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Ano Natsu de Matteru: A Joint Review

On a whim, Linda and gendomike decided to review one of the Winter 2012’s best anime, Ano Natsu de Matteru (Waiting in the Summer) together. Here’s the result.

Please note that this review contains major spoilers for Ano Natsu and some for Onegai Teacher. You have been warned.

On Relationships, Idealized and Unfulfilled

Linda: Ano Natsu de Matteru didn’t end the way Onegai Teacher did, and Onegai Teacher had been one of my top titles when I was in college a couple of years ago. But Ano Natsu had a bittersweet ending that made me rethink the romance novels I read with their happy endings. Finding an ideal companion is not easy, but I mentally saluted Kaitou-kun’s bravery for facing up with his feelings. Carpe Diem or Seize the Day!

Shouldn’t it be as easy and straightforward to find an ideal companion as Kaitou did with Ichika? But that is a dream for many seems impossible. Kanna, as much as I try to ignore her character, did fill a role that many people might feel. In trying to find the ideal companion, she found it in Kaitou, but since Kaitou was in love with Ichika, she had to back away. Then the situation with Tetsuro came out very unexpectedly with Mio also liking him. So in the end, Kanna was left alone and how she accepted it, is quite realistic and mature. It is sad for those “happily ever after” fans, but realistically speaking this seems to be a role that I noticed a lot in my own life and of others I observed.

gendomike: While the relationship between Kai and Ichika really is idealized, I think what moved me more was what happened to everyone else. A lot of the emotional heft was really carried by their friends who are left out by the main couple—Kanna especially, to whom I dedicated my Valentine’s Day article. This show does the angst and confusion of first love really well on the whole.

Still, real relationships are definitely more complicated than this show makes it out to be! There’s just enough realism, though, to make the show just a little more bitter as well, as sweet. The pain on their faces and in their suppressed emotions—which eventually do come out—is real. The show respects those feelings as much as it brings the destined pair together in a well-directed way. In that it is following in the footsteps of its great predecessors, Honey and Clover and Toradora! The jilted get their say too.

Finding that ideal companion is not going to be easy, when the world is filled with superficial events. But as for scenes of love fulfilled I feel that this scene on the train is a great one. Trains fill my everyday living, since I live in New York City. When two people sit side by side and you know them, it makes for a good conversation, or just a trip waiting for the final destination. Being stuck in an iron car is just that. The final destination that Kai and Ichika made was to the place in Ichika’s memory of earth. I kept on thinking about was Lake Kizaki in Nagano Prefecture, the place that was the inspiration for Onegai Teacher and Onegai Twins. The part where the tree disintegrated made me think “Oh no!” But still the part also makes me wonder is the animators trying to connect and finally conclude the ending of Onegai Teacher? I think I teared up at that part.

It is Lake Kizaki! That was on purpose, to connect it directly with the earlier series. This is Yousuke Kuroda writing it, after all.

This train scene was the best part of the final episode, which I otherwise found rather odd and somewhat unsatisfying. The sharp genre shift of the last two episodes was, admittedly, not entirely unhinted at, but the show was at its best as an emotionally nuanced teenage love drama, not a sci-fi chase series complete with actual Men In Black. Of course, Ichika’s alien-ness was going to have to come back at some point, given the show’s premise and its connection to the original Onegai Teacher series. I’m not sure they could have done any better in fact without cutting ties to that completely.

But it was nice to see two people who actually love each other and can say so out loud in anime. That happens far too rarely.

On Remon

The character of Remon stood out for me. I think lots of other people like her. The truth of her being MiB seemed kinda fishy for me, but the shot of her in this last episode scene I really liked. She is what I believe to be the conscious adult in a group of teenagers. In spite of her pretending to be the same age as Ichika, I imagine she is the adult that adults aspire to be in real life. Someone of use and has life experiences that can be a role model to others.

