Before you read on, I’d like to apologize if this post reads as something fragmented or hard to follow. I wrote it on very little sleep and threw it up on an impulse, so I haven’t had time to properly edit. Nonetheless, I hope it’s a decent enough read.
Anime and I haven’t been the best of friends for the several years that I’ve been following it like a dazzled puppy. Regardless of quality, the big hurdle to overcome has always been having a series grip me. While it’s not unheard of to have it happen where something utterly consumes me, it’s a rarity. The same goes for Ano Natsu de Matteru. While it’s been far from a bad watch, managing to underline its whimsical comedy with a distinct melancholy tone, it hasn’t made me emotionally invested in the slightest. I think this is less a fault with the series and more with how I’ve experienced life.
There are a few posts, most notably on SnippetTee’s blog, about how the series conjures up nostalgia or manages to strike a chord because of some resonance with a character. But the thing is, I’ve never empathized with any sort of coming of age drama and Ano Natsu is no exception. My summers were mostly spent indoors, fighting off the heat with the power of central air conditioning, daytime television and Push-Pops. The only times I ever went out with friends were when I was forced out by family or otherwise. I enjoyed the company for maybe an hour before wanting to return home and huddle in a corner until bedtime. As such, I never had any summer trysts, even after I started to come out of my shell a bit more.
People generally tended to avoid me, and I tended to avoid people; it was always a harmonious relationship that I was happy with. Hell, Welcome to the NHK would be something much closer to my actual life, even if I’m nowhere near as antisocial or hikkikomori-like.
So basically as far as my experiences are concerned, the events in Ano Natsu are completely foreign. It could be a story about how everyone was abducted by Ichika’s people and forced into a battle royale against the ravenous fish from Gyo, and it would have about as much relevance to me. But there’s another reason why I don’t think I empathize with any character, and it’s not necessarily any kind of intrinsic flaw.
The series that do tend to really click with me are the ones that have “observers” as central characters, as opposed to “participants”. These are people who interact with the plot only as much as they need to, keeping their presence to a bare minimum in order to better facilitate an organic response out of the rest of the cast. The plot may revolve around them, but they have very little actual influence over it past simply being. This is usually where the audience is meant to project in some series, like Kino’s Journey or Shigofumi, and this is where I feel the most comfortable. Shiki is another good example, though for different reasons. While there are a number of characters, none of them take the spotlight in particular; the ensuing lack of a central character creates much the same effect as having an observer. Ano Natsu has no such means for me to connect, and so I feel a sizable distance between me and the material presented.
Again, this isn’t a criticism against Ano Natsu itself. I felt the same during Toradora despite that being an enchanting watch, and I will no doubt have that disconnect continue for the rest of this. To be honest, I don’t know why I typed this up out of the blue. Maybe I felt like explaining to myself and the world at large why I’ve never felt all that engaged by melodrama like this. I like it and I acknowledge that it’s good, but there’s very little that speaks to me here.
Some discussion value would be good here, so if you feel like sharing, please tell me some or all of the following: How do you feel about Ano Natsu? What series hold your attention the most? Is there any archetype that you tend to project yourself on?