I honestly shouldn’t be surprised that I have this opinion. For all it’s worth, I know some of you out there share this sentiment with me and I feel that we could be buddies in a later life. But not right now cuz das gey. Getting straight to the point, I’m going to list a couple of unorganized reasons why I ended up liking Ano Natsu de Matteru more than Ano Hi Mita Hanaasdlkfnawkmcnrzxo. Well, maybe it won’t be a list and instead be a couple of single things about each anime. It’s by no coincidence that the stories have a similar structure, with each of its characters in love with another and that’s makes everything complicated and messy and melodramatic and asdfknga-wait a minute. That’s a difference right there. stahp it brain.
I liked Ano Natsu for its atmosphere, for encapsulating the feeling that summer is indeed upon them. The anime uses summer for the characters to share their precious moments with each other, which turns into breathtaking shots like the ones included in this post. It was warm and fuzzy in its feels, with its soft smiles and beautiful landscapes, in its silly antics and the inevitable pain of drama. Yet, no matter what happened to each character, there was always someone else watching over them, to make sure that everyone would pull through the summer as the intact group of friends they started with. There may be rivalries concerning love, but their friendship was always the number one priority. That’s not to say that Ano Hana couldn’t match this atmosphere, it was just a bit more disarrayed because of its content. It had to tackle Jinta’s hikkikomori status, Anaru’s lack of self-confidence, Yukiatsu’s jealousy, and Tsuruko’s additional jealousy in a myriad of different ways that didn’t exactly mesh together consistently. Struggling to go to school doesn’t necessarily run parallel in atmosphere as a person who copes with loss by dressing in drag and walking alone in the forest. I get that these events happen because they’re all traumatized by Menma’s death, but Ano Natsu’s atmosphere much easier to relate to because it didn’t rely on me to understand the thing that everyone in Ano Hana lost that day, and that’s Menma. The problem is that I don’t like Menma.
This isn’t a point that necessarily hurts my opinion of Ano Hana, by the way, but it does make me wonder. I understand what she represents in the story, which is the innocence of each of her friends that day, but that didn’t mean that she had to remain a one-dimensional character the entire story. I just wished that she would understand exactly why her group was so fractured by both her loss and her existence (essentially ruining their childhood and their love lives), but if there’s any narrative cues that hint at her actually doing this I must have missed it. The frustrating thing about her is that she is a mere concept in accords to how the story is told, but we’re also made to expect that she’s a convincing and developed character too, given how much everyone else had to go through this entire anime. The story introduced us to a lot of personal problems each character had, which ran deep and treacherous into their mental state, but if they’re going to introduces themes like that I didn’t want Menma to be an indication of “who loves who” or be a target of romantic melodrama. I felt that her character was ultimately wasted on the romance when there was so much else they could do with the amount of episodes it had.
By episode 10, it became apparent that the melodrama route was the only way to go, and while it didn’t harm its central themes I basically stopped caring about the characters. I wanted them to grow up in the span of eleven episodes, but the tenth episode kind of shows that they didn’t grow at all. Which made that kiss-and-make-up session in the finale feel so, so forced in my eyes. Poppo’s outburst was the nail in the coffin. His was arguably the worst experience out of all of the group combined, yet it was given the least screentime. That pissed me off. That whole ending pissed me off. All the yelling and screaming and running around did not endear me as much as it wanted me to be. I just couldn’t look at the accomplishments that the anime pulled off in the early episodes in a good light anymore because of how it ended. High expectations does that to people.
That’s not to say that Ano Natsu did not have its share of problems too, especially when it concerns the ending. The silly, throwaway scenes with the MIB came back to bite the anime in the ass by turning a quiet, turbulent summer romance into a high-speed chase scene filled with aliens and secret organizations and giant robot vans. It was disappointing to see it turn out this way, to say the least, because it didn’t really mesh with the entire theme of summer and all. At least the closed up the romantic subplots in a fitting manner before driving itself off the cliff and into the ocean. That’s something Ano Natsu managed to do that Ano Hana couldn’t do properly.
There was also the problem of Kaito and Ichika, probably the blandest couple of the year. People who are perpetually optimistic do not make for interesting developments, and there’s almost nothing to Kaito other than his single-minded affections towards Ichika and his undying, positive outlook on life despite having dead parents. That’s not to say that he has faults, because he has a single, frustrating fault that rises above the others, and that’s precisely how single-minded he is in pursuing Ichika. Because of it, he disregarded Tetsurou’s advice on paying attention to Kanna, who was hopelessly in love with him. Truthfully, he had no proof that she actually did like him (because lolfriendzone), but it would not have hurt Kaito to just ask her himself if she liked him, then promptly reject her and return to fawning over his senpai. Would it, though? As aggravating as it was to watch Kaito do absolutely nothing with the information Tetsurou gave him, it was grounded in the fear that he would lose her as a friend if he told her that he couldn’t reciprocate her feelings. Kanna ended up having developments of her own and finally confronted Kaito with the right mindset to accept being rejected by him. Maybe that’s the point of why Kaito ends up being so boring to watch: it gives the supporting cast more room to develop. It’s much, much easier to keep track of a character’s development when the rest of the cast seems static in comparison. Arguably, Ichika has developments of her own in the sense that she comes to accept mingling with Earthlings and listening to her feelings by accepting Kaito. It’s just that her struggles are just not as convincing and emotionally profound as the struggles of Kanna, Tetsurou, and Mio. In fact, they develop so much through the course of the anime that the story might as well swapped spotlights on the characters every now and then. The story had multiple main characters, and some have ended up looking more interesting and unique than the straightforward romance in the forefront.
To put it this way, I had matching expectations for both Ano Natsu and Ano Hana, one in fully fleshing out the love polygon and the other in pulling each character through the trauma of tragedy and becoming a better person through it. Ano Natsu fulfilled my expectations by episode 10, then deflated somewhat because of how it trapped itself in its own plot. Ano Hana, on the other hand, disappointed me in its focus on romance rather than trauma, and deflated in a similar manner. In the end, I regard Ano Natsu better than Ano Hana because the former at least made me feel good enough for me to prepare myself for the trainwreck while the latter kept me kind of depressed for unconvincing reasons and kept me there because of how much of a trainwreck the ending was. I suppose what I’m saying is that both anime have their own respective disappointments, but because Ano Hana was tackling bigger themes it was ever the more frustrating to see it crash and burn the way it did.