Ano Natsu de Matteru 09 – Heartbreak and a Lakeside Confession
March 8, 2012 1 Comment
Romance in anime can be quite tiresome at times, with what often appears to be an endless sea of misunderstandings and drama that stretch the story and the potential relationship out as far as it can go. But, as with all relationships, be they romantic or otherwise, misunderstandings happen, they are part of everyday life, Ano Natsu de Matteru is no exception to this, and there are plenty of misunderstandings, however, rather than resolving the situation and getting back to life as normal, with no change, we see Kaito and Ichika grow far closer as a result of each others misunderstandings and misconceptions. This is one of the elements of the story that has been so successful, rather than have a seemingly endless chain of misunderstandings and unfortunate circumstances we instead see these characters grow ever closer with each passing week, which resulted this week in one of the sweetest moments I’ve seen in anime in a while.
This week however, started with Ichika finally revealing to everyone that she is an alien, and doing it in grand fashion, something that everyone else takes rather well given the circumstances. It was fascinating seeing how amazed they all were, and yet how easily they accepted Ichika’s announcement, and as Mio and Lemon point out, it wasn’t as if Ichika was particularly good at hiding her strange and honestly ‘alien’ behaviour. It was more fascinating to see how they neither screamed nor pushed Ichika away as a ‘freak’, thus shunning her from the group. If anything it demonstrated how close this group are, even with Ichika who hasn’t been a part of it for long. Got to love how Tetsurou was fast to ask if they can look around, right after saying that they wouldn’t tell anyone – it was a slightly surreal moment, as if no one had quite realised what had just happened.
This apparent dismissal of Ichika’s alien nature is quite interesting because it helps to demonstrate that this show is about the interweaving relationships between all the characters, rather than a series of strange events out of a science fiction series. It is clearly important, but it is not at the centre of the series, instead taking a supporting role in this drama that unfolds. It did however provide another great little comic moment that helped to break up the tension – finding out that Ichika truly believed in a mysterious agency called ‘The Men in Black’, who apparently kidnap and generally mess around with aliens was great. It’s little comic moments like this that help to break up the drama, however, they never destroy the overal tone of the series, or any tension, instead they can further enhance what is already happening.
This episode once again focussed on Kaito and Ichika, and more specifically the misunderstanding between them. Rather than being a classic misunderstanding such as walking in on the girl while changing, or perhaps accidentally groping her, the misunderstanding was of a far more real, and problematic nature. Their misunderstanding was to do with their fears, doubts, feelings and motivations – they know of each others feelings, but are worried about the consequences of their actions on themselves and those around them. Ichika is convinced that she will have to leave Earth at some point (and I remain convinced that she may be forced to before the series ends) – she doesn’t want this to happen, and avoids Kaito on the pretext of looking for ‘that special place’.
In essence she is avoiding herself, being incapable of admitting her own, strong, feelings for Kaito – she also appears to be genuinely afraid of love and of loving Kaito. Perhaps the concept of falling so deeply in love with someone that you begin to worry about the little things in life, along with ideas about potentially having to return to your own planet is too scary for her, so she runs away from it. Kaito has accepted that Ichika is an alien and now wants to help her with all his might; he truly cares for her and wants to do anything he can. But she pushes him away out of fear, which only makes things worse. Neither truly understands the other, they have yet to acknowledge their own fears and anxieties, along with their own feelings, thus they cannot be together.
The problem with Ichika is that she cant tell the wood from the trees – she is incapable of acknowledging that there is a group of friends who have accepted her identity. She is also incapable of reconciling her own feelings with that of guilty, pain and fear – she seems to think that her arrival has destroyed this tight knit group of friends. She has also been involved in Kaito’s death, twice, first from her crash landing, and the second time when he tries to save her from what he perceives to be a threat. It is as if in her mind she has only brought pain to this town, and that hurts her even more with the knowledge that she has grown to love the town, and love Kaito. It does however show how much she truly cares, not only for Kaito, but also for everyone else, and how much she treasures their friendship. It is however the fear of losing that all which drives her to alienate herself from Kaito, in the hope that it will all go away once she finds her precious place – she is effectively avoiding the issue, which only makes matters worse.
