated us to another lucky panda moment). It’s hard not to like this guy, and the scene where he pledged to help Kanna in her pursuit of Kaito and she promised to help him pursue his crush was especially heartbreaking – “That’s not gonna be possible” indeed, and said with a smile too. And when Kanna quite cruelly accused him of not knowing what it felt like to be in love, he swallowed his bile and agreed – again with a smile. The nice thing, though, is that Kanna has the decency to realize she’ s being unfair – and indeed, she feels terrible about having rudely asked Ichika when she was leaving Japan, too. None of these people are trying to hurt each other (well, Remon is on probation still) but it doesn’t seem like they’re going to be able to help it.
While Kanna plans to quietly suffer in order to keep everyone’s friendship alive (exactly what Tetsuro has been doing all along) Tetsuro rather spoils that plan by going directly to Kaito’s house and spilling the beans. It’s easy to look at this as Tetsuro trying to be helpful, but I’m skeptical of the selflessness of his motives. It’s not really his place to tell Kaito about Kanna’s feelings, for one, and part of me thinks this is Tetsuro trying to force the issue and in the process, force Kanna to admit that Kaito is a lost cause and move on. As for Ichika, she can at least believe that Kaito would accept her even knowing the truth, which seems to remove a major obstacle towards her returning his confession – but perhaps the absence of a long-term future for them will stay her hand in the matter. With a trip to Okinawa in the cards next week, there’s sure to be some fanservice, but the resolution of the cliffhanger Tetsuro’s bombshell caused will be foremost on everyone’s mind in looking forward to next week.