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Ano Natsu de Matteru (Waiting in the Summer) PDF Print E-mail
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Tuesday, 03 April 2012 13:49

Bringing back very fond memories of Onegai Teacher, Ano Natsu de Matteru brings alien girl Ichika into the otherwise ordinary life of high-schooler Kirishima Kaito - in the process creating one of the most engaging love polygons I've seen in a long time...

Kirishima Kaito, currently in his first year of high school, holds an 8mm camera in one hand and views the scenery around a lake through its viewfinder. At which point a strange light from the sky comes down, and a blast of wind plunges him into the nearby lake - killing him in the process. The next time Kaito opens his eyes, he's lying in bed in his own room, with a nagging feeling that something's not quite right. The same day a red-haired girl named Takatsuki Ichika transfers into Kaito's school - and there's something unusual about her...

Ichika, you see, is an alien - drawn to Earth by visions of a lake that she can't get out of her mind, she's come to try and find that lake in the hope of finding what her dream means. Her fateful encounter with Kaito, though, changes her plans a little as interplanetary love blossoms - but Ichika has to deal with the stresses of keeping her true nature secret, and avoiding those who have followed behind her to take her home. Meanwhile, Kaito's friends are getting caught up in something of a summer of love - teenage feelings are tricky things to deal with at the best of times, but Ichika's arrival on the scene quickly messes up the delicate web of relationships that the friends were beginning to form.

There are two shows that AnoNatsu is taking inspiration from, mostly thanks to shared crew on the shows: AnoHana, which I haven't seen myself (yet) but I'm told is a similarly engaging relationship drama; and Onegai Teacher. While it's never explicitly mentioned in the show itself, it seems highly likely that AnoNatsu and Onegai Teacher are taking place in the same "universe", and anyone familiar with the adventures of Mizuho, Kei and company will find a lot of parallels here to deal with. Whether that's a good or bad thing probably depends on your point of view - but the web of relationships in that show was never as complex as it is here.

Let's set the scene. Remon Yamano, a mysterious girl with a well-developed sense of mischief and access to an impressive array of high-tech photography equipment, is taking great pleasure in manipulating her friends - for her own amusement, primarily, but also to try and persuade them to do something about the feelings they have. Kanna is Kaito's Tetsuro's childhood friend, and very much in love with Kaito; Kaito's best friend Tetsuro is in love with Kanna; and their classmate Mio has feelings of her own for Tetsuro. This sort of tangled web would be difficult enough to deal with, but throw in new arrival Ichika, and things get more complicated still, especially when it throws into clear focus that Kaito's feelings for Ichika are going to have a knock-on effect on the rest of the "chain".

The majority of the series follows the way that this disruption works itself out, and it's one of the best examples I've seen of this sort of romantic mess - with every one of the show's main characters being believeable and likeable, it's very easy to find yourself drawn into the situation, wanting them all to "win" in some way but only too aware that there's no way for that to happen. There are intense moments, moments of heartbreak, moments of victory.. all played out in ways that, while they'll provoke reactions, never feel like they're giving in to heavy-handed emotional manipulation of the sort that you would get in, say, a KEY series.

Away from the relationships, there's also the matter of Ichika's presence on Earth - a place that, by the laws of her home planet, she really shouldn't be, and between the "rescue" services sent to retrieve her and the occasional intervention of the Men in Black (yes, those Men in Black - the organisation at least, J and K sadly don't make cameo appearances) there are good doses of both comedy and drama to be had as Ichika tries to avoid capture, both to be able to spend as long as she can with Kaito, and to try and find the location in her dream and unravel what it means. And all the while, Remon watches through her telephoto lens, applying deft manipulation to make sure that everything turns out as if should. Fufufufufu~.

When I saw the first episode of AnoNatsu, while there was a lot about it that I liked - the sense of the familiar, mainly - I was wary about it being able to find its own sense of identity when what it was trying to do couldn't really be accused of being original. But in the execution of its story, it has really excelled itself, to become easily one of my favourite shows of the Winter season. I knew I would like it, I just didn't expect to like it this much, with each episode coming as another welcome instalment, devoured in the hope of seeing the friends work out their issues without too much heartbreak, and it delivered on that extremely well. Predictable in some ways, which I'll grant some may find off-putting, but for me a joy to watch that I can't recommend enough.

Rating - *****