Ano Natsu de Matteru – 12 Review
Ano Natsu de Matteru – Episode 12 Final
Curious to see what Kelfio and M0rg0th have to say about it all?
Anyone would’ve a hard time telling you what makes Ano Natsu a good series. It’s the kind of series that so fully embraces its story that it loses a bit of perspective. Romance isn’t bad – cheesiness is, though. And Ano Natsu comes very close to being cheesy. So, to start the review with a warning: If you don’t like to see teenagers squirm about their feelings – then the series is not for you.
Well, I guess I should’ve mentioned even before that this series isn’t very inspired also. So if you’re looking for some imaginative anime-hipster-invention this isn’t it either. In fact most people will probably point at Onegai Teacher and say this series is a load of unimaginative crap. My response would be something like “Yeah, but so was Onegai Teacher actually.” When I saw the first episode of Ano Natsu I knew immediately that the cynic in me would disapprove of this series. Sentimental, melodramatic, blatant: Those were words that came to mind while watching it. Just the first seconds of the first episode for example evoked that kind of response from me (first come the lines from Kaito, then my thoughts on it):
I don’t think that people go to heaven when they die…
What, you wanna go to hell instead?
I think people live on in other people’s memories, in their hearts.
So? You think you’re keeping Elvis alive in your heart or something like that?
But people’s memories fade at some point and they forget…
Wait, so they die a second time?! Isn’t that even more horrible than considering them dead the first time…!?
That’s why one needs to leave something behind so people remember you.
Geez, teenager and already thinking about posterity, what an arrogant bastard…
So, personally I wasn’t that stoked about the series. I’m not that big of a fan of romance-series but it’s not like I will be sitting here now and rant about romance-series. That’s something I reserve for shallow crap like Amagami SS+ (which was like Amagami SS only ten times more boring and duller). Ano Natsu as a romance-series is actually a lot of fun, I think.
The greatest difference in the approach of Ano Natsu that everyone’s romantic inclinations are known from the very beginning. Usually we get to see “First Love, the Odyssey” as the plot with the main-character stumbling through his life while taking his pretty time to do anything about the romantic mess that is the story. Like that Ano Natsu had a completely different kind of romance-story where sorting out each character’s feelings became more important than some retarded idiot making a decision after some drama. And I think with that setup the Kanna/Mio/Tetsurou’s romantic interactions were far more interesting than the main-couple. There was never any doubt in my mind that Kaito would get together with the alien-girl but with the rest of the characters it wasn’t quite as certain how they would sort out their feelings. Although if you think carefully about it there were only two options how it could end and the series wasn’t daring enough for drastic plot-twists.
What kept the whole procedure interesting throughout the series was that the romantic conflicts were openly discussed. There were no crippling cases of extreme ignorance and shyness. The series never hid any kind of emotional turmoil and with the good romantic character-setup that there was always a character watching another character closely and so when that characters had any kind of emotional problem they would talk about it. And that gave the series a really nice dynamic flow even though the plot itself wasn’t very inspired or anything.
Now as to the story, I have to say that the alien-parts were just lazy. It wasn’t obnoxious enough to call it a complete waste of time, I mean it did what it had to do and that is being a plothook. But beyond that it didn’t really amount to anything. This story would’ve been the same if the alien-girl would’ve been some random girl fleeing from home and finding a new place, love and so on. The alien-stuff was pretty much a trifling matter until the finale. And then it was just there for some forced melodrama.
Well, the usual fits of drama and action at the end of an anime-series, that’s all I need to say about the final, I think. It was predictable and since the alien-stuff never got any real build-up and never was of any real importance I naturally didn’t give a shit about the sci-fi-stuff. This is a romance-series and to be honest, I think the only reason why alien-stuff was in this series was because it gave them the time to actually stretch the series to twelve episodes. Without the alien-stuff this series could’ve been finished in the 9thepisode, I think.
I said before that there was quite a dynamic flow to the character-interactions and their emotional problems which never stayed hidden for a long period of time but this also meant that the series needed to throw quite some few forced plot twists into the story to keep it going. This would’ve been a really good romance-series with just eight episodes and no alien-stuff. But starting from the Okinawa-part it was obvious that the series was stalling. The romantic conflicts were close to be finished but something like five episodes were left. I don’t really blame a series for having to do that after choosing an interesting approach that only works for so long. It is still a good idea after all to let the characters openly deal with their emotions instead of barricading themselves in a shell of angsty anger. From a plot-structural point-of-view, though, it means that there’s no real motivation for the audience to sit through the second half besides being proven right as to who ends up with whom.
Ultimately Ano Natsu is a good romance series with solid characters but no depth or subtlety to speak of. It’s certainly better than romance-series like Yosagu no Sora or School Days with its open approach but the far weaker second half with the overall cheesy overtones make it quite hard to like the series if one isn’t a fan of the romance-genre.
Ano Natsu is cute. Ano Natsu is charming. It’s a sweet little gem of a romance series.