Remon was both a very amusing presence and also a problem for the story. She had some of the sharpest one-liners, but she wasn’t really that much of a character than a plot device to help the other characters along. By the end it’s clear she is meant to be the same person as Ichigo from the previous Onegai series: a loli who is much older than she looks, who is sarcastic and clever, and likes to mastermind events behind the scenes. She’s even played by the same voice actress as Ichigo, Yukari Tamura, and does the otaku in-joke of being “forever 17.” (She and Kikuko Inoue—who played the Teacher in Onegai Teacher—have been saying that line for years.) In other words, Remon is basically a gimmick—albeit a very entertaining one. Getting everyone drunk and giving Kai and Ichika a condom were some of the show’s highlights!

On the Ending and the ED

I wasn’t sure when I was watching the ending: did Ichika come back, or did they photoshop her wearing the outfit that Kai’s sister got for her? (Ano Natsu showed off a lot of the older sister characters, for both Kai and Tetsuro, and Mike and I talked in chat about how the older sister is used as a parental substitute in anime a lot lately.) So Ano Natsu might appeal to young adults watching this series the same way that I thought with Onegai Teacher. Certainly in young adult literature, the parent figure is always absent. In real life that is not the case, so one aspect that stood for me in this series as with other anime series is how much friends can be acquired like family members. I see that in real life with my younger friends. I find that as I grow older with personal friends moving into new relationships that it changes dynamics, but Ano Natsu shows a possibility of one summer.

Ichika definitely came back. When Remon is back at MIB HQ, you see her pull up a diagram of Ichika’s ship and start playing with it. She basically hacks the spaceship so it would crash land and come back for Kai—and we know the film shot was after all that happened, because she’s wearing the poncho.

Personally, I felt Ichika’s return was a cop-out. The series had built up a lot of emotional capital by playing upon the idea that this teenage summer romance was a fleeting, though beautiful, experience, filled with bittersweet memories and realizations. The monologues really traded on it. It did a really good job in evoking what the memory of summer flings of that sort are like. I had similar experiences at that age, and I wrote about them earlier. Even the final episode kept you hanging on the idea that it was over. It would have been braver had they left it at that rather than bring her back like that at the very last second.

I really like that insight there—that friends can become like family, especially in their absence. The way the main friends interacted was very family-like, and there were all kinds of allusions to that. Kanna sees Tetsuro as a little brother; Kai calls himself a little brother in relation to his sempai, Ichika, and seems to see Kanna as a sister too. (Unfortunately for her.) But more importantly the show really captured just how the way a group of teenage friends interact will start to change once romance starts getting into the picture—and it can be a wrenching change. All of the main leads have to come to painful emotional resolutions and be honest with themselves and others to move on. That was the most powerful part of the show and the thing I will remember most.

That, and the ED, “Vidro Moyou.” The ED and the leadups to it were a big highlight of the show. Tatsuyuki Nagai, the director, has always had a knack for picking songs that fit the shows he works on thematically, from Honey and Clover II, Toradora! and Ano Hana. And he always chose the right moment to end each episode, so that watching it every week was always an emotionally satisfying experience. At least until the end.

What I liked about the ending was how well the images fit with the song, with Kai and his friends in a circle always seeking together, and with Ichika holding her spaceship out like a toy. With the color outlines, it makes for an interesting visual experience.

Concluding Thoughts

Seeing Mike and MLM enjoy this series as much as they blogged about it on AD encouraged me to watch it, even though I was afraid it was going to fail or not live up to its legacy as an Onegai Teacher follow up. For the most part, I was entertained by this anime series, and definitely liked the ED well enough to put it on repeat at moments. But in comparison to Onegai Teacher, I still feel the earlier title is much more emotionally meaningful to me. Probably in some ways I aspire to have a relationship like Kei and Mizuho or Kai and Ichika. Hence this companionship seeking is something I am realizing I need as I grow older.

The tie-in to Men in Black, with the Men in Black 3 movie coming out soon, makes me wonder just how much of a paradox or cross-industry relevance is there. Cheesy as it might sound, when I hear of “No Borders” by Japanese musicians, perhaps this is a sign for me to watch MiB 3. As of now, I am personally unsure of what anime series to try and watch, but I am seeing the excitement of Mike for Kids on the Slope. Perhaps that is the next series for me to watch.

Onegai Teacher was one of my favorite romance series from the beginning of my fandom. It had an emotional honesty to it that was rare in most anime romance at that time, and I remember saying hyperbolically that “this is the reason I watch anime” when I finished it…so when I heard that Ano Natsu was going to feature the same screenwriter, but with the team of Honey and Clover and Toradora! behind it, I was excited.