This is a fascinating problem for both, because by all accounts, neither has done anything wrong. Kaito has done almost everything right so far, so his frustration at the situation is entire understandable – he clearly feels useless and annoyed, not only at Ichika, but at himself for being unable to help her when she is clearly in pain. And yet he appears to be annoyed at Ichika for blanking him and leaving him out of her plans, as if his confession and feelings dont mean anything to her (which of course is wrong). Ichika’s dilemma is also understandable though; she is caught between two worlds, unable to find the best course of action, almost like a kite being buffeted to and fro by the wind, but without any clear direction. Her being an alien isn’t really as important as the other elements, rather Ichika’s alien origins are simply another part of the central dilemma that she must face and overcome. I very much like how this problem is not given the melodramatic treatment, rather it is a simple misunderstanding between two people who are deeply in love, further complicated by circumstances that are beyond their control.
Lemon had a strange role in all of this, one that was a slight departure for a character that tends to spend the majority of her time capturing the teen angst amongst our group on film. It was fascinating seeing how, rather than amusing her own strange and possibly twisted fetishes, Lemon was deadly serious with Kaito. Seeing her chastise Kaito for being childish, only thinking about his own feelings and ignoring those of the person he professes to love was a curious twist, and one that demonstrated how mature Lemon is (even if she doesn’t necessarily show it). It was a nice little development, which demonstrated that Lemon, while being a bit sadistic at times, is capable of providing good advice when it counts. I was, however, very surprised by the way in which Kanna confronted Ichika. In a sense Kanna utterly destroyed her heart in this scene by confronting Ichika and telling her that she was simply running away and avoiding the situation.
Kanna bluntly points out that Ichika is trying to hide behind her own fear, anxiety and the excuses that she has created for herself. But, more importantly, that she always has a choice, and to say otherwise is naïve and simple ignorance. Seeing Kanna on the verge of breaking down showing Ichika that she was going down a path of self destruction and that doing so would solve nothing, and worse still potentially destroy her and Kaito was heart breaking. I have always preferred Ichika and Mio in this series, however Kanna will always be a special, and very courageous character, who was willing to put her own feelings on the line in order to bring Kaito back to his usual self. It demonstrated that this is an ensemble cast in many ways, and while Kaito and Ichika are the central relationship, the others are just as important, and should not be viewed as simple window dressing. One thing that I havent mentioned much has been the animation, and in particular the backgrounds – there is something about the big, beautifully animated backgrounds that simply adds another element to this series. Seeing Kanna cry with Tetsurou holding her and Mio hiding with this big, grandiose back drop adds a certain gravitas to the emotions that they are having to deal with.
This show has always been about the relationships in the group, along with the emotions – many of which are hidden – that are between them. Now that these emotions are out in the open I am fascinated to see how the show finally ends. Kanna has utterly destroyed herself to bring Kaito back to his usual ways, not only showing how much she knows about Kaito, but also that she is capable of truly selfless, if destructive acts of kindness. We now have the precarious position of having Kanna, Tetsurou and Mio as one group after Kaito and Ichika finally made up and acknowledged their feelings for each other. There is still the potential for Mio and Tetsurou to end up together, but whatever happens, one of them will be left out and that person will be utterly devastated. While Ichika and Kaito are finally a couple it seems obvious that we will hear from Ichika’s alien friends before the series finishes, probably due to the crashed rescue pod. I have to wonder how this will end, since in Onegai Teacher it all ended happily, after some strange alien intervention. We also have to see how the relationship between Tetsurou, Kanna and Mio ends, and I’m sure emotions will be running high.