Operation “My Favorite Things”: Childhood Is Over (Ano Natsu de Matteru)

Tetsurou walks on eggshells when it comes to Kanna, a childhood friend and hopeless crush. As the person who is most aware of this romantic tension (besides Lemon) that exists between his group of friends, it only becomes more painful the longer he stays silent. You’ve seen this kind of development happen in other places. The one. The only. The infamous love polygon.

[DeadFish] Ano Natsu de Matteru - 08 [BD][1080p][AAC].mp4_snapshot_08.31_[2013.09.06_00.16.40]

I am going to center this post specifically around Tetsurou because it’s his actions that ultimately resolve the polygon. Well, they don’t get resolved right away, and it certainly didn’t start with him, but his particular story ends up having the most friction. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is up to the viewer, but it certainly makes him the most interesting of the bunch to observe. Why is his romance so emotionally turbulent compared to, say, Kaito’s? We’re given the opportunity to view these characters side-by-side because of their similarities, the biggest one being that each boy has a girl they love and a girl that’s in love with them. The biggest difference between the two, however, is that Tetsurou is considerably less decisive.

I think of Tetsurou as this sort of argument against characters who are completely aware of their situation, as opposed to the ever-vilified “bland oblivious harem male lead”. You’d think that the person who knows everything has the most control over the love polygon, but what’s wrong with that assumption is that it disregards the type of person Tetsurou is. He listens to his friends and understands the relationships that are building around him because he’s conditioned to care about the people around him. Because he cares about the people around him and because he’s part of the polygon himself, it becomes imperative that he makes actions that aren’t based on selfish intent. Which leaves him with… nothing to do. Nothing, that is, except to watch everything unfold at its own pace. Wouldn’t that just be frustrating, to know everything and not be able to do anything about it? There’s no such thing as a truly happy person in a love polygon, and the more you know about it the fewer your options seem to be.

It doesn’t really seem like that at first, given the way Tetsurou behaves around Kanna and Mio. On the surface, Tetsurou treats Kanna like any other childhood friend: with a lot of care and a bit of playful friction. Learning, after years of spending time with her, that this is the kind of behavior that she enjoys being around. But that behavior does not translate into reciprocated feelings, and so Tetsurou is left in his little self-imposed friendzone to agonize and writhe for years on end. Not to mention that she’s in love with his best friend Kaito, a person whom Tetsurou also cares about. Given the realization that Kaito is in love with another girl, Tetsurou is stuck with a few hard decisions: does he keep Kanna “open” by letting Kaito chase Ichika, or does he fulfill Kanna’s desires, hook her up with Kaito, and leave his own feelings in the dust? He’s given an entire summer to think long and hard about what he wants to do.

[DeadFish] Ano Natsu de Matteru - 10 [BD][1080p][AAC].mp4_snapshot_08.58_[2013.09.07_22.45.28]

As if that wasn’t already enough, he’s given a sudden confession from Mio about her feelings for him. which acts as a device which picks at Tetsurou’s indecisiveness. Since Tetsurou does not give Mio an answer when she confesses, she does not mind waiting for an answer later. It’s strange in this aspect, and I’ve maybe touched upon this with my previous post, but we usually fear confessing our feelings because we fear the possibility of rejection, and to put it in more conceptual terms the possibility of destroying the established relationship between you and the person in question. For Tetsurou and Mio, and to an extent the entire group of friends, the relationship in this case is their friendships. It certainly seems that way, doesn’t it? That if they ever confessed their feelings for one another, they wouldn’t be able to see each other as friends anymore? That nothing would ever be the same if it happened?

What I like about the particular image above is that this whole hubbub about risking relationships and all that is only applicable if both sides succumb to it. Tetsurou agonizes over this dilemma while Mio just sits there, waiting patiently for an answer. At this point in the story, the only person that’s really hiding anything in this group of friends is Tetsuo. Because Mio is such an angel that she’s willing to wait for Tetsurou to sort out his feelings, she’s absolved of her personal worries to the point of undergoing that complete personality change that occurred an episode or two ago. The only one that really feels stressed about this, a silly exchange such as handling a confession, is Tetsurou. I admit, there’s a lot more going on with him than just this interaction, given his whole stress about Kaito and Kanna, but the same principle applies: the only reason he’s so hesitant to express his feelings is that he fears the risk of dismantling his friendships. To some people, me included, this sentiment is funny to the point of sadness. He’s not going to lose his friends just because he breaks equilibrium. He would have absolutely terrible friends if that were any bit true, and he knows his friends aren’t as terrible as to abandon him just because he happens to like one of them.

[DeadFish] Ano Natsu de Matteru - 10 [BD][1080p][AAC].mp4_snapshot_13.56_[2013.09.07_22.49.38]

Take a step back, though. While he values his friendships so much, why is it that he can’t trust them to remain friends with him if he were ever to confess? I think that attitude stems from a long time of watching his sister’s seemingly volatile relationship with her husband. There are two particular things about his his sister that he cannot reconcile in his mind: the fact that she fights a lot with her husband and the fact that they’re still together after so long. Given, fighting with a lifelong partner and confessing love to one of your childhood friends are two overtly different matters, but the core principle is that Tetsurou is certain that his sister’s behavior is supposed to lead to a divorce. Consider his personality and his reluctance to rock the boat and it becomes an indicator as to why he’s always so baffled at his sister’s attitude towards her relationship. Yet, no matter how much he believes it to be true, Tetsurou’s sister is still in a strong relationship. It may be true that she fights with her husband over silly things like videogames and such, and her reactions might be outlandish (like escaping to Tetsurou’s apartment for a bit to cool off). However, what’s important about their relationship is that they always end up back at equilibrium. More importantly, they trust each other to come back to equilibrium.

