Ano Natsu de Matteru – 04 Review
Ano Natsu de Matteru – Episode 04
Well, it looks like the only way I’m going to be able to enjoy this series is to drop all of my expectations and desires for something cool to happen and just appreciate it for what it is – a nicely done but utterly unoriginal sappy high school romcom with surprisingly high production values and above average voice acting.
After Kaito’s all-but-confession (where we left off last week), Ichika hurriedly boards the next train, leaving Kai hanging. The next morning, Kai and Ichika are both feeling very nervous – coming down the stairs, Kai is muttering to himself, “Don’t think about it,” and startles Ichika who is making lunch and mumbling, “Act normal.” After Ichika almost accidentally impales the poor teletubby (Rinon), she and Kai have a very uncomfortable bout of small talk. Kai proceeds to school, where Kanna and Miyo make small talk about their misadventures the day before and realize that Kai is acting strangely. Meanwhile, Ichika is getting screwed with by Remon – which results in a really cute scene with Ichika’s pencil lead breaking every time Remon says “Kirishima-kun”.
At lunch, Kai promptly begins another magenta-fantasy sequence, imagining that Ichika actually reciprocates his feelings. He crashes back into reality when he realizes that he is embracing his best friend Tetsuou. Kai consults Tetsuou about a “hypothetical” situation in which Boy-A has confessed to Girl-B, and Testuou advises him to relax and give Ichika some time to mull things over. In another part of the school, Ichika is consulting Remon about the same hypothetical situation, whereupon Remon advises giving an answer and asks what the girl thinks of the boy. Ichika admits that she likes Kai well enough, but that things are complicated due to the fact that one day she will be saying goodbye.
Later on, Kai is still replaying Tetsuou’s advice in his head, and Kanna shows up. In a surprisingly minimally-annoying way, Kanna inquires about the status of things between Kai and Ichika (apparently, she thinks that Kai and Ichika are having difficulties due to a cultural misunderstanding, and lacks the common sense to see what the true “problem” is), and expresses her support for their making up and getting along together. Remon walks up (in a school swimsuit, of course), and screws with Kai’s head a bit before Ichika pulls her back to swim class. Both Tetsuou and Remon refer to Kanna as “Girl-C” – Tetsuou remarking on her astounding lack of awareness, and Remon noting that she is Ichika’s rival.
Walking home from school, lost in another fantasy about how to deal with Ichika’s non-response to his confession, Kai is approached by a sexy cougar in a convertible. The cougar (who is unknown to the viewer, but apparently is familiar to Kai) proceeds to flirt with Kai in a very bold way, and ultimately convinces him to tag along with her for the afternoon. Coug and Kai drive past Ichika (who is also walking home from school and having magenta fantasies), which causes Ichika to get bent – her jealousy rages out of control and she automatically assumes that Kai is a player and is dating the cougar. In her fury, she threatens Rinon’s (the teletubby) life unless he/she/it properly teleports her around town to follow Kai and the cougar on a typical anime date. Ichika fumes, sayng that her motivation is solely because of her responsibility to Kai’s sister (right, keep on telling yourself that, hon). Ichika witnesses a shockingly run-of-the-mill ecchi genre date – complete with shopping at a lingerie store, boob-bounce sound effects, and a post-mall horror movie – and is horrified at the sight (as was I, but for entirely different reasons). Post-date, the cougar brings the poor, flustered Kai back to her place and unsuccessfully invites him to join her in the shower.
Magenta-fantasies that Kai and Coug are getting it on spur Ichika’s irrational horror to new levels. Ichika teleports herself into Coug’s apartment, and after an unsuccessful attempt at dragging Kai back home, she proceeds to give Kai an earful, complete with a bookbag beating. At the moment that Ichika’s brain starts to work (and she almost realizes that feeling so jealous over someone you aren’t dating is unreasonable and might mean something about your own feelings towards that person), the cougar reappears, mostly nude, to start some more trouble. Ichika, the defender/enforcer of Kai’s blatant virginity, stands up to the cougar, who is obviously picking on her – well, “obviously” to anyone besides our ultra-dense main-charas. I will note that the dynamic here between Kai and Ichika is very cute – every time Kai tries to talk, Ichika says, “Shut up!” and Kai immediately says, “Sumimasen!” – it’s all very well done. At the point where it seems like Coug is going to strangle Kai and Ichika for being painfully moronic teenagers without an ounce of self-awareness – Tetsuou walks in and reveals that Coug is his older, and married, sister who has the annoying habit of coming back home whenever she gets into a petty fight with her husband.