And for the most part, I was not disappointed. 80% of this show is very good to excellent, from the smooth directing, the emotionally resonant writing, and what I would say is actually improved character dynamics compared to the old series. The ending was a bit of a letdown and a departure, I felt, from the show’s strengths, but it was hardly enough to ruin everything. From the transition of the last scene to the credits, to the excellent voice acting (especially for newcomer seiyuu Kaori Ishihara as Kanna), to the sense of genuine youth experience animating the story, this was one of the winners of the winter 2012 season.

(BTW: yes, Kids on the Slope is excellent. Give a shot if you like good music and interesting romance. It’s almost effortlessly good.)

The Childhood Friendzone

My hair was not that shaggy back then.

I: A True Story

I was in the 4th grade, and she was a bony-armed, skinny girl with a bob in her hair and big teeth. Even when we were hiding under the cafeteria table for an earthquake drill—believe it or not, Memphis, Tennessee does actually lie along a fault line—and wondering out loud whether we were going to die, we were smiling and laughing. Of course we weren’t, we knew; no one could remember, kids or adults, when Memphis last had an earthquake that damaged any property, let alone killed anyone. Killer earthquakes were for California.

We huddled together because we had always hung out with each other since the second grade. There was a dim awareness that others might notice this. However, we were most assuredly not boyfriend and girlfriend. No, no. “You’re ugly,” she told me casually when the thought crossed our minds. “You’re ugly too,” I replied. We exchanged this repartee for a few more minutes, but we couldn’t help ourselves; we knew how silly and childish it was even though we were children.

Not long after that, I had to move away because my father found new work in a different city. When it came time for us to part, I said, “I’ll miss you.” She said, “I’ll miss you too.” I held her hand. We didn’t hug or kiss. Boyfriends and girlfriends did that, and that was what we were not.

My last memory of her was in that lunchroom, saying those words, on my next-to-last day of class or thereabouts. We never met again, and for some reason, I only remember her first name. But if I wanted to, I could go back home 3000 miles away and find my 22 year old yearbook, still sitting high on a bookshelf in my parents’ basement. I would be able to turn the pages to the third grade class, and I would still be able find her because I still remember her face. Faces aren’t as easy to forget as names.


This never happened to me either.

II: The Loneliness of the Long-Suffering Friend

I was first introduced to the idea of the “childhood friend” character in the anime version of Love Hina. The very first scene of the series showed a little boy and girl playing together, and the little girl kisses Keitaro on the cheek. It is immediately followed by a scene where, because the girl has to move, they are sadly parted. “I’ll see you at Todai!” they promise each other.

That scene engraved itself onto my consciousness right away, in the first year of my anime fandom. Immediately, I thought of my friend in elementary school, and how we parted, never to see each other again. Maybe there are many otaku with memories like mine, and I wonder whether this is why the childhood friend trope keeps coming up again and again. But in anime, unlike real life sometimes, there is always a reunion. The reunion either begins or catalyzes the plot.

Of course, for those who know anime, the childhood friend trope usually comes attached with another feature: she is destined not to be with the boy at the end of the story. This is not universally true, but it’s true in the majority of cases. The boy usually goes for the girl who is new and different: the alien (Onegai Teacher, Ano Natsu, To LOVE-Ru, Shuffle), the quirky (Haruhi Suzumiya), the highborn or even divine (Ah My Goddess, Brighter Than the Dawning Blue).

The childhood friend is, by contrast, is a reminder of the past. She is ordinary. She is kind, constant, and longsuffering. She usually can’t admit her feelings too honestly at first. She must smile through her tears and, putting the happiness of her beloved first, cheer on the new relationship from the sidelines.

She is, in short, everyone who’s been left behind in the race of love. The emotional power of so much romance anime is fueled by her exquisite pain.


III: The Pain is the Point; or, why Ano Natsu is sometimes better than Onegai Teacher

I’ve noticed something: my favorite romance/relationship-drama anime series and movies tend to be the ones that express that exquisite pain the most eloquently and convincingly. What I remember is often less the main couple but the angst-ridden moments of the girl—it is almost always a girl—who has been jilted.

