Ano Natsu de Matteru – 03 Review
Ano Natsu de Matteru – Episode 03
Well, in the comments on last week’s review, I predicted (somewhat sarcastically) that Will Smith was somehow going to be part of Episode 03. I was right, sort of. There was a reference to “Men In Black”, and Will Smith *did* star in a movie series by that name. I guess it’s just not a campy-alien-summer-story without him. 🙂
The episode opens where we left off – Ichika kissing Kai on the forehead (to fix the alien cancer) and Kai wanting to say something (confess) and Ichika stopping him. Then, everything suddenly goes hot pink, signaling a fantasy sequence, and Kai imagines Ichika cruelly rejecting his confession. She says, “What made you think we would work as a couple?” (good question) and some other things generally insulting things to Kai. Kai wakes up, cursing himself for having such masochistic fantasies.
Ichika and the teletubby (Rinon) are trying to wake Kai up for school, but he passes notes through the closed door telling Ichika that he isn’t going. Ichika, worried for Kai’s health, consults Remon later at school. Remon explains that Kai is ditching class, and suggests mischievously that he may be avoiding Ichika. Ichika proceeds to have her own fantasy that Kai has actually figured out that she is an alien (he really hasn’t by now?) and that he dislikes her for it, and that he would even turn her in and call the MIB.
The rest of the crew is in class, nurturing their hangovers and unsuccessfully trying to remember what all stupid things they did while they were drunk. The crew is debating visiting the presumably sick Kai, and Tetsuou messes with Kanna’s head by getting her to imagine Ichika as Kai’s nurse, whereupon Kanna jets off to Kai’s place on her own. Miyoko hints at Tetsuou being interested in Kanna, but suddenly Remon interrupts by showing up with a bag of camera/film equipment and a plan to follow Kanna.
Kanna arrives at Kai’s to discover that he is not sick, and as Kai is about to invite her in, he has another fantasy of Ichika, involving her responding negatively to his apparent man-slut-ness. Therefore, he stumblingly suggests that he and Kanna go out somewhere. Both Remon’s camera-wielding party and the paranoid Ichika are secretly following the duo, who are wandering aimlessly around the town. The two stop and chat, and Kai says, “Thanks for not asking me why I skipped class,” which can be universally translated into, “Please ask me why I skipped class,” – so, obviously, Kanna asks why he skipped class. Kai hems and haws and says some vague stuff about the difficulties of living with a girl, Kanna hems and haws and says that Ichika is super hot, and as things are starting to get sentimental and it seems as if Kanna is going to confess – suddenly Remon is in the middle of everything with a giant camera. Kanna is crazy embarrassed and ill with Remon, and goes chasing after her.
Meanwhile, Tetsuou and Miyoko have been off on their own getting some lemonade, and Miyoko finally confronts Tetsuou about liking Kanna. There’s a lot of blushing and it’s very awkward – I think we can safely assume that Miyoko is into Tetsuou – and Miyoko explains to Tetsuou that trying to help Kanna and Kai hook up is just shooting himself in the foot and that he’s going to end up getting hurt. Tetsuou denies having any romantic interest in Kanna, saying that she is nothing more than a childhood friend. Miyoko doesn’t buy it one bit. Their conversation is interrupted (again) by the arrival of Remon, who is being chased by Kanna, who becomes even more frustrated to learn that the whole gang was following her and Kai.
Kai, wandering alone, bumps into Ichika. Compelled by his own projections (the earlier fantasies), Kai runs away from her. Ichika, who is also compelled by her own projections, chases Kai. Kai imagines that Ichika is acting strange because she is not romantically interested in him, and Ichika imagines that Kai is being weird because he has discovered that she is an alien. As they talk, it becomes clear to both of them that there is a serious communication malfunction and they are not on the same page. However, instead of clearing things up and running the risk of exposing their own embarrassing “secrets” – Kai liking Ichika, Ichika being an alien – they decide to grab some food and aimlessly wander around talking about nothing for a while (it seems like this sort of thing is common in AnoNatsu). At some point, Kai whips out his camera and he and Ichika are playing around, and Ichika asks if Kai has a girl he likes. She asks if it’s Kanna, he answers no, then Miyoko, he answers no, and then she asks if he likes herself. Kai stammers and blushes a lot, the camera becomes unsteady, Ichika seems shocked, a train rolls by, and that’s a wrap.
So, last week, I started to get a little antsy… but I liked the overall feeling of the show, so I thought I would hold off until this week. Well, it’s this week already, so here’s my issue: what I feel like AnoNatsu really needs is some sort of conflict or tension to make it more exciting.
Right now, AnoNatsu is a show about some teenagers wandering around aimlessly and talking about pretty much nothing. The idea of making a movie was tossed around in the first episode, but aside from a line or two here and there, Kai’s film-project has been all but dropped. I mean, my feelings aren’t hurt, since none of the characters (with the possible exception of Remon) really gave a shit what the movie would be about anyways, and last I checked, Ichika had decided that it would just have pretty scenery and no plot. BTW, was that supposed to be one of those metafictional jokes? 🙂
FYI, while there may be some elements that “seem” like conflict, they actually aren’t. For example – Ichika being an alien is not conflict. Why? Because it doesn’t matter one way or another to the story (at this point) if she’s from Japan, Antarctica, Mars, the Pleiades, or even next door. Sure, she seems moderately concerned that if the gang finds out her secret they might reject her or turn her in, but there’s no basis (so far) for her to think that way. After all, when her teletubby was out running around on the table doing circus tricks, nobody thought anything was the least bit odd. And, as was established in the last episode, Ichika could come right out and say, “I’m from outer space,” and these blockheads would probably respond with, “Oh, is that in Hokkaido?” I must say that I lost the tiny bit of respect for Kai I had gained in Episode 02 – I thought by his actions at the dinner table family introduction scene that he at least had some clue that there was something “different” about Ichika, but somehow as of this week, he has descended into the black hole of complete idiocy again. And really, what the hell does Kai think of that teletubby anyways? I mean, it ate all of his damn cup noodles, so surely he doesn’t just think it’s a toy, right?
