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Final words on Ano Natsu: sorry for the delay

I actually finished Ano Natsu de Matteru weeks ago. Sadly, however, I haven’t been able to log on for quite some time due to issues with my connection. It ended very well, save for the Men in Black hijinks, but it was a nevertheless very well done series. The video of the friends spending their summer together despite their separation with Ichika was honestly tearjerking, and the uncertainty and sadness with Ichika being spirited away from Kai was quite overwhelming.

This was my feeling when I finished Ano Natsu. 🙂

I was happy with how it ended, though, and how it subtly showed Ichika’s return. I had no expectations whatsoever with the series, but it was honestly one of the best Winter 2012 had to offer. I honestly doubt it would end up as one of the best of the year, however, especially with the strength of the Spring season. It was a series one could say little about, but it was a great series simply because it did everything in its ability exceptionally well. It was great with its handling of its characters; it was great with evocation and although the plot was barebones the rest were enough to carry the series beautifully.

And yes, it was better than Ano Hana. Any dissenting opinions? 🙂

The beauty of simplicity: Ano Natsu de Matteru

I guess I was raised to value the complexity of intelligence and the intelligence of complexity that it reflects in my passions and wishes in life. I have been quite vocal regarding undeserved praise towards pedestrian novels such as the Twilight saga, and I admit that my favorite novels are those that are either ignored or willfully unread by the hoi polloi. I know that what I read are classics, although they are currently rather ignored. Among my most favorite novels is William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom, which jarringly shifts through time and person to tell a story that coalesces upon itself at its end. In the same vein is the symbolist masterpiece, Petersburg, by Andrei Bely.

I think the same could be said with regard to my choice in movies. I don’t seek to be idiosyncratic, but I prefer The Killing to any other movies by Stanley Kubrick, and sincerely wished that Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy replaced an undeserving Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close in the recent Academy Award nominations for Best Picture. I love watching films that so beautifully invoke the tip-of-the iceberg image by Freud: there is an elephantine mass gurgling and burbling beneath the surface that is up to the viewer to decipher, enjoy, and decode for himself, with so little to see on the surface itself. I was never fond of the easy way out in the things I loved.

Because this show is that awesome

I think that I have been consistent, even in relatively lesser media such as anime. The Tatami Galaxy was a masterpiece of prognostication, multiple viewpoints and intertwining realities, but it took rather astute observers to appreciate its nuances. Steins;Gate was also masterful because of its ability to connect and twist the story to become esemplastic, and it was reminiscent, at least for me, of The Sound and the Fury.

While I prefer the complex and intellectual examples in my favorite media, there are exceptions to all of them, and the most recent one is the series Ano Natsu de Matteru.

The series is not complex: it does not require multiple re-watches to understand the story, but like the simple and yet beautiful Mice and Men novella by Steinbeck, it simply and incandescently gets the job done. It is a bildungsroman of a certain Kaito, who, like most of us back when we were in high school, sought his own identity in the context of his society. While the story is essentially a rehash, the characters that interact with one another make it one of the better, if not the best examples of anime, because it has characters that are essentially human but also essentially good.

While most people would probably be unimpressed with the flow of the plot, I simply found the empathetic characters to be among the best-written among the series I’ve watched. We all have to admit that it was Lennie and George who made Of Mice and Men, after all. Anything can have a barebones plot, and as long as the characters that pepper that story are rife with life and color, it would be at the very least good. I think Ano Natsu approximates that.

Picturesque realism in summer’s waiting

Among the recently-aired anime, I’ve really only kept up with Ano Natsu de Matteru. To be quite honest, I did it because I really liked its art; however, I’ve been following it lately because I love how the plot is unfolding. Frankly, I think it’s even better than Ano Hana as of the fifth episode: while extraordinary existences are relied upon to drive the story forward, I like the fact that Ichika isn’t Menma. She doesn’t cry all the time, and is a well-adjusted, human-like alien.

Cutest thing ever

More than that, however, I like the fact that the people in Ano Natsu are more adjusted than the people in Ano Hana. Just because the people in Ano Natsu are more decent does not make them any less realistic is my contention: a lot of people all over the world are decent individuals who, although unremarkable, aren’t excluded from society although they may not be towering examples of humanity. As an observer, one may think that Kaito was slow to pick up on Kanna’s emotions for him, but this is where I think the realism of the series lies: it never really is quite easy, especially when friendship blurs whatever probable hints at romance the lady sends out. First, Kaito is not privy to Kanna’s excursions as we are, and second, it really is difficult to tell whether your lady friend is really interested in you or just treats you as a friend. I myself couldn’t differentiate which was which in the past.

I find it a breath of fresh air that despite their shortcomings and interests in each other there’s really no vitriol towards the other characters. Although Kanna exploded with frustration during the recent episode, she really didn’t hate on Ichika, but on her comfortable and budding relationship with Kai. She then caught herself when she realized she went out of line, and then regretted her actions, striving once more to maintain her friendly relations with both Kai and Ichika.

Do I blame Kai for being indirect with Ichika? On the contrary, while I can’t say I praise him, he’s not being a coward: he’s only protecting himself, just as what Kanna did in the closing minutes of the fifth episode. It’s better to maintain a relationship rather than destroy one altogether by his confession: at least, when the relationship is there, a chance will always be present in contrast to when a confession is made and a rejection is the reply.

Admittedly, Ichika is also out of his league: she’s beautiful, kind, intelligent – and older. I don’t wonder why he doesn’t even try to voice out his feelings, and it will be all the more difficult after the fact that he knew that she would leave later on. Thus, I don’t find his actions contemptible: I find them realistic, and I find his character to be a great example of a human being. Lesser human beings would take advantage of having an extremely attractive lady stay in the same home, but all he does is look at her breasts and ogle.

I can truly put myself in his shoes, because that’s what I would do myself. I’ve grown up to respect women, even the ones with the seductive bodies, and not sully them, even in my mind. It’s not something most men would do, and this idiosyncrasy would sometimes result to people calling me gay because of it, but I find it necessary to respect the women I know not only when they see me, but also when they don’t. I do fail sometimes, however.

The lack of bathos in the series is truly quite pleasing. There aren’t any crybaby ghosts, but only people who are struggling with their emotions toward the people who don’t love them back. I’ve had my share of unrequited love, and to live with such decency as they have is something to truly emulate. I do think that Tetsuro’s brazen honesty at the end of the episode was borne out of his love for Kanna, because had she kept on doing what she did to Kaito, she would inevitably just keep getting hurt, without getting any closure except a dull hope that Kaito will look at her someday. Of course, admixed with this genuine concern is also his hope that she would, in turn, see his feelings for her that have been present for a long time.

Yes, while I do think there will be shed tears as the series comes to a close I also feel that it wouldn’t be as melodramatic as Ano Hana. I really liked Onegai Teacher, and I think this may even be better. Maybe at the end of all this, comparing the series to Ano Hana will be doing it injustice.

I hope this beautiful run continues, because this series is an early candidate for being among the year’s best, and I hope I won’t be wrong.