This struck me hard as I rewatched Onegai Teacher in the light of my current anime favorite, Ano Natsu de Matteru. The moments I remembered most from Oneti (as it’s been abbreviated) were not so much of Kei and Mizuho, but of Herikawa, Kanna’s analogue and Kei’s destined-not-to-be. I remember she sat on a hill with Kei once, talking about their feelings. I remember her crying more than the crybaby Mizuho.

The scene I remembered most from Onegai Teacher.

But as I rewatched the first half of the series, looking for parallels to Ano Natsu, I discovered that whatever similarities they might have in character types and scenes, they are fundamentally different stories. Oneti is much more focused on Kei and Mizuho as a couple, trying to work out how their mismatched marriage of convenience can survive and turn into love. Their friends are second-string characters who only occasionally get great moments, and we see far less from their perspectives than we do in Ano Natsu. It feels much less organic than the natural ensemble interaction of Ano Natsu, and Kuroda relies more heavily on fanservice in order to keep the sexual tension flowing between Kei and Mizuho. It was, in short, a more conventional series, and I had forgotten just how conventional it was. Only in the second half did the tone begin to resemble what I had associated with screenwriter/creator “Yousuke Kuroda” and why I still had such fond memories of the show. But it was still a show with a limited perspective by comparison.

Ano Natsu, frankly, is the better series. I credit director Tatsuyuki Nagai, whose skill at handling large casts—from Honey and Clover II to Toradora and last year’s Ano Hana—was the key ingredient missing from Kuroda’s earlier works. All of the friends in the group get emotional coverage, and often without words: a gaze, a look of longing, a gentle tug on the sleeve, can show much more than long interior monologues.

When the words do come, they are simple, heartfelt, and believable, like in the deeply affecting scene between Kanna and Tetsuro at the bus shelter in the fifth episode. There was no scene in Oneti that matched its atmosphere of quiet, simultaneous despair and dignity. The timing and pacing were much smoother, the music subtler. The pain—the pain, overtly in Kanna’s words, and subtly in Tetsuro’s gaze: two people in unrequited love who feel they can only soldier on and wish the luckier ones the best.  It’s a familiar feeling, no doubt, to many.

“Why can’t you just be honest with your feelings?” many people ask, the characters included. Beneath her mischief, Remon is clearly trying to induce emotional honesty in all the characters, as she tells Ichika straightforwardly in episode 6. Tetsuro advises Kanna to do the same. Her reply, of course, is the reply of every shy boy and girl who’s been in the place of a jilted childhood friend: if I do that, it will ruin the friendship, and I can’t be with him anymore. In many cases, it’s a longstanding friendship. Those who have had long-term friendships, with either sex, will know just how precious those are. We have few of them. Time and distance easily break them. From Kanna’s perspective, and from the perspective of so many people left holding the bag, the price of rejection is too high if that is what’s at stake.

There would be no stories if it were that easy.

And yet, there is something sweet about that “not really lovers but very close friends” zone. It is full of sehnsucht, a big word for the primal, elemental longing that is satisfied with nothing less than the eternal. Or, to use the Brazilian word for sweet melancholy so beloved by our M. LaMoe, it is a state full of saudade. There is longing, and light, in the liminal.

So the childhood friend, at least until the end of the series, holds back. She wants to say what is on her mind, but is always waiting for a better moment to do it. It never seems to come. There are films to be filmed, beaches to visit and play in, fireworks to watch and aimless moments sitting together to enjoy. The moment of emotional suppression is always the most poignant of all for me. That kind, determined smile Kanna gives at the end of the scene was the one that nearly induced a tear.


At the risk of stereotyping my own race, I wonder if there is something East Asian about that, in both why scenes of emotional repression like this happen in anime all the time (5 Centimeters Per Second, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, just to name a few) and even in Japanese cinema. I’m reminded of a scene near the end of Yasujiro Ozu’s movie Tokyo Story, where polite, pleasant family members finally begin to speak what is on their minds after being nice to each other for 3/4 of the film. At the end of the sharp, emotional exchanges, one character finally turns to another and says, “Isn’t life disappointing?”

