Thursday, March 29, 2012

Ano Natsu de Matteru Episode 12--All's Well That Ends Well (Final Thoughts)

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It wasn't quite what I expected, but I'm happy with the results.

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I should've expected that the final episode would be a whirlwind of emotions since the director was also responsible for Toradora. The general outline of the episode was similar too; the main couple is pulled apart after finally getting a chance to be together. Also like Toradora, there is a happy reunion at the end, only in this show it happens offscreen. I could keep going on the similarities--and not just in the character designs--but I think I'll leave it there, since anyone who has seen the show knows what I'm talking about, and Ano Natsu does a pretty good job of standing on its own without the comparisons. The separation was genuinely heart-wrenching, since for all the viewer knows at the point our main couple will end up the same as Ichika's ancestor. Once again, the alien technology in this show baffles me, but I won't nitpick that particular point since it brought to a close a thematic circle of sorts (Ichika searches for the place only to fall in love and experience the same events) and at least it gave us a pretty light show. But after building all of this up and getting me emotionally invested in this couple only to have the biggest obstacle they've faced solved off-screen was disappointing.

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Looking back on this series, I really feel that the alien side of the plot was an afterthought, a way to market it as the successor to the Onegai franchise when this show really just wanted to be the next Toradora. Like the latter, its character relationships and the complex love triangle/square/circle/whatever are the best parts of the show. In the future, I'll probably recommend this show to fans of the romance and rom-com genres who want to see progression in relationships rather than one kiss before the final credit roll, not to sci-fi fans. The "Ichika is an alien" plot seemed to only kick in when the other plot (the real plot, in my opinion) about this group of teenagers learning how to deal with their feelings would come to a slow point. It's also extremely easy to kick holes in the logic surrounding the alien technology during these parts, if it even makes sense to begin with. Lemon's robot car made more sense than the rescue drones did. Speaking of Lemon though, not everything surrounding the alien subplot was bad; the MIB subplot hit the right note between silly and serious for me, and it definitely helped that Lemon was such a likeable character, playing the role of the observer (very close to the viewer's role without breaking the forth wall) only interfering as she felt necessary. She's easily my favorite character from this season.

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But in the end, it was really the romance that it did best, which is why I'm also a bit disappointed that the other characters in the group appear to have gotten a reset ending. We don't know how that date between Tetsurou and Mio worked out, or if they even went on it at all. I recognize that people can like each other but not work as a couple, but I have no idea what happened there, so it felt like all the build-up was for naught. Kanna seems to be back to her usual self, but it's not clear whether she's over Kaito yet or not (the "you'll regret this in three years" line from the previous episode seemed like an oddly specific time frame). It seemed strange for the show to ignore what it had spent a good portion of its runtime on. Despite all of my complaining though, I'm glad that this show had a happy ending. Like I mentioned above, I highly recommend it to romance and rom-com fans, since the relationship does go somewhere for once. The other aspects of the show are pretty easy to pick apart, but as whole the show delivered exactly what I wanted from it and then some in terms of character relationships and growth. This last episode had its missteps--more than the series had as a whole--but despite the flaws, Ano Natsu does its job better than most of its peers in the genre with good pacing, not dwelling on misunderstandings, and being aware that while "one of the main characters is an alien" is the hook, it's not the heart of this story; the characters and their relationships are. And that's all I could really want from a show of this kind.

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