Ano Natsu de Matteru – 09

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I think what Ano Natsu is doing is basically telling the creators other romcom anime, “By the way, you suck.  This is how you do it – watch carefully so you’ll know when you see it, then go look for jobs in the service industry.”

One thing (among many) that Nagai and Kuroda-sensei are displaying a mastery of here is pacing.  Not just pacing over the course of 12 episodes – which is difficult enough that almost everyone screws it up – but the fine art of build-up within individual episodes.  It’s striking how nearly every episode of the series starts off relatively calmly, setting the stage, ramps up the tension and drama, and finishes on a resounding high note – either a cliffhanger or a dramatic revelation.  This isn’t a coincidence –  it’s happening week after week and really reflects just how good these supremely experienced storytellers are at their jobs.  I think ample credit goes to Kuroda for the screenplay, but in this area I think Nagai as the director is certainly the most responsible – he’s proving himself to be one of the top two or three directors working in TV anime.

While we didn’t get the specific turn of events I was expecting at the start of the episode – something more sinister and ominous about Kaito’s medical condition – I’m not yet sold that the danger has passed in that area.  For now though the focus was on Ichika’s cover being blown, and how it impacted the rest of the cast.  Remon, for her part, tells the others she’s a Man in Black – and this just after they’d convinced Ichika such things didn’t exist.  As always with Remon it’s hard to know where the troll ends and reality begins, but for now I’m guessing she’s telling the truth – it fits pretty much everything.  The others are suitably surprised (with one notable exception) but not unexpectedly rally to Ichika’s defense, promising not to reveal her secret to the world. 

Because this series is primarily a romance and the science-fiction elements secondary, the alien revelation was most interesting in terms of how it impacted the romantic dynamic of the love pentagon.  Kaito’s reaction was the most predictable, and for a very good reason – on some level he’d known all along.  His view doesn’t really change that much – he loves Ichika and that’s all that matters.  Kanna seems to be in about the same boat too, pining for Kaito but with no delusions that Ichika’s new status will change how he feels.  In remembering how she came to love Kaito, she tells us that it was when he’d transferred in as a freshman after losing his parents – dispelling decisively the notion that she was his osananijimi and any requisite claims that might give her.  Her situation comes into strongest focus at the close of the ep, but the one most immediately impacted by the new situation is Ichika herself.

This is where most of the emotion of the episode comes from, at least until the climax – it’s painful watching Ichika pull away from Kaito, even as his own feelings for her are completely unchanged.  She’s telling herself all the right things – that she’s doing it for his benefit and for everyone’s benefit, because she doesn’t want anyone else to get hurt and because she’ll have to leave eventually.  But of course she’s running away out of fear that Kaito will reject her, and all the while he wants nothing more than to be with her.  The alien angle is obviously a little extreme, but the dynamics themselves are pretty damn typical of relationships – you can’t be rejected if you leave first, which always makes that the safer decision.  So Kaito goes off on his own with an instant camera, trying to find the place from Ichika’s memories, while she hides from him by pretending to look herself.

As always Ano Natsu doesn’t do things by the romcom book, and that’s one of the things I love most about it.  The confrontation between Kanna and Ichika and the events that follow cap the episode brilliantly, and it’s some of the best writing and direction I’ve seen in a character drama.  Kanna hasn’t handled things all that well sometimes, but she has every reason to be annoyed with Ichika here.  She sums up everything so many series have tried to portray so well in an entire season – and failed – with one simple statement: “Just tell him you love him. Two people in love can be together – isn’t that wonderful?  That’s an option I’ll never have, no matter how hard I try.”  That’s it, really – while Ichika dithers and frets, all she has to do to be with the one she loves is to say, “Yes.”  And no matter how much Kanna wants to be with the one she loves, she never can.  Life isn’t fair that way, and Kanna definitely took one in the teeth for Kaito here as Ichika really needed to hear it.  She even did exactly the right thing in telling Ichika to go find out what Kaito was doing for her, rather than revealing it herself. 

As so that’s how it ends, with Ichika in Kaito’s arms, and a mutual confession and many kisses.  How refreshing is that, with three eps to go?  Despite this little hiccup I’ve loved Kaito and Ichika’s relationship because it’s so direct and free of BS, and thanks to Kanna they’ve already outstripped 98% of anime couples. There’s three eps to go and trouble to come here, still – either with the nanotechnology that healed Kaito, or with another rescue ship from “The League”, or even Remon (pushing her and Kaito together, then filming it?  Maybe blackmail is her game!) – things aren’t going to be smooth sailing with a quarter of the series left, and there’s still the mystery of Ichika’s strange quest.  I suppose it’s possible – though I bet against it – that Kaito and Ichika will simply be a couple now and the dramatic climax will come from the agonizing triangle that remains.  As Ichika ended up in Kaito’s arms Kanna was ending up in…  Tetsuro’s.  Ack.  He always manages to be present with things are happening, this guy, and he makes his boldest gesture yet in comforting Kanna – as Mio watches unseen from behind a shed.  It’s a wild and tempestuous cliffhanger as only Ano Natsu can do it, and that particular mess seems no closer to a solution than when this all started. 