“Yes,” the main female protagonist says, smiling, nodding slowly. “Yes, it is.”

She has a (loli) analogue in Onegai Teacher too! Bonus points if you can cite where.

IV: Reunion—Another True Story

I did have a reunion, once. There was another girl I grew up with in Memphis, though we weren’t very close. We played with a group of other kids at the houses of our parents’ friends. My main memory of her was that she once lambasted me, in a rather shrill, frustrated voice, “You are such a goody two-shoes and you’re so annoying! Why don’t you have any fun?” I wonder if the same charge could be laid against me today.

Almost ten years later, after my family and I had moved away from Memphis and when I was 16, my parents told me that we were going to meet her again in downtown Washington DC. She was coming to DC to pick up, yes, a Presidential honor for being such an excellent student in high school. (The sort of thing that makes Asian Tiger Parents proud.) I remember waiting for her with my folks in a swank hotel lobby. By then, I barely remembered her, so I had no idea what she would look like.

Lo and behold, when she came out with her mother, she had become very pretty: long straight hair, unblemished face, a kind smile. She was very happy to see me, from that smile and how eagerly she spoke to me. For the two hours we were together, at the restaurant and walking down the streets of DC, trailing our parents, it was like 9 years had melted away. There was little awkwardness. She even exclaimed, and giggled, that she remembered how cute I was when I was little (hard to square with my one memory of her then, but bygones are bygones when she has become that lovely). I pointed to the copy of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead she happened to carry, which I also happened to be reading at the time, and we talked about its ideas. I tried hard to look at her in the eyes when I spoke, something I had trouble doing back then. She almost never stopped smiling.

We parted not long after that with a hug. But I forgot to get her email or her number, and I still don’t remember her last name either. Last I heard, she had become a doctor.

One does not care to acknowledge the mistakes of youth —Char Aznable

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone.


That Summer, I Waited.

The current season show Ano Natsu de Matteru (I’ll be Waiting That Summer), with its emotionally believable depiction of teenage awkwardness and first love, reminded me of one adolescent summer of writing, filmmaking, and hopeless crushes. This is the first time I’ve told most of these stories to anyone except my closest friends. Why? I blame the wonderful OP and ED of the show, especially the latter and its wistful lyrics. (The part titles are taken from them.)

Dialogue in this memoir is approximate and based on a memory that grows increasingly hazy. I’m setting this down before I forget further.

Spring, 1995: My feelings are burning into film

I made a silent 8mm film once. It was the last project of my final year in middle school. We were to storyboard, direct, develop, edit (using literal film splicers and tape—will we get to see Kai and company do that?), and transfer onto VHS so that our films could be shown on the last day of school.

Unlike Ano Natsu de Matteru, there were no girls on my production team: it was just me on camera, my cousin, and a new friend I’d met only a year prior. That friend played the protagonist. I vaguely remember drawing stick figures in the storyboards, because I couldn’t draw anything else, and I remember agonizing over the plot. It had something to do with a magic marble that granted the wishes of its possessor, but he soon lives to regret it when he sees its consequences, and throws it away.

We filmed in downtown Washington DC, outside the Air and Space Museum and on the National Mall. The sculpture outside Air and Space was the establishing shot. We also filmed on the small patch of lawn in front of my family’s townhouse. Our neighbor came out once while we were filming. “Spielberg had better watch out!” he said, chuckling at our efforts. We laughed too.

Spielberg, George Lucas, what's the difference?

We filmed a hilarious fight scene between my friend and my cousin. My cousin came out with arms and fists swinging wildly, and we had to do a few takes before we got the requisite seriousness—where my friend, with the marble’s power, injures him more than he intended and realizes he has to give it up.

In the end, there wasn’t time to show my film on the last day. I’m glad. It was an overly complex, overexposed, and clumsy mess. However, a VHS tape of it still exists in my parents’ basement somewhere, a recording of the film projected onto a screen. It is grainy and washed out, but there is sound: my voice and my teacher’s voice, our last conversation together. She wanted me to preserve the film on tape even though it wouldn’t be shown, before I left for good.

How strange, that my last memories of middle school would be captured on a tape showing an 8mm film, just before the summer began.

