In the first minute of ‘Ano Natsu de Matteru’, or known as ‘Waiting in the Summer’ in the west, the main character of Kaito Kirishima narrates over a night scenery about his views on life in a physical sense but also on a philosophical one. How he believes that we don’t transcend to a higher plane after our life has ended, but that we can continue to exist in the memories that we have shared with others. And he asks himself what happens when the echo of our lives starts to fade. How do we live on when even the memories we’ve left behind have withered away? Appropriately he’s recording the night sky as we hear him speak, to truly burn the moment, the memory of this time, into existence. We could even see it as a meta-commentary on what this animation does, it burns the ideas of hundreds of artists into existence for an eternity. In just a minute of admittedly on-the-nose self-reflection, we can understand this character, what’s on his mind and the ideas this show will explore.
After this, a space rocket crashes right next to him and an alien anime girl saves him and immediately becomes Kaito’s trad waifu as much as the series pretends they don’t. A pretty good symbol for my experience with the series.
This review will be discussing narrative events in ‘Waiting in the Summer’ that might be considered spoiler territory
After this point, Kaito wakes up barely remembering the events which occurred during the series’ opening scene. The transfer student of Ichika Takatsuki arrives at the same school as Kaito who catches her attention out of a weird sense of familiarity. And when he learns she has no plan as to where she would reside, Kaito welcomes her to stay at his and his sister’s place. Them and a few of their classmates, such as the upbeat and cool Tetsurou Ishigaki, the petite but cold and sarcastic Remon Yamano, the soft-spoken and gentle Mio Kitahara, and abrasive but kind-hearted Kanna Tanigawa, after Kaito shows an interest in filmmaking, decide to create a movie over the course of summer break.
Sharing many of the same staff as ‘Anohana’ such as Tatsuyuki Nagai directing the series and the character designs from Masayoshi Tanaka, the series goes for a very similar tone. The only difference being that Mari Okada was not in charge of the screenplay, which explains why the series feels less like a spiritual successor than a rip-off. It is admittedly very polished in some regards, mainly visually, as it was what led to me watching the series. Masayoshi having worked on many other big projects such as ‘Your Name’, ‘Darling in the Franxx’, and ‘Toradora’ which I believe all have pretty stellar design work, the series shares this quality. All the characters feel very inspired in terms of their characteristics, but it is when you delve deeper into them that they turn into ordered robots, serving the purpose of the fantasy the screenwriter had in mind. The characters’ personalities are already certainly not groundbreaking, with Ichika having the most screentime of all the female characters and spending 90% of it being Kaito’s trad wife.
And romance is a very important aspect to the core of the series, even aside from the relationship between Kaito and Ichika. Triangular romantic drama is certainly not uncommon in the anime industry, and not something I would say is inherently “bad writing”, but the extent to which it is used in this series is like no other, to the point of resembling a pentagon. Much of the drama that is involved in the show is a series of romantic interests that is antithetical to someone else’s, and in most cases the object of which this interest is lied upon is Kaito. And having the bland self-insert main character get all the girls is such a trope that I shouldn’t have to mention how uncomfortable it is at this point. And I don’t necessarily believe my biggest problem surrounding the romance is regarding Kaito, but everything surrounding him. Having every character’s point of contention be something about being in love with someone else in the main cast might be fine if not for the series also juggling a space drama subplot. It leads to much of the romantic subplots feeling underdeveloped and unconvincing, I never really cared as much as the series was blatantly telling me I was supposed to. It comes across like the romance was only used for its own sake and not for exploring anything or anyone. The series is at its worst in this regard during the cast’s trip to Okinawa, when Kaito’s childhood friend happens to meet the group and romantic tension is already introduced. After this point, the series is just throwing the same romantic drama beats over and over again not even letting me grow numb to it, at this point giving Kaito three romantic devotees. Homoromantic attraction seems to be at the core of life even outside of this universe
When I am watching a great romance-centered story like ‘Your Name.’, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’, or ‘Her’, I feel like I’m a part of their relationship. Not only do I get to know the characters that the relationship involves, but for them as a collective. At that point, no words can describe their relationships, but it’s a feeling. There’s a sense that these characters are incomplete without the other and that when in scenes featuring both they are whole again. Romance might not be perfect, these movies explicitly show the harm that can be induced from such a close and demanding relationship. But sometimes, hopefully, the good parts are worth the struggle. And when a movie or a show conveys this successfully, I genuinely believe it can be incredibly beautiful. And I don’t believe any of the romantic relations that take place or are sought out in this show. Aside from saying “I love you”, this show has nothing. For all I care it’s just an act in it of itself
If there’s a silver lining to the show, it is that I know similar structures and themes have and are being done to much better effect. While it isn’t identical, having watched through the British ‘The Office’ before the series definitely didn’t help it (this could work for the American adaptation as well). Having similar romantic subplots, it is interesting how the two choose to go about dealing with these dramatic beats. While I won’t spoil the series, even with a triangular romantic contention, it executes upon this in a much more fluid and a discreet way where the feelings of the characters feel like they exist in the real world and not in some fantasy. So I guess my conclusion is… go watch ‘The Office’. Pretty underground, not many people have heard of it.
And fuck you they knew exactly what they were doing with Mio that one time she said she liked Kanna and then forgot about it