Ano Natsu de Matteru – 02 Review
Ano Natsu de Matteru – Episode 02
Well, here it is – the much anticipated second episode of Ano Natsu! The shows seems to have taken a little turn away from the ecchi-slapstick direction and looks to be moving more towards a character and relationship oriented slice-of-life series. While this episode moved slowly plot-wise, I found it still had the same warm feeling and the above average acting/dialog that made last week’s installment so charming.
The show opens up by showing us Ichika’s perspective of her spaceship’s crash landing and the moments before it. Ichika and Rinon (the teletubby) are dreamily flying through space and Ichika is thinking about this “place” she’s always envisioned – a lush little cove complete with green hills, water, trees, etc. She briefly reflects on how she has set out on some sort of journey to find said place, and how others (presumably her peers, family, friends, etc?) blame it on her taking “antifeminas”. Unfortunately, we don’t get to find out anything else about that or Ichika’s past because she runs into a debris field and her space ship’s emergency siren starts blaring loudly. She commands the teletubby to warp them to somewhere else, wishes she could land at the “place”, and BAM! They crash into Japan and run over poor Kai in the process.
After the opening song, the episode picks up where the first left off – in Kai’s living room, directly after the towel-drop, face-in-cleavage fiasco (however, Ichika has since managed to find a T-shirt to put on). Nanami (big sis) and Kanna (annoying girl with a crush on Kai), are demanding an explanation of the situation. It’s a rather long, but cute, scene wherein everyone reveals themselves as being absolutely clueless and generally dense. Ichika comes painfully close to spilling the beans and dropping the “I’m an alien” ball, but is saved by Kai’s idiotic interjections and the sheer stupidity of everyone present. An example of this is when Ichika is trying to explain why she embraced Kai – she says, “That’s how we do it on my planet… er, my hometown.” Despite the fact that Ichika is sweating like crazy and accidentally dropping these hints left and right, no one else is catching on, and the end result is that Nanami gives Ichika permission to live at the house, alone with Kai, all summer.
Kanna’s jealousy kicks into overdrive, she phones the crew to bitch about Kai, and Tetsuou (pervy best friend) subsequently makes plans to stick his nose in everyone’s business by holding the next day’s film planning meeting at Kai’s house. Despite Kai’s statement (in Episode 01, depending on your translation) that he is able to cook and take care of himself, Ichika ends up in a typical anime apron, in the typical cute-girl-who-can’t-cook-worth-a-shit scenario. While getting ready for bed, Kai notices another alien hickey on his forehead, fantasizes about Ichika for a minute or two, and promptly crashes falls asleep.
The next morning, after a wake-up call from a scantily-clad redheaded alien and then seeing Nanami off at the station, Kai takes Ichika on the typical anime shopping trip to pick up some clothes (since Ichika’s suitcase apparently only has room for her super computer and the teletubby). Arriving at home, they are surprised to discover that Remon (or Lemon, depending on the subs) has picked the lock and that the whole crew is waiting for them to start the film planning meeting. The film meeting is another long, but cute, scene where everyone sits around talking about the type of movie they want to make. There are a few sappy moments, and it’s decided that they’re going to wander around and focus on “pretty scenery” instead of a story for the movie (in order to find Ichika’s special place?). Fortunately at this point, Remon whips out the jungle juice (some mysterious intoxicating beverage that isn’t legally allowed to be called alcohol on Japanese TV), and things get more lively. The kids are playing cards and jenga, chatting, laughing, and flirting, and it’s ultimately a nice (although slow) way to show how much they all enjoy each other’s company.
During all this drunken happy-time, the focus is mostly on showing the interpersonal dynamics between the characters. It’s light, cute, and funny, but there are a few moments which might be foreshadowing events to come, and only time will tell which parts were ultimately important, but Remon’s behavior was noticeably odd – while the whole crew is passed out all over the living floor, Remon is filming them, mumbling to herself that “it will be a great movie”. Kai’s alien-hickey flares up again, and, exactly like Kai’s earlier fantasy, Ichika sweetly kisses his forehead and magically heals it. The episode ends with Kai trying to tell Ichika something (a confession?) and Ichika cutely telling him to shut it.
Let me start off by saying that, like last week, I really enjoyed this episode. And once again, it’s hard to put my finger on the exact reasons why.
That being said, after all of the readers’ comments on the Episode 01 review about the striking similarities between Ano Natsu and Onegai Teacher, I watched the first three episodes of Onegai Teacher. Ummm… wow. “Striking similarities” doesn’t even begin to describe what essentially looked like an Onegai remake. From the lead-female’s red hair, to the friends’ characters/roles, and the slapstick-ecchi moments, Ano Natsu started off almost identically to Onegai. Actually, if I had seen Onegai Teacher, even the teletubby coming out of Ichika’s suitcase would not have been a surprise to me! All in all, it was really sort of a heart-sinking type of moment for me – I started to get disappointed with Ano Natsu, and I started to think of all the things I could say in the Episode 02 review in order to defend my own enjoyment of Ano Natsu so far (things to say to myself if no one else). I only watched the first three episodes of Onegai, but it seems that as of Episode 02, Ano Natsu is headed in a different direction.