Summer, 1995: the lingering summer scent still reminds me of you

Less than two months after the film was completed, my mother and I went to an independent Christian retreat for five days. Though it wasn’t an official event, many people from my church were there, including a big chunk of the youth group. I had never felt comfortable in the youth group, being nerdy, awkward, and sensitive, the sorts of traits that get you teased and bullied at that age. (This is true even if one of the sorts of nerdiness you have is being a Bible nerd, which I was, big time.) In reponse, I was already beginning to develop the affectations of the alienated writer: I had my spiral-bound notebook in hand and plans to go off and write in the corner or under a tree, by myself.

Which is why I was caught off-guard when the cute girl who I barely knew—the girl with the straight, short hair with dark brown highlights and the rosy face—called me over. She was sitting on a bench with some of her other friends, waving her arm. I thought that she must have been talking to someone else, but she was definitely calling my name.

I steeled myself. Past experience told me that this was usually a prelude to a put-down or pre-emptive rejection: this is long before nerd chic ever became a thing. But I went over to her anyway, fueled by equal parts curiosity and the dim, slim hope that maybe this was going to be—

“Michael,” she said—starting a whole trend of girls calling me by my full name—”I just wanted to tell you you’re so adorable and sweet and—” I don’t remember anything else she said, because by that time I was confused. I barely knew her; she barely knew me. As far as I could remember,we never talked at length. Her friends giggled.

“Um,” I said. “Thanks.”

And that was all. I left, my writing notebook in hand, her compliments—perhaps prompted by a dare (“go flirt with the nerdiest boy you know!”) or perhaps genuine and sincere—ringing in my ears. To be honest, I didn’t believe them. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. No one had ever called me that before.

Later, I discovered how much that girl who had complimented me had been ostracized by the group for some reason. I didn’t know why, and I never found out. All I remember is that when she had to get up from her seat in the middle of the row, all the guys and girls in her way stood up and glared at her as she went down the row to the aisle. Maybe we weren’t so different after all, though she seemed so cute and bubbly at the time: how could someone like that be unpopular? Wasn’t enough to be pretty and to at least pretend to be nice? The world opened up a little more for me that moment, that there might be something underneath the masks people wear.

The kinds of things people called me was mostly smart followed by polite and maybe nice. And those were the people who liked me.

Indeed, that was the sort of thing my Sunday School teacher at the time, a pretty college student, told me. I remember after class once, she asked me to stay behind for a few minutes: the sort of request that for most kids meant that they were in trouble. But instead of berating me, she complimented me on how knowledgeable I was about the Bible (I had a leg up: I’d gone to a Christian elementary school in my early years), and that she was so happy to have me in the class. The ‘teacher’s pet’ charge was one that had tended to follow me for most of life up to that point, and I’d just become another one.

But I didn’t care. I liked it. I liked being complimented by beautiful women. Who doesn’t, at that age? Or any age?

Kai is handsomer than I was at that age, though.

She was at this retreat, too, and seemed to go out of her way to not only say hi but to sit down and talk with me for a few minutes. I didn’t have too much to say that I could remember, except about my ambitious writing plans: I had wanted to plan out my first novel that summer. I’d made a few stabs at it in middle school, but they never went very far—but that summer, I swore, I was going to do it for real. My teacher was impressed. “You have to tell me about it later,” she said. “I’d like to read it.”

For an aspiring nerd fantasy boy writer at 14, these are the words muses are made of. I never said that out loud, of course, or to her—I was much too shy for that. But in between the sermons, and the forced games and the singing, there was hours of free time in the sunlit afternoons. I found quiet corners where, smearing the side of my right palm with ink, I wrote a chapter-by-chapter outline of a novel I called Sanctuary. It was a fantasy novel about a gifted young magic student, who feels like a failure and ends up going on a long journey to try to find his skills and himself. It contained some depressing parts where he realizes he’s not as good as he thinks he is, and his mistakes have irreversible consequences. It had a bittersweet ending.

Two days before the retreat ended, I finished the outline. In a grandiose gesture, I wrote at the end: “If I get this far, I am a genius!” It was written as a joke, because I didn’t really believe deep down that I was going to finish it. None of my attempts in the past had succeeded.

