The latest work by Shaft, Natsu no Arashi, seems to have incurred two strikes against it before it even aired. The first is the source material comes from the creator of School Rumble. I haven’t seen this show to judge for myself but I’ve come across a lot of anger over it’s “lame ending” so these people are at the very least skeptical over this new series and many don’t even want to give it a chance. The other strike comes from the timing of this series. Many people, including myself, were looking forward to Shaft’s winter season anime – Maria+holic; it seemed like a perfect match of source material and studio but the results were disappointing. It felt like Shaft phoned in most of the series and this disappointment makes it hard for some to give Shaft another chance without some proof of the studio fulfilling their potential.
Rating: episode 1 – 7/12B
Rating: episode 2 – 10/12A
Rating: episode 3 – 10/12A
Anticipation Level: medium
Yasaka, a middle school student, goes to live with his grandpa for the summer and meets an enchanting high school girl by the name of Arashi working at the local coffee house. Yasaka realizes he doesn’t have a chance in getting Arashi to be interested in him but fate works strangely sometimes and a connection is formed between the two that allows them to travel back in time. I don’t know how effective time travel would get a girl interested in a boy but Arashi is a person that’s fallen out of time – by all appearances human but no longer exactly human – and she’s excited by this development. This power can be used in small ways like we see in episode 1 but it can also be used in big ways like what we see in episode 3.
If I had written this post after episode 1, it would have been very lukewarm towards the show. I thought the animation quality was just abysmal compared to what Shaft is capable of doing, the animation style was very generic, and the characters were drawn really sloppily – there must have been at least a half dozen times when the characters looked cross-eyed. Compounding this, they threw us into the story well past the starting point of the series (as seen in episode 2) and it just didn’t work. Sometimes this tactic works brilliantly like in the case of Ga-Rei: Zero or the Melancholy of Haruhi but this time I was left feeling cold towards the series. The one real redeeming aspect was the time-traveling; I wasn’t expecting to see this and time travel always gives the show interesting possibilities.
However, I decided to wait for a couple more episodes and I now have a much higher opinion of the show. Episode 2 is a much better introduction to the series, for starters. The animation quality of episodes 2 and 3 is higher – no more cross-eyed characters and more of Shaft’s trademark animation styling makes it into the show but I’m still not really impressed; though, it’s good enough that it won’t detract from the enjoyment of the show (for me, at least). The big improvement was the introduction of the basic story of the show as well as the viewers getting to know the main characters more, especially Arashi. Yasaka isn’t much to look at (he almost looks like a failed cloning of Monkey D. Luffy) but he displays much more reserve and maturity around Arashi then I could have mustered at 13. So he’s a pretty good male main character. In the case of Arashi, not only is she a great character, the whole mystery surrounding her being there is a great hook to keep the viewers interested in the series.
Another big positive about the show is it’s voice cast; though without looking at the ANN, I didn’t realize who was who. Yasaka is played by Yuko Sanpei who played Nakiami on Xam’d: Lost Memories. Arashi is played by Ryoko Shiraishi,who is probably best known as voicing Hayate from Hayate the Combat Butler and is doing a great job of sounding feminine and not Hayate-esque at all. The owner of the cafe is voiced by Hitomi Nabatame; known for voicing Margery Daw from Shana, Ryoko from Ryoko’s Case Files, and the often drunk teacher on Hayate. Jun is voiced by Chiaki Omigawa who’s only other role was Maka from Soul Eater (and she’s voicing Jun too much like Maka and I’m having a hard time thinking that Jun is supposed to be a guy but it’s still a good performance). And looking over the list there’s a few characters that I don’t think have been introduced in the show itself but will also be voiced by great voice actors: one is done by Tomokazu Sugita, another is done by Yui Horie, and also Ai Nonaka. And I almost forgot the over-muscled private investigator is voiced by Hiroki Yasumoto who is probably best known as being Germany on Hetalia: Axis Powers.
I think episode 3 sold the series to me. We saw Arashi use their time travel abilities to go back to Arashi’s time and attempt to fix something really sad that had happened. We also saw Arashi struggling at times to keep up with modern society and not appear lost because people are talking about things that didn’t exist in her time. Yasaka decides to introduce Arashi to something new – the arcade – which had a great (and funny) scene involving the crane game. Even looking back at episode 1 with the next 2 episodes to give us some knowledge of the characters and it’s a much better episode because we know the characters more and their interactions are now more interesting.
Without a crystal ball, I can’t exactly tell how the show will balance the time traveling, the mystery surrounding Arashi, and the normal slice-of-life stuff but as long as it keeps offering all three – I think this show will be worth the time.