That “different direction” really reminds me a lot of AnoHana. In this episode, the way the friends sat around, playing games, interacting, with little clues as to their interpersonal relationship dynamics – it was really similar to some of AnoHana’s scenes in the club house or while the friends are playing video games, etc. I’m not saying that the casts of the two shows are even really particularly alike so far, or that what’s going on between them all is remotely the same… it’s more about similarities of execution and style. Unfortunately, the simple watching-the-kids-hang-out-to-get-an-idea-of-what’s-going-on-between-them style of exposition employed in this episode (and characteristic of AnoHana) seems to be generally absent in most of the animes I’ve seen – typically, series resort to expository tactics like “info-dumps”, excessive narration, or a continuous stream of crappy flashbacks, and the bulk of the story-telling relies on the viewer’s complete and unquestioning acceptance of whatever relationships (between the characters) the writers choose to present, without much in the way of background or development concerning the characters’ personalities, feelings, and/or motives. The style used here gives us that much-needed window into the characters’ lives, without excessive dialog or over-use of flashbacks, and the overall effect is that it flows quite smoothly and fits seamlessly within the rest of the episode.
Lest I fall into the trap of “reading between the lines” or seeing more than what has been shown and simply projecting my own desires, let me go ahead and make it clear that I’m not in any rush to hail Ano Natsu as some sort of intellectual-anime-achievement or anything like that. I liked the second episode, but I’m sure it’s not something that everyone would enjoy. To say it bluntly, the whole episode really only covered *two* long scenes (at the table explaining Ichika’s presence, and the crew, again at the table, playing games and getting drunk) and on the whole, I felt like the episode moved reeeaaaallly slowly. It’s a romantic comedy, and lots of things about it are completely un-original, and so far the story has only proceeded from one typical anime situation to the next, in a totally typical order. But if you can get over the fact that it is a slice-of-life rom-com with (so far) generic characters and completely predictable situations… Well… It’s got this certain sort of charm going for it that’s hard to explain. The whole thing feels much more like an indie-movie than an anime, similar to the feeling of Honey and Clover, with more light-heartedness. Ano Natsu, at this point seems like the perfect anime for viewers who liked the style of AnoHana (and maybe even Honey and Clover), but didn’t enjoy having to put their boots on just so they could wade through shit tons of drama, sap, tears, and cheese. As of this episode, I’d say that Ano Natsu is starting to feel almost like “AnoHana Lite”.
Okay, a few specifics…. The animation seemed, once again, up to par in this episode. However, most of the episode took place indoors, so it was a bit hard to compare since Episode 01’s outstanding strong points were the outdoor trees/sky/light backgrounds. I found the quality of the details during the indoor scenes to be a bit inconsistent – there were a few times when things closer to “front stage” were more “cartoony”-looking than tiny details/objects in the far background. I know that’s nitpicky, but I think it’s worth mentioning. The background music was on the same quality level as last time, and included the cicadas (I *love* the cicadas!), and there were even a few crickets this time around (yay!). The voice actors continued to do a fabulous job, and I’m thinking that the acting may be the best thing about the show so far.
Kai seemed cooler than last time (even though he apparently doesn’t actually know how to cook), Ichika seemed dumber than last time, and pretty much everyone else stayed the same. Remon was the only supporting character who really continued to “develop” in this episode, and she just went further along the same path she had started on in Episode 01. For now, Remon seems to be the most competent and interesting of the bunch, and I want to see what she’s got going on. It’s clear that she is up to something. One thing that sparked my interest was when they were all slobber-drunk lying on the floor, Kanna says, “Kai, you idiot,” and Tetsusou mumbles, “*I’m* the idiot.” What is he talking about? And, what about Miyoko’s expression in that scene? I’m sure that next week we will find out more about that, as well as Ichika’s background, and Kai’s alien-cancer-honeycomb-hickey, and why Ichika’s kisses seem to force it into remission.
I’ve got a few (probably typical) issues with some of the plot loopholes…. Like, how did Ichika go from being an alien on a “vision quest” to the administrative office at a local high school? Did the teletubby give her instructions for how to register as a transfer student? Where did she get the school’s uniform? At what point did she learn to speak Japanese and get a basic grasp on the culture? What planet is she actually from, and where did she get that space ship? Does everyone have one (like cars where I live) or did she steal it? You know… *those* sorts of questions, which may or may not be answered later in the series.
Also, the cooking scene was a bit hard for me to understand. I’m sure it was a lot funnier if you’re Japanese or have a better understanding or Japanese cuisine/culture than I do. What *I* got from it all was that Ichika made an “Italian” dish with “Japanese” noodles – like, instead of using spaghetti noodles (which are made from a finely ground wheat flour), she used soba noodles (which are made from buckwheat flour). Obviously, the two types of noodles taste differently. Feel free to post a comment clarifying or correcting my interpretation of this scene! I’m sure that I’m not the only person out there who would appreciate it. 🙂
Finally, I thought the very last scene, where Ichika is telling Kai not to say “it”, was hot. Maybe I’m a weirdo, but something about it really caught my attention. Those last few minutes seemed infinitely more *mature* and thoughtful than the vast majority of anime I’ve seen, so at the very least I’ve been suckered into watching Episode 03.
And… that damn teletubby is cute. It really grows on you. 😉
Episode Rating: 7.5-8.0/10