Wow, this show really knows how to end on a cliffhanger! Honestly I was slightly afraid that this episode was going to be full-on fanservice, but this is one of those rare times when I reallly have to praise the staff behind such a wonderful series. Usually, before an anime airs people tend to just look at the source material (excluding original series). But there are times when you ought to be looking more at who’s behind the series (as i’ll be doing in the Spring Preview) and because Ano Natsu is an original series that’s exactly what I’ve been focusing on. Director Tatsuyuki Nagai brings the type of conflict that a close group of friends encounter like he did with Ano Hana and only improves. Ano Hana dealt with the supernatural aspect more than the romance, while it’s the complete opposite for this series. It’s the subtle things like this episode when Mio telling Kanna about Tetsurou’s softer side: it’s usually not a big deal, but the way it was presented and shown made the emotional impact that much bigger.
What I’m really loving about this show is that it hits all the right notes – comedy, drama, romance and some supernatural bits – quite evenly without it coming off as awkward or ridiculous. People who know me know that I really dislike the romance genre: it’s overdone and it uses the same old formula which makes it hard for me to care about a certain relationship: It’s just so common in anime, there’s going to be at least two series a season that touch upon the genre and most of the time it fails miserably or it ends up being too safe to venture out any further than what the norm dictates.
But these criticisms do not apply to Ano Natsu: the careful and well-balanced character development, their interactions and the subtlety in certain scenes gives this series not only a leg-up among other romance series, but it’s on a completely different level. The cast in this series is really well acted and doesn’t suffer from cheesy lines or forced drama. Everyone in the main cast has a real purpose, even the “comedic relief” character of Tetsurou. He’s shown last episode and this episode that he isn’t a one-note character, but a real participant of the confusing love formula that this series started to bring up a few episodes ago. Particularly this episode really showed a bit to Ichika and Kanna: they actually had a common goal (“keep your hands off of strange girls!”) despite the fact that they both share feelings towards Kaito.
Indeed, my main criticism of this episode was that the two new girls felt more like plot devices to make Kaito choose who he likes. Kaito himself deserves tons of praise this episode: obviously he’s a high school boy and seeing his friends (and potential lover) in swimsuits was a sight to see (of course Tetsurou says “Glad we came, huh?”), and most romance series would just leave it at that. But when one of the girls confronted Kaito about who he likes, he told what I thought was a very powerful statement “I never said i had a girlfriend, but I do have someone I like.”. Just the way he said that totally reaffirmed my belief that Ano Natsu knows how teenage drama works, how a seemingly close group of friends can break down when the love chain starts to form.
Of course all of these things seemingly go back to Remon. I’m more than convinced she’s an alien by now. In fact, her actions this episode make it clear that she knows how everything is falling in place, maybe she’s from the future? For now, she’s probably the most intriguing character on the show and definitely in my top 5 characters of Winter. I do hope we keep getting powerful episodes like these ones, it’s a complete sort of praise when this episode looked to be pure fanservice and only proved to be half-true. Bravo to J.C. Staff (!), director Tatsuyuki Nagai and creator Yousuke Kuroda: you’ve given me hope that the romance genre can still work.
TL;DR – This is one most accurate and mature depictions of high school romance ever. You ought to be watching this.