Tag Archives: winter 2012

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.)

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

Another

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.

Nisemonogatari

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!