Alright. Another thing that might be mistaken for a proper conflict is the whole love triangle (or love hexagon) bit. But, it’s not a conflict. Why? Because this sort of situation has apparently been everyone’s M.O. for a long time, probably even for years. They’ve all had their respective crushes for however long, and it hasn’t ever furthered the plot between them in the past, so it’s doubtful that it will now. I suppose that throwing Ichika into the mix may be the almighty straw (that broke Kanna’s back), but to what end? Kanna eventually gets so jealous that she throws a hissy fit (been done already) and confesses to Kai? And so what if she does? Will Ichika just give up on trying to be the fifth wheel or whatever and jet back to Mars? It’s pretty unlikely, if you ask me.
I suppose that part of why I want a conflict is that I have no idea what the “plot” of this story is supposed to be. Is it just watching some teenagers who have crushes on each other do nothing together for a whole summer? I mean, that technically counts as a “plot”, I guess. But, that’s boring. So much of what makes a story good is whether or not something interesting happens, and none of the interesting things that have happened so far in this series are getting any spotlight. Like, what about Kai’s alien cancer? That might be interesting (although it may actually not be), but the only role it’s had so far in the series is as a tool/device for allowing Kai and Ichika to have fumbling intimate moments and lots of “cute” and “funny” misunderstandings between themselves and the rest of the cast.
I suppose the other big factor in making a story a good one is whether or not the characters are likeable or relatable. And, I suppose that AnoNatsu’s cast is both of those. The characters are doing things that we can all relate to (so far) – like wanting to “do” something with our constantly waning youth (making a movie because they’re in high school, aka getting older), having an unreciprocated romantic interest (and let me go ahead and call bullshit on any of you that try to say that everyone you’ve ever liked has liked you back), and having misunderstandings with friends based on our own projections and low self-esteem (like Kai assuming automatically that Ichika would reject him). We’ve all been there and done that, and I applaud the series’ ability to make these “trivial” happenings into something the viewer can personally relate to. That’s great, but if high production values and characters we can relate to is all that AnoNatsu has to offer, well…. Ummmm…. It might not be enough to keep me entertained.
I mean, I already saw Honey and Clover, which was essentially a really well done series about a group of college kids dealing with the pain of unrequited love – with a lot of other important themes and ideas tossed in, like the value of artistic self-expression, using heartbreak as a tool to further our own self-discovery, becoming one’s own person independent of social/familial pressures, etc. I mean, so far, AnoNatsu’s unrequited crushes aren’t even causing the characters any pain, much less inspiring them to “find” themselves. The way the first three episodes have played out, it seems as if everything is just a happy-go-lucky dull candid-camera view of some shit-for-brains kids who are too dense to realize that anything at all is happening, exciting or not.
And, maybe that’s the point. I know, looking back on my own life, what I perceive in hind-sight to be the best times were the peaceful, happy, and fun times *between* all the crises. For example, looking back, I would say that often (and maybe this is a really unfortunate thing for me to admit about my own life) the best part of dating someone was that really sweet and easy time when there was just a simple crush and the pedestrian butterflies in the stomach resulting from that special person smiling, that wonderful sweetness that existed before officially becoming a couple and dealing with the dramas of jealousy, the endless hours of communicating about expectations, and the fights about whose turn it is to buy toilet paper, and so on. I’m acutely aware that those calm-before-the-storm periods in our lives are actually may be the absolute best moments, even though they are most often forgotten in favor of the more exciting story/plot moments.
All that aside, AnoNatsu still has that…. Charm. That damnable, irrefutable, and potentially insidious *charm*. It’s sickeningly sweet with just enough Remon (or Lemon, depending on your translation) to turn it into one of my favorite candies – sour gummy worms. 😉 And, speaking of Remon – she’s just as enigmatic in this episode as the previous ones. She is becoming more and more interesting to me every week, and I hope it isn’t just because she’s AnoNatsu’s last chance for making a comeback. In this episode, she made two odd comments about youth – the first when Ichika was wanting to know why Kai has skipped school, and the second when she said why she wants to film Kanna and Kai on the town. It may just be the subtleties (or the lack thereof) of being translated from the Japanese, but in both instances in the version I watched, Remon’s words could have been interpreted to mean that she is really different from the others. Like, maybe she’s some wise Methuselah from space who has been sent to capture the characters’ “passions of youth” on film. Maybe not, but it definitely adds to the ever increasing impression that Remon has some whole-nother-shit going on. I mean, that’s interesting enough, right? So, *hopefully* the next episode will take a few moments to expound upon it? I mean, for the love of god, I hope the next episode takes the opportunity to expound upon anything, anything at all that’s even remotely interesting. Please, please don’t make Episode 04 another 20+ minutes about high school kids wandering around aimlessly, doing and saying nothing!
Well, in summation, I’ll admit that despite my impatience, AnoNatsu has the charisma and charm required to pull me through to the next episode. Nice animation, consistent sound, and above average acting combined with characters and situations that are easily relatable combine to create another week of viewing that, while being nowhere near intellectually stimulating, is nonetheless pleasant and relaxing. Hopefully, next time will bring in elements of tension that serve to stream line the focus, but who knows? Honestly, even if AnoNatsu continues to be about dull high-schoolers doing and feeling dull things, there are much worse ways you could be spending 20 minutes.
Episode Rating: 7.0/10