So I’ve been watching Ano Natsu de Matteru this season and it’s been surprisingly good – considering it’s all teenage romance and drama. The story development has been pretty… slow, and the characters are of an okay calibre. I’m sure some people love this show like I love Chihayafuru, but I don’t really get it.
But I do admit it’s still good.
One of the best things this show has going for it is its multi-faceted “love triangle” – or perhaps we should call it a “love pentagon” – not because it’s particularly clever (it’s basically one girl likes one guy who likes another girl who likes another guy who likes another girl), but because it’s fairly realistic both in the way it’s set up and, more importantly, how it’s all played out.
(Before you hit the jump, be warned that I’m not explaining anything in this article; it’s not so much a review as it is a literary observation. If you need a brief of the romantic situation, see this article Sorrow-kun wrote; it’s super informative.)
Episode Nine was a really good example of this. Starting with the scene where Kanna confronts Ichika, Ano Natsu reached a point where it wasn’t just a show with characters to watch, it was a show with characters to relate to and empathize with. Up to this point, it was obvious that Kaito and Ichika would end up together; it was just a matter of time, but how Kanna would handle it was a big wonder. Her upfront and raw outburst came as a surprise to me, and you couldn’t ignore the pain she was feeling, how much it hurt to say those words. It wasn’t even an act of, “I’ll help Kai out because if he’s happy, then I’ll be happy,” it was, “YOU ARE AN IDIOT! NOW STOP BEING AN IDIOT!”
Another nod to the creators and animators is in the realism and authenticity of Kanna’s body language during this scene: the way she refuses to make eye contact with Ichika, how she clasps her hands together against her chest when she yells, how her emotions aren’t just in her words and her voice, but in her entire body. You can see her anger and frustration when she shouts at Ichika, and it really makes you feel for her. Kanna is the underdog here. She spent years being in love with Kaito, spent hours getting to know him, building a friendship, forging a path that she had hoped would lead to a relationship. And in one fell swoop, Ichika flew in and laid waste to all Kanna had built.
And then we have the man chasing Kanna; the one who’s always there. A while back, I’d written about another love triangle, in Chihayafuru, and how Taichi was Chihaya’s pillar – always there to lean on, to support her – but she would never see him in a romantic way. Tetsuro is Kanna’s pillar, and Kanna will never consider Tetsuro boyfriend material for herself until he either one: makes a move – at the risk of both rejection and losing her as a friend, or two: somehow forces Kanna to realize how important he is to her. Much like Taichi, Tetsuro never discourages Kanna’s feelings for Kaito, but he doesn’t necessarily help it progress either. First of all, it’s not his place, and I think he realizes that. But he does do one thing right and well: he is always there for Kanna. This, he probably sees as his responsibility, not just as someone who loves her, but as her childhood friend; as the person who’s known her the longest, and most probably knows her the best.
Finally we have Mio, the caboose of this love train. Her hidden presence behind the the little wooden shed may have easily been overlooked in the tumultuous aftermath of Kanna’s confrontation and Tetsuro’s “surprise” appearance, but as Mio is probably my favourite character, I put some thought to her actions: she was most likely there for the same reason Tetsuro was there, to support Kanna. She was probably waiting for Kanna when Tetsuro suddenly showed up, and that’s when she hid. In hiding but staying, Mio does two things: she allows Tetsuro to be Kanna’s primary support, and allows Kanna the opportunity to express her grief in her most natural way and in her most raw emotions. But she also supports Kanna by remaining behind; she could have gone home, waited till Kanna called her or showed up at her house, but instead she waited for her and stayed with her – hidden behind the shed – and cried with her.
There’s a lot of strength in Mio’s character that’s subtly shown through the way she deals with all the unrequited love surrounding her – including her own. Like Kanna, she’s in love with a man who’s in love with another woman, but instead of pursuing him, she falls back, allowing him to pursue the woman of his choice. Like Tetsuro and how he supports Kanna’s love for Kaito, Mio also supports Tetsuro’s love for Kanna – and she does so with a smile. Mio is also Kanna’s best friend and spends lots of time on the phone with her, listening to Kanna and talking her through her thoughts and feelings. With her quiet voice and gentle personality, Mio supports those around her, often putting their feelings before her own.
I know the show is primarily about Kaito and Ichika, and I know this was also the pinnacle episode where their feelings for each other come out in the open, and they share that long-awaited-for kiss. But for me, this episode wasn’t about that; it wasn’t about them. For me, it was all about the people around them, and that is what made it great.