Walking home together, Ichika feels somewhere between an asshole and an idiot and tells Kai that she will do “anything” to apologize and make it up to him. Rather than ask for anything interesting (like an answer to his confession, a kiss, or a blow job), Kai stays well within his intensely bland character and asks for Ichika’s help in studying for the upcoming final exams. Unfortunately for the intellectually-challenged Kai, his request has unleashed a demon – Ichika forces him to study into the wee hours as well as during his lunch break the next day – relentlessly drilling him on various school subjects. Kai’s crew is watching this go down and is sympathizing with him when Kanna expresses her relief that Kai and Ichika have patched things up. Miyo watches on while Tetsuou playfully flirts with Kanna and calls her the dense “Girl-C”. Fast forward through some more fun times and studying, everything seems happy and good, and then final exams are over. As the episode ends, Kai and Ichika’s voices, narrating over the music, tell us that an unforgettable summer, full of happiness, sadness, and pain is about to begin.
Hmmmm…. So, I think I adequately expressed my wish for some sort of central conflict to drive the plot in last week’s review. FYI, the cougar (Tetsuou’s sister) doesn’t count…. and neither does… ANYTHING ELSE SO FAR! ARRRRGH! Okay, cool down time.
So, as I said in the beginning of this week’s review – if I drop my expectations, relax, and just enjoy the series for what it is, then I find it to be quite entertaining. I mean, it’s like a less-painfully-annoying Kimi ni Todoke. Ouch.
Let me put it this way – until I read someone else’s review (shout out to the Notaku Blog) I had completely forgotten about Kai’s alien cancer. Honestly, if it hadn’t been for a completely irrelevant email from my brother about redheads, aliens, and Tom Robbins, I would have forgotten that Ichika is an alien. And, if I hadn’t just remembered everything I’d forgotten, I would have probably forgotten that this series is supposed to be about high school kids making a movie over the summer. Wow.
For all of you who are big fans of AnoNatsu, let me reiterate that as a high-school romcom, I think the series is fantastic so far. I love the acting – especially in the “shut up”/”sumimasen” scene between Kai and Ichika. I still think all the characters are truly likable and that their development is subtle and witty. The series has this overarchingly genuine and gentle tone, and I find it enlivening and sometimes even breathtaking. Whatever the creators are doing, they’re doing it right – I can’t help but get emotionally entangled and have visceral responses to every episode. And, that’s really saying something. I like anime (obviously), but I haven’t found many shows that can elicit such responses from myself and other viewers in the way that AnoNatsu does.
That being said, AnoNatsu’s quiet brilliance (starting with the first episode) really led me to have great expectations. The way that each character and situation has been cliché, but… just a little bit *more*… All of it really worked to create a level of hype that, like a snare in the brush, really caught me. I suppose I will have to admit that I wanted nothing less than greatness from AnoNatsu, but now I’m at the point of nearly admitting my disappointment.
And, for all you fan boy/girls, here’s more about why I feel the way I do. I’ve got issues with the pacing, hype, and continuity *in relation to* the number of episodes that this series apparently has. Okay, so let’s break that down a bit. First off, please correct me if I’m wrong (and I hope I’m wrong), but this series is only going for one season, right?
So, if an anime has 12 episodes, that breaks down to roughly 20-21 minutes per episode, times 12 episodes total… So, that’s about 4 hours of actual show (minus OP/ED/etc). Well, that means that so far, almost 17% of AnoNatsu’s story has been based on the relatively boring “misunderstandings” of the two main characters during the last two episodes. One whole third of the show has been an “introduction”, spent on character development and establishing the setting. I mean, Episode 05 is next, and if what Kai and Ichika say at the end of this week’s episode is true, then we will actually start to get into “the story” from here on out. I get that this is a more slice-of-life type of pacing, but even for slice-of-life, it seems slow. For the sake of the numbers, I should probably go back through every episode aired so far and calculate the amount of time dedicated to the more interesting elements (like Remon, Kai’s alien cancer, Ichicka’s alien-ness), but I’m not going to, because we all know that it’s pointless. The percentage of time spent on these elements so far has been negligible.
