Ano Natsu de Matteru – The unforgettable summer
April 29, 2012 Leave a comment
Ano Natsu de Matteru was a series that I had looked forward to since hearing about it, being a romantic comedy, a genre which I am quite fond of. Seeing the people involved, including those behind the Onegai Franchise (writer Kuroda Yousuke, producer Ogura Mitsutoshi), along with the director of AnoHana and Toradora (Nagai Tatsuyuki) gave the impression that this would be a brilliant romance that was worth watching. Of course, as other anime with strong teams behind them have demonstrated (Guilty Crown), this did not mean that it was going to be perfect. Of course, that was not the case, and Ano Natsu de Matteru exceeded my expectations, producing a story that was beautiful to watch, full of emotional depth, great characters and a well-written story.
At first there was the distinct possibility that this show was a copy of Onegai Teacher – the setting was pretty similar, along with the red haired, glasses wearing alien suddenly arriving. There are clearly similarities between the two shows, however, this is not necessarily a bad thing, and a show does not have to be completely different, or innovate in order to be successful. Ano Natsu de Matteru is not innovative or unique; it is a classic high school romance story involving a ‘sudden grielfreind appearance (in this case an alien). But, the lack of innovation is not a flaw, rather, it is the way in which this story is told, and how the character interact that produce such an enjoyable series to watch.
It was a brilliant romantic comedy, mixing elements of science fiction with our five protagonists seemingly in the love pentagram from hell, one with no visible solution, and only devastation on the horizon. While watching it there was an implicit understanding that due to the nature of this complicated network of overlapping feelings within the group, there would be one character that is left out and becomes heartbroken and possibly even an emotional wreck. Many other romance anime have had similar problems, with one character just left out in the cold, seemingly abandoned, not only by the one they love, but also the world at large.
In Ano Natsu de Matteru, the character who seemed most likely to end up like this was Kanna, her love for Kaito was unrequited, and the sudden appearance of Ichika seemingly spelled the end. And yet, while Kanna did go through a certain amount of emotional turmoil, she was never heartbroken and never abandoned, there was no big, dramatic breakup like many other romance series. Instead, we had a brilliant example of how friends can help each other – everyone knew of their own feelings, but were able to leave them to one side so that their friendship was not damaged. Ano Natsu de Matteru is a series that is as much about friendship as it is about love – if anything; our group valued their friendship more than love. While there may have been misunderstandings along the way, we see Mio, Tetsurou, Kanna, Kaito and Ichika constantly trying to help each other. Rather than forget about their friends just because they have found someone they love, this group grow closer as the series goes on, something that is clearly demonstrated during the last couple of episodes.
It was fascinating to see the group grow closer, but also more mature at the same time as individual characters grew and matured – this demonstrates clever, and brilliant writing by Kuroda Yousuke. One of the major strengths of the cast was how likeable they were – it was possible to make a real connection with the characters in this series. Often there are some characters you like, and others that you are mostly indifferent to – and of course a few that bring about feelings of hatred or just dislike – this was not the case in Ano Natsu de Matteru. It was a story about growing as individuals, learning to forgive, learning to move on with their lives without regrets. In essence, while Ano Natsu de Matteru was a pure romance on the one hand, it was also a deftly written coming-of-age tale about a group of friends, who, although they may have their differences, will always be true to each other and stick together.
This series has always been about he intertwining relationships amongst its characters, and also how each of them is perceptive of a different set of feelings and relationships. For example, Tetsurou is acutely aware of Kanna’s feelings for Kaito, but ignorant of Mio’s own feelings for him. Mio acknowledges her feelings for Tetsurou, but also suggests that Kanna does not notice his feelings for her due to how close they are. It is a clear example of how feelings can be easily hidden from those who are close to you, or perhaps simply not noticed. The romantic frustration and interactions between the characters becomes palpable during several episodes, with the introduction of rivals, problems and more, unknown emotions that threatened to destroy peoples friendships. What has impressed me so far is Ano Natsu’s ability to maintain a good level of dramatic and romantic tension without falling into melodrama. The relationships in this series are incredibly complex and move in multiple directions, but it also manages to keep the flow and maintain a good balance between drama and comedy.
