I can see where some might be disappointed with this special, which reunites us with the cast of Ano Natsu de Matteru some two years after the events of the TV series. It doesn’t reunite Ichika and Kaito – in fact it effectively features her only in flashback – and the middle portion of the OVA is mostly a compilation of clips from the series. But for me that’s all OK, because it perfectly captures the mood of the series, one of the best anime about high school romance and friendship in the last decade.
It doesn’t take long to explain the special, which is in both literal and symbolic terms a wistful recollection. Kaito, Tetsurou, Kanna and Mio are all third-years now, getting ready for their final summer vacation. Kaito isn’t doing much camera work these days, it seems (though he hasn’t forgotten his dreams) and Mio and Tetsurou seem to more or less be an official couple (though still on-edge about it). Kanna still loves Kaito and still realizes she has no chance, and Remon is stall a MIB, working on a rocket to the stars (and Ichika) and smiling knowingly at the camera.
When Tetsurou finds an old film reel under a pile of junk it may seem like things slip into a simple recap mode, but for me watching those old clips was like watching something from my actual life – the events of this series were very personal and real. I think Ano Natsu may be the prettiest series J.C. Staff has ever done, both in terms of its depiction of small-town Nagano-ken and Uon Taraku’s beautiful character designs. Many (hell, most) anime seem to try and capture the essence of youth, but Nagai Tatsuyuki, Kuroda Yousuke and Uon do so here effortlessly and brilliantly. This is one trip down memory lane I’m happy to make any time.
We don’t get our reunion between Kaito and Ichika but we do get some hints that we might not be finished with the Ano Natsu universe. There’s plenty of room for a full-on sequel here, should the relevant parties be inclined to make one – it’s a sequel of sorts itself, after all – and I would love to see Kaito’s next film, happy ending and all. These are characters for whom a happy ending feels richly deserved, and even if they don’t quite get there in this special episode it’s nice to see they’re all in a pretty good place.
ED: “point at infinity” by Nagi Yanagi