I mean, the alien cancer thing seemed like it was going to be a big deal. So did the fact that Ichika is an alien. So, why are those issues absent? I mean, it’s already apparent beyond belief that Ichika and Kai are clueless dipshits that are incapable of noticing the thing that everyone else regards as fact – that the two have a mutual crush on each other. Big deal, it happens sometimes. It’s well done, and I love the acting, but if AnoNatsu is just a story about two immature teens that have a mutual crush and don’t have the brains/balls to admit it, then why bother making Ichika an alien and why bother throwing in the honeycomb cancer? There’s this thing called continuity, and AnoNatsu seemed like it had it (in Ep01) but it’s gotten lost somewhere along the way.
Okay, now for the tragedy otherwise known as “hype”. Frankly, I’m starting to get sick of the fact that I’ve spent 4 episodes (which is time out of my own life) hearing Kai’s voice tell me about how “amazing” and “important” this summer is. The summer hasn’t even started yet! WTF??? I mean the translation of the title is “Waiting in the Summer”, right? What are we waiting for exactly? I’m tired of waiting. I didn’t even realize that I was waiting until the end of *Episode 04*, when Kai’s disembodied voice informs me that the actual story is yet to come. Come on, already! Stop hyping it up and start delivering. They’ve been hyping up this damned “unforgettable summer” since the PV came out in December. I mean, at this rate, it will actually *be* summer before I find out what was so unforgettable about it all. Ugh.
I mean, I assume that AnoNatsu is going to do something with the major plot elements it has already introduced – like Remon’s mysteriousness, Kai’s alien cancer, the movie thing, Ichika being an extra terrestrial, and the love triangles. But, when? And what could possibly happen at this point? I’m just getting this sinking feeling that anything major (plot-wise) coming in at this point is going to feel rushed. Like, will Kai’s alien cancer act up in Ep08? About the time that they start getting around to making a movie and it’s revealed that Ichika is some sort of princess with overwhelming responsibilities in outer space? And then, since Kai is probably undead or something, he’ll have to marry Ichika and zoom off to outer space with her? If you’ve got a better guess, then by all means, be my guest.
I mean, some of the simple points that have been brought up so far in the series are interesting – like Ichika denying her feelings for Kai and calling them “complicated” just because of her inevitable departure. My friends and I discuss this sort of thing fairly frequently. Like, should you dump your bf/gf as soon as you realize that you have no future together (aka when you realize that they aren’t the person you’re going to marry)? Should you refrain from dating or sleeping with someone when you know that it will be a relationship with severely limited future? That’s a good question, and a common one too. However, it doesn’t seem like AnoNatsu is interested in exploring this sort of thing. It doesn’t even really seem like AnoNatsu has realized that it brought the question up in the first place.
Kimi ni Todoke was 38 episodes of clueless high school kids not knowing that they shared a mutual crush. I like AnoNatsu’s character designs, sound, and animation better, but Kimi ni Todoke had this curious thing called “character development”. It’s the bread and butter of slice-of-life romcom series. If AnoNatsu wants to be in that genre, then fine and dandy, it stands a good chance of being stand-out with its consistent acting, sound, animation – but if there isn’t going be any action, adventure, spaceships, alien-cancers, or bad guys, then the characters are going to have to undergo some serious overhauls and/or life-changing events in order to make this series worth while.
I mean, it’s cute. Sure, the teletubby is adorable, the “misunderstandings” have their sweet moments, and the character’s sentimental attitudes and gazes abound. Sure, almost murdering the teltubby made me chuckle, as did Ichika bossing Kai around. I was really digging Remon’s character because she seemed liked she really knew what was going on – but as of this episode, it seems less like she’s a boss and more like she simply has some clue about interpersonal relationships. Tetsuou and his sister (Mrs. Cougar) also seem to have brains, and although I thought their roles in this episode were funny/cute/sweet, it doesn’t mean much when I think a character is smart/funny if my sole basis for comparison is the other characters who are as dumb as rocks (Kai, Ichika, and Kanna).
Yes, the teletubby is cute. Yes, the show is extremely charming and has good production values. No, I’m not a hater. Rest assured, for a typical slice-of-life anime, I think that AnoNatsu is top notch. However, I do sincerely wish that AnoNatsu would take things up a notch.
So, go ahead and leave some comments telling me how much you agree or disagree with me. Hopefully one of you will say something to inform me of some wonderful aspect of the episode that I missed, and it will bring my AnoNatsu excitement level back up to where it was at the start of the season. I do plan to keep on reviewing this show weekly – I just hope I’m not “blogging” a dead horse. 🙂
Episode Rating: 6.5/10