I gave my Sunday School teacher the outline. As she promised she read it, while I sat in a comfy chair, nervously waiting for her reaction. “Oh, but this is so sad!” she exclaimed at one point. “Why is this so sad?”

“Life isn’t always so happy.”

But when she finished, she smiled and handed the paper back to me. “Well, I want to read the manuscript one day,” she said. “You’re really talented, you know.” And she mussed my hair and then left for dinner. I sat there for a little while longer.

Epilogue: when I realized it, our threads of fate were already tangled.

I did actually finish that novel, Sanctuary, in my junior year of high school. I remember trying to show it to that Sunday School teacher not long after I bound the manuscript at home. But she was married by then and had a lot less time, and it was several years later. She never read it.

I’m currently reformualting and rewriting the ideas in that first novel into a new work, A Pattern of Light. It features most of the same characters and setting, but a fundamentally different plot and with some winking anime/manga style references. It is now 2/3 complete and I hope to get some light-novel style illustrations for it too.

The girl who called me adorable at that retreat ended up going to my high school too, so I kept running into her a lot. We were in Christian club together. She was always kind and friendly to me, though we weren’t really close. Once, I told her about my writing, and she asked, “but what does that have to do with Jesus?” Later, during a youth group outing, I thought about asking her out to the prom. I didn’t. I was too scared. I believe she is married now, too.

The friend who was the star of my 8mm film is now himself a director, digital animator, and actor in New York. We still keep in touch often and I count him as one of my oldest friends. Check out his work on his Youtube channel.

Winter 2012 Roundup, Part 1: The Most Promising Shows

For some reason, probably having to do with prolonged illness and the boredom that goes with it, I’ve watched nearly everything this new season has to offer so far. I’ll start with the shows I regard as the ones with the most potential of actually being good—and there’s a surprising number of them, given that winter is typically an off season.

What's behind that eyepa—OH MY GEASS


To this day, I still think the best horror/suspense anime was Boogiepop Phantom. What Boogiepop did better than anyone else was in evoking a genuinely creepy atmosphere, not only with its shadowy visuals but especially with its sound design: the hums, the ghostly pings, and judicious use of electronica. Not everything was well-explained in the anime, but it was something that really gave off the right feeling, especially when viewed in the dark.

Another is also a triumph of atmosphere. It is, at least so far, dependent on it—the plot has barely gotten started aside from the identity of Misaki (perhaps telegraphed a bit too early). But the shivery sound cues and the pacing in its best scenes rival some of Boogiepop’s better moments. Like another well-written but occasionally histrionic series, Higurashi no Naku Koro Ni, it tends toward more traditional anime character design, which can sometimes blunt the suspense to a certain extent; I sometimes have a hard time taking those designs seriously. But unlike Higurashi, it has so far refrained from the use of gore and shock and clearly and deliberately building up to something in a consistent way. Kudos must go, especially, to the final scene in episode 2 in the doll museum. While dolls have been used a lot in anime for creepy affect, and admittedly the show stumbled with the quick cuts to them in earlier moments, the pacing and sound were near-perfect.

The evident skill behind Another makes it worth watching. Now, if only someone could permanently retire Ali Project from ever making OPs and I’ll really be happy…Kajiura-san? Kalafina? You’re needed again for another gothic show!


Yes, this is just like EVERY OTHER ANIME scene, but trust me, it's more...

Ano Natsu de Matteru

I have a bias here: I have a real soft spot for the work of screenwriter Yousuke Kuroda and especially Onegai Teacher, which was one of the first animes I ever bought on DVD. (Hint: I got it long before this website ever got started in 2006.) Kuroda has a knack for giving characters emotionally resonant dialogue, and has elevated normally mundane premises like Onegai Teacher by giving characters genuine motivations and feelings. It’s no accident that he worked on Toradora! and Honey and Clover too, two of the most heartfelt slice-of-life/relationship anime of recent years.