Furthermore, seeing how the characters begin to freely admit their own failings, along with acknowledging that what you want may not be what you get was a wonderful element of the series. Seeing both Tetsurou and Kanna acknowledge that they waited to long to make their feelings known shows that they have matured. Tetsurou, comfortable with his and Kanna’s relationship appears content to be by her side and accompany her through life, unfortunately in doing so she falls in love with Kaito, and he loses his opportunity to admit his true feelings. Kanna faces a similar problem; she may have only known Kaito for three years, but she remained content to be close to him as a friend. When Ichika arrived, she simply allowed things to happen, instead of being more aggressive and confessing to Kaito herself. They had begun to hate themselves for their mistakes, and more than that, were in danger of hating everyone else around them as well. Seeing Tetsurou confess to Kanna, but acknowledge that she still loves Kaito was wonderful, and made even more so when Kanna finally confesses to Kaito.
We also had a nice change from many other romance anime with the main couple being together, and confessing their feelings quite early on in the series. While Ichika struggled with her conflicting emotions – with the knowledge that she was an alien, while at the same time knowing that she loves Kaito, but being incapable of admitting that to herself – we see Kaito confessing to her. It was nice to see a series where the main couple were not constantly being lead around in circles by misunderstandings (although there were a fair few of those as well), and instead of having the confession in the final episode, it came halfway through the series, if not earlier. We far too often see protagonists in romance anime only take the initiative within the last couple of episodes, and more often than not the final episode of the series. This seems to be taking a leaf out of Onegai Teacher’s book, where the romance between Kei and Mizuho properly started during the early/middle part of the series, with other events providing the drama.
The catharsis of the characters admitting their feelings was brilliant; it was as if a massive weight had been lifted from their shoulders, allowing them to move on with the lives. It further demonstrated how such experiences can be important in life, and that overreacting can cause irreparable damage that may destroy friendships and ruin relationships. By having characters acknowledge their shortcomings and mistakes demonstrated a real maturity in the script – there was the realisation that mistakes can, and sometimes have to be made in order to move on with your life. It was not a series that was afraid to show characters as immature, but also capable of seeing their own immaturity and not allowing it to hurt them or their friends. Although Tetsurou becomes angry at seeing Kanna in such an emotional state, he is also angry at himself, knowing that he was partly the cause of the situation. The characters were more likely to be angry at themselves rather than blame others for their mistakes, although perhaps other characters may have been involved.
Mio was one of the most surprising characters in the entire series, and her metamorphosis from a silent and quite timid character into someone with a strong will, who constantly strives for her own goals. It was fascinating to see someone who was so timid as to barely speak, become this strong person who berates Tetsurou for simply leaving things and questions his maturity. Her characters evolution has been one of the best things about Ano Natsu de Matteru, and has happened in a very subtle way that makes her character at the end of the series seem perfectly natural. She was the emotional support for Tetsurou and Kanna, capable of seeing their feelings, but also telling them why they may be wrong. It was also great to see how such a timid girl can become so bold as to be able to hug Tetsurou, along with being perfectly happy to be alone with him.
It is the way in which Ano Natsu de Matteru deals with the complexities of intertwining emotions and relationships, which to me sets it apart from many other romance anime. There are no massive breakups, no melodrama, and no hatred – rather than the characters hating each other for not returning their feelings, we instead see them begin to hate themselves. They are afraid of their own weaknesses, but by freely admitting to them, they are capable of accepting their own failings and begin to move on with their lives. While Kanna may have been the overall loser in this series, there is never any real indication that a ‘loser’ exists. We are shown that life, and indeed love is not as simple as you might think, simply because Kanna, and in some respects Tetsurou were unable to be with the one they wanted, that does not mean it’s the end of the world. Instead, they know this has happened, and instead choose to get on with their lives, while still being friends with everyone else.
Ano Natsu de Matteru was a show with an immense amount of maturity, with a clever script, and some brilliant little scenes towards the end. It kept changing direction, tone and mood, all the while maintaining key plot points throughout. While it may not be original or unique, that never mattered, rather it was the way in which this story was told that helped to produce what is easily my favorite series of the season. The central couple may have been a forgone conclusion, especially considering who wrote the script, but that does not take anything away from the romance itself. It was the way in which this central romance happened, along with the growth of the side characters and how they all interacted together that helped to form a simply brilliant series. One major problem, however, is that the series was too short – given a second season the relationships within the group could have been further developed. This does not take anything away from the series itself, but does demonstrate how time constraints can often mean that certain elements of a story are sadly left. But it was easily my favorite series of the season, and one of the best romance anime that I have ever watched.