Unfortunately though, it’s far from perfect. While the consistently above average animation and acting almost make up for its failings in the character department, there is still something left to be desired in the end. It’s hard to say what exactly made me lose a lot of the excitement I had at the beginning of the series, but I think it was primarily due to the flatness of the main couple, Kaito and Ichika. They just weren’t dynamic. Neither of them developed or grew as a character during the series, which made it nearly impossible to root for them or feel much sympathy for their situation. It was blatantly obvious from Ep01 that Ichika and Kaito would get together, that Ichika would leave, but that somehow things would work out in the end. And that’s fine – a predictable plot doesn’t necessarily make an anime bad or good – but if the plot itself isn’t providing the excitement and entertainment, it’s left to the characters to do so.
Throughout the entire show, Kaito (and sometimes Ichika) would come in and narrate, going on and on about how this was some really incredible summer that would change their lives with all sorts of super dramatic craziness. And sure, the setup was there – it really would be nuts and a massively life changing event to fall in love for the first time with someone from another planet – but for whatever reason, none of that really seemed to have any sort of deep impact on either Ichika’s or Kaito’s personality. Neither of them grew or matured or significantly changed at all. It’s too bad that the main couple was so dull, since the rest of the cast was fairly awesome. I’d have to say that Mio and Kanna were the real stars of the show. Both of them were pressed by their respective feelings to step outside of their comfort zones and make some important changes to themselves – Kanna went from being a really hung up and whiny person to someone with the courage to accept the truth, and Mio went from being terribly shy and reserved to a more confident person willing to trust her friends to accept her for who she was. And neither Kanna’s nor Mio’s changes were too drastic or overwhelming. They were completely believable and felt realistic. I really wish that Remon’s character had been flushed out a bit more. She was intriguing throughout the show, and I wanted to know a bit more about her background and motivations. Entertaining as it was, simply handing Remon a van with anti-aircraft missiles and a Will-Smith-worthy pair of shades was a bit disappointing.
One thing I did appreciate about the series was that the romance was the meat of the show, and not just the product of the happy ending. In so many animes, it seems as if the entire show is just a buildup to the final scene where the characters confess, realize their feelings are mutual, and then “Voila!” everyone rides off into the sunset and the credits roll, leaving the viewer to assume that everything will be peaches and cream between the couple for the rest of eternity. Now, I’m probably not the only person who’s smart enough to know that in real life, the moment where most animes end is really only the beginning of the story for a couple in love. I appreciated how Kanna, Tetsurou, and Mio’s unrequited loves were revealed and confessed with enough time before the ending that we were able to see some of the results and how the characters chose to deal with the changed dynamics between the members of the crew. It was kind of refreshing, and a nice change of pace from the typical anime-girl who, once rejected by the main-chara, typically just fades away into the background.
As for the alien-stuff… It really became a source of frustration for me. As M0rg0th has said, it was nothing more than a plot hook. It’s hard to say, but I think I would have enjoyed Ano Natsu more without the alien-stuff. By the time Ichika’s identity as an alien was revealed, I could do nothing but face-palm and shake my head at the sheer stupidity of the characters. Really? Things like none of the characters ever once being disturbed by the fact that Ichika has a teletubby following her around, and how no one ever manages to notice any of Ichika’s blatant slip-ups when she’s talking about where she’s from, and how none of the crew seems even remotely creeped out (or even particularly curious or interested) by the fact that Ichika is an alien… I don’t even want to get into that damned alien-cancer that Kaito had… I understand that the alien-stuff was just thrown in as a convenient way to hook viewers and to advance the plot, but overall it really detracted from the show’s good parts.
Overall, Ano Natsu has a really pleasant warm and charming feeling about a group of friends sharing a once-in-a-lifetime season together. In that way, it’s reminiscent of something like Honey and Clover or one of the myriad independent movies about some nostalgic young-adult or teenage summer. Somewhere along the way though, it seemed like Ano Natsu got caught up in itself and lost sight of the big picture. It seemed as if in rushing to re-introduce the alien-stuff and have a full on confession-fest, Ano Natsu got tripped up by focusing on the inter-couple dynamics and almost forgot about the more important group interactions. At the end, when the group (minus Ichika and Remon) are all watching the movie they made together, it comes close to giving off that nostalgia feeling, but somehow misses the mark. I would have been interested to see a little more about how the inter-group romances affected their friendships – like, how Kaito and Tetsurou’s bond may have strengthened or been strained by Kanna’s feelings. Instead, the group dynamics were largely ignored, and the viewer is left to assume that the endless love polygon somehow didn’t really amount to much or significantly change their relationships with each other in the end. That’s fine, but even a simple message – something like, “Friendship will overcome heartbreak,” or showing that the bonds between them were stronger than any one of their personal romantic disappointments – just something simple like that would have made the show better by leaps and bounds.
All in all, Ano Natsu is a charming and pleasant watch. Plenty of things could have been done a little better, but it’s a sweet romance that can definitely entertain for a few hours. The consistently great voice acting and nice animation don’t hurt either. And, that teletubby sure does grow on you.