So of course I was going to check out Ano Natsu de Matteru. Yes, it’s true: the show almost seems like a deliberate attempt to recreate Onegai Teacher, with character equivalents galore, but with some of the more outlandish plot contrivances of the original toned down. There doesn’t appear to be the “standstills” that make characters look much younger than their purported actual ages, for instance. We don’t have outright marriage right off, either. And I like the central/controlling metaphor of this one better: where they are going to make a 8mm movie. One is almost reminded of the recent JJ Abrams film, Super 8. As well as my own memories of making an 8mm film at the end of middle school…

Kuroda wisely decided to have all the main characters interact as an ensemble right off the bat, and sets up all the important tensions and conflicts between them efficiently. There are clever flourishes, like the transitions between Kai’s fantasies and reality, and the banter between the characters are not only often witty but revealing. (Sure, some of them had to get drunk to be honest, but that’s true in real life too….) This is a nearly perfectly paced show, and it makes some of the more cliche scenes and occasional fan service a lot more palatable. And while I don’t expect it to reach the emotional heights of Ano Hana, its character designer is on board and has done a good job making Ichika in particular reminiscent of, but perhaps a bit less outlandishly proportioned than, the Teacher. Sure, Kai is a bit too much like Jin-tan, but still…

From the I’VE opening to the great pacing and smart dialogue, this is both a nostalgia trip and an anticipation to see if Kuroda can work his magic again.


Marika had better trade that maid outfit for a pirate one soon.

Moretsu Space Pirates

To tell you the truth, I’m a little bit more cautious about this show than many others. The strengths of the show are undeniable: the writing is sharp, the pacing is purposeful, the main character Marika is winsome in both her normalcy and her ability to handle challenges. The animation quality is also excellent, though we’ve seen relatively little action so far. Moreover, it’s clear that a good deal of thought was given in building the sci-fi world: the history, the government, the role of pirates/privateers (that is what a “legal pirate” with a Letter of Marque and Reprisal is really called), etc. I also have to appreciate that despite the premise, despite the alternate title of “Mini-skirt Space Pirates,” the show goes out of its way to avoid fanservice. That is not the focus of what is building to be an old-school space adventure show, with a confident schoolgirl in command.

Forgive my impatience, but I just wish they’d get to that point just a little faster. It’s probably a disadvantage of watching this week after week, and with the knowledge that there are two cours. I also fully understand that they are taking the time to deepen the history of Marika and her mother, the Bentenmaru, and the role of Chiaki in particular. It’s working: there are some wonderful individual bonding scenes where Marika interacts with her mother, with Chiaki. I guess I just can’t wait for the action to begin, and it’s making it hard for me to see just where this is going. With the director of the 1990s classic Martian Successor Nadesico in charge, I’m fairly sure he won’t screw up, so my hopes are up—hence its inclusion on this list.

But I want my starships and piracy, dammit. I’m sure that once it does begin it’ll make that launch moment all the sweeter.


Truer words were never spoken.


SHAFT and Shinbo strike again! All they had to do was to keep up the banter-dependent, sexy, artsy feel of this sequel to Bakemonogatari and it would be enough. I was latecomer to Bakemonogatari and Senjougahara fandom, but over time I got hooked on its post-modern theater-like atmosphere and its alluring, unconventional approach to the harem genre. For that is what Bake and Nisemonogatari are, at the end of the day, harem shows—but with fascinating dialogue filled with cultural references, screwball comedy exchanges (I loved the “the courage to” challenge), and a nice dollop of real sexual tension that’s captivating.

Nisemonogatari starts off with what are basically set-pieces. There are no problems or curses to solve, unlike the first series. Araragi basically drifts from conversation to conversation with his sisters and other girls; in a way, it’s the slice-of-life genre stripped down to its barest form, as written by Samuel Beckett. That, carried on too long, would be boring though if the characters weren’t so well-differentiated and, in the second episode, so convincingly seductive. I admit that I actually disliked Nadeko in season 1, because I felt the pandering was too thick. Making her bolder and more forward in this season worked, and not just because the fanservice was actually appropriate to the scene—it was directed really well. The subsequent scene with Kanbaru was even more delicious in the dialogue, and ended with a reversal that was both funny and clever.

For once the eroticism of anime seems to actually work. Or maybe I just think the girls are especially hot this season. See Charles’ article for an articulation of why that might be troubling. But the intelligence and artfulness of Bakemonogatari is fully intact.

Next time: why Nichibros, Thermae Romae, and other lauded aniblogosphere titles aren’t on this list!