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  1. b

    My poor heart…;_;
    I can't find the correct words to say…

    On another note, gotta like how everyone's stalking one another. Tetsuro with Kanna, Mio with Tetsuro and then Remon with Ichika and Kaito.
    So fun.

  2. A

    Just simply loving it : )
    The music at the end certainly didn't hurt though!

  3. s

    Haha. Yeah, I thought the stalking was funny too. That kiss scene at the end was so much win.

  4. Everyone's stalking each other and dysfunctional… Except Kaito and Ichika themselves, who are basically just nice sentient beings in love with each other.

  5. J

    who knows, Ichika might be a messenger for the anti-spirals…

  6. A

    I am a huge Ichika fan, but Kanna is mvp of the show. How difficult it must've been for her to tell Ichika what she said in the episode.

    PS: on another note, "…already outstripped 98% of anime couples." Which couples, would you say, belongs in the other 2%?

  7. A

    Kare Kano!

  8. d

    Wa now i wonder how many people actually know that Manga?
    I bought the full set from Kinokuniya. Lol

  9. A

    …poor Mio… I started tearing up when they showed her behind the shed. I was like "they're not gonna do that to her, they're not gonnaaaaaaaahhh."

  10. S

    Just curious who would the other one or two top directors in TV anime be?

  11. J

    Shinichiro Watanabe, for one…

  12. Top TV directors? Well, Kamiyama Kenji probably (though I'm no fan of EotE). Omori Takahiro, for versatility and consistency. Maybe Mochizuki Tomomi.

    As for that other 2% of anime couples, I really meant that more as praise the writing and how developed they already are more than the couple themselves – though I do love both characters. I'd have to think about who might join them in the 2%.

  13. Z

    An obvious candidate for that 2% spot would be the original Onegai Sensei series that this is an almost remake of.

  14. K

    I would definitely include OkabexKurisu from Steins;Gate in the 2%

  15. A

    Omori is a directorial workhorse. He's good at cranking out lots of shows with competence (which is what the industry loves), but nothing stands out artistically or technically.

    ….which brings us to another question. Do fans prefer a director who produces large quantities of solid but non-exceptional work (which provides for a well-oiled assembly line from an output perspective), or a director who spends a lot of time aiming for a few masterpieces? By my observation, we tend to favor the former due to our endless demand for content.

  16. A good question – though I think you're selling Omori way, way short. Natsume Yuujinchou has been astonishingly good, and Hotaruba was superb, a work of art – though not TV, I still factor it into Omori's résumé as primarily a TV director. Baccano was terrific. Kuragehime was terrific. And all very different. Omori isn't a workhorse, he's a thoroughbred.

    I can't consider a director like Watanabe or Ikuhara in the context of the OP's question, because they've basically been absent for most of the last 15 years. Maybe somebody like Mizushima Seiji should be in the conversation, though I'd rank him a level below the top slot.

  17. S

    This may be one of the few series I buy. This show is just that good, why oh why does it have to be 12 episodes only?

  18. S

    God, my heart aches for Mio. Both for her empathic feelings of Kanna, and Kannas situation, and for her own. It really tore me apart, but the ending scene was amazing as well, and not at all cheesy. It takes some serious writing to pull that through.

    Also interesting is Mio's change of hairstyle. It's very bold for an anime studio to do that on a main character, but most of all, very realistic. How many series have you seen where the actors appearances doesnt change as if they're all stuck in time? On a superficial level, I liked Mio's previous hairstyle better, but she's super cute regardless ^^

    This is the best anime 2012, not a doubt in my mind.

  19. A

    So whose gonna be left out? Is it inevitable that there would be someone to be a loner in the end? T_T

    This series really knows how to make their watchers/viewers excited to watch every episodes.

  20. If I was to guess, I still think it's more likely Tetsuro ends up with Mio than Kanna.

  21. A

    Cross fingers. ^_^
    I like Kanna but i prefer Mio and Tetsuro together. Though I feel sad for Kanna if that happens, I mean no Kaito and no Tetsuro for her.

  22. B

    This episode was so much win. I feel the requisite human emotions of sadness for the 3 still stuck in their triangle, of course, but I'm a HUGE Ichika fan so basically my happiness is drowning out the negative feels right now. Queue the drama now when the Federation comes and tries to drag Ichika off back home, that's my guess. I also reckon she'll go, only to have a last minute course correction to go back to Earth and stay there.

  23. I'm definitely with the crowd that hopes the sci-fi angle is a relatively minor part of the conclusion. The relationship piece is what this show does most brilliantly.

  24. A

    never expected to see galaxy express 999 parody in this, ah the memories

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