The point of this conversation is that the worst thing you can do in a love polygon is be untrustworthy. Tetsurou’s sister may not be the most peaceful in her relationship, but that just shows how much she leaves it to her husband to understand her behaviors, with great success I might add. But Tetsurou is still stuck in his indecisiveness, still convinced that if he were ever that honest about his own feelings that his friends would reject him in more ways than one.

Moments later, he gets a phone call from Kaito. He’s telling Tetsurou that he and Ichika have essentially hooked up, and he’s going to call everyone to his place to make it official. Tetsurou, at this point, is confused as to why he would do that. Did Kaito disregard everything he said about Kanna liking him? Was he calling to mock him for that? As it is shown, Kaito does not call for either of those reasons. Rather, it’s because of those exact things that he has felt the need to announce himself.

“That’s why I have to tell everyone else. About my feelings.”

[DeadFish] Ano Natsu de Matteru - 10 [BD][1080p][AAC].mp4_snapshot_15.10_[2013.10.05_21.07.22]

It’s kind of funny how this is all it takes for Tetsurou to realize something valuable about himself: his greatest fear was not the rejection of his friends but the terrifying difficulty in opening his own heart. He may have been trying to protect Kanna’s feelings by doing what he did, but whose feelings were really being protected? Who was the person who would benefit from these roundabout antics other than himself?  And where did he get the ludicrous thought that everyone would reject him for his honesty, anyhow? He certainly isn’t burning his bridges with Kaito, now that his relationship with Ichika is official. He knows Kanna well enough that this won’t deter her from seeing him again, either. Furthermore, even though he still hasn’t given a straight answer to Mio, he himself hasn’t gone as far as breaking off all contact with her. Having doubts about the outcome of a confession is one thing, but Tetsurou’s friends have proven to us (and to him) that they’ll stay friends no matter what happens between them. Now that everyone else has played their hand, it’s Tetsurou’s turn to lay out his cards, whether he wins or loses the round.

[Hayaku]_Ano_Natsu_de_Matteru_-_10_[720p][10bit][2C781B45].mkv_snapshot_15.48_[2012.12.23_10.29.36]

Which brings me to the particular moment that I was writing this post for. Tetsurou invites Kanna to come together to a nostalgic playground before going over to Kaito’s house. Off to the side, there is a pair of children playing together. Those two in this case represent many things about Tetsurou’s relationship between him and Kanna: innocence, puppy love, blissful reminiscence, basically all the symptoms of a childhood crush. Of course, since Tetsurou is the only one feeling any of this, the pair of children represent nothing but an illusion he’s desperately clinging to. Any way or another, he and Kanna reminisce a bit about childhood, about how she used to be taller than him. The meetup is short-lived, however. As Kanna no longer finds her nostalgic relationship with Tetsurou to be as precious, so to does she quickly become bored with the conversation. She’s about ready to leave.

That’s all the confirmation Tetsurou needs to finally open up.

[DeadFish] Ano Natsu de Matteru - 10 [BD][1080p][AAC].mp4_snapshot_17.20_[2013.09.07_22.52.22]

A multitude of self-incriminating things escape his breath. Things such as his ulterior motive for bringing Ichika into their little circle of friends, his conflicted motivations in resolving Kanna’s feelings, his admittance to emotionally manipulating her, and, finally, that he loves her. In tandem with tearing down his emotional walls, so too does the commotion shoo away the pair of children, as seen here. In preserving what little there was left of his childhood nostalgia, Tetsurou was inadvertently grasping at a false image of one of his closest friends, one whose owner has since moved on without him. In learning that she, and the rest of the group, was already far beyond where he was emotionally, Tetsurou finally found the courage he was looking for. Confessing all of those things meant that his relationship with Kanna would change, perhaps for better or for worse. He’s not as omniscient as to predict how she would react to all of this. However, what mattered is that he could not stand to remain paralyzed in his own reminiscence any longer. For him, childhood was over.

[DeadFish] Ano Natsu de Matteru - 10 [BD][1080p][AAC].mp4_snapshot_18.28_[2013.09.07_23.01.45]

He did not do any of this for any romantic rewards. There is no satisfaction, no glory, in being rejected by someone he loves. However, there is relief. As someone who understands Kanna the most, Tetsurou figured out that this same fear he experienced was holding her back as well. She still hadn’t properly confessed to Kaito, after all, and Tetsurou’s attempts to help her (by informing Kaito of her feelings) went up in smoke, meaning that it was ultimately up to her to decide what was going to happen. That if her lifelong friend can confess his feelings without a care in the world, then so can she. What ends up resolving their places in the love polygon is a shift in priorities. There is nothing shameful in being friends with a love interest, though difficult as it may be, when it is all that remains.  Waning in the pensive and solemn atmosphere of a long, long summer.

Addendum

  1. kk after a whole month of floundering i hit 2k words can i go home now
  2. i can go home now right
  3. what do you mean i have to do more of these
  4. okay.jpg
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2 comments

  1. Man, that love polygon is far too complicated for me, which, as you wrote, shows why it is better for the protagonist to remain ignorant of it! Being open and honest is incredibly important for relationships, yet I wonder if Japanese culture, with their conception of tatemae (public personality–literally, shield before oneself) and honne (true/private personality), makes honest exchanges more difficult. The Japanese seem very much prone to hide their true selves, hence frustrating romances must be easy tales for them to write!

  2. […] meets a hot alien babe (yawn) but because the entire story was filtered through nostalgic lenses, its fantastical elements somehow managed to contribute powerfully to its themes of growing up. A weak story that became something more by the strength of its direction […]

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