Thursday, 12 September 2013

夏のあらし! 春夏冬中/ Natsu no Arashi! Akinai-chuu / Summer Storm! Open for Business (season 2)

Natsu no Arashi grew on me with time. I know it’s only a few weeks since I watched the first season, but the more I thought about it, the less I remembered how divided it was, how ugly that retro art style was, how crass the fanservice was and how a fair few of the jokes went over my head, and the more I remembered the likeable characters, the sweet love triangle with additional gender-bending comedy with reverse-trap Jun, and how flat-out entertaining it was.

Essentially, season 2 is more of the same. It could easily have been a continuation of the first part without a break. The opening is probably more fanservicey than anything else up to that point, and a bath house episode is racy enough that there was censorship on the TV version to be removed from the DVD release, but that’s not exactly what one would call grand progress.

Given the amount of episodes between the two seasons, though, the disjointed nature of Natsu no Arashi softens and eventually becomes a non-issue. Yes, it’s an anime about ghosts who can jump through time, and about a group of strange people working a summer job in a café, and about a rather confused girl who has dressed as a boy before falling in love with another boy and yet not wanting to reveal her true gender to him, even when it gets ridiculously inconvenient. You can also expect just about anything to happen, like when quite randomly Jun wakes up to find herself possessing the body of a mature woman. 

The disparate elements still don’t exactly sit well together, but the fact they’re all elements of the same show is more palatable. And I’ve grown to like the strange ghosts from the 40s more, now, even Arashi herself, and while I’ll never get used to their strangely-drawn faces, their personality quirks make me smile and I shall slightly miss that daft episode-closing conceit of having an old anime or mange described in an outlandishly grandiose style.

I have to say, I still wanted the whole anime to be about Jun. The idea got a bit exhausted, with the poor girl having to decide how it would be possible to pretend to be female in swimwear on a beach, sharing a room at the bath house with the boy she likes and even having him try to drag her naked into the hot springs, but it still provided the biggest laughs and was deeply adorable. I very much like Jun and her softness of character, lacking in the rest of the cast and, indeed, in anything from the mangaka’s previous work School Rumble

I wouldn’t mind seeing more of how her story unfolds, even though it’s quite odd how in just about any series with a degree of fanservice AND a trap/reverse-trap, they usually end up being subject of more perverted scenes than any other cast member, usually because the comedy of other characters simply not getting it is consistently funny.

Otherwise, there’s not a whole lot more to say about the series. Because Hajime only has eyes for Arashi, and the two newer cast members are more obsessed with one another than any boys, this doesn’t feel like a harem anime in spite of its opening sequence that heavily hints in that direction. Other males are largely incidental, despite the silly muscly guy with shades eventually also being able to travel through time. There’s another possible love interest of Arashi, but he primarily exists to spur Hajime into action.

It’s a tangled web, and the ‘ghosts disappear at the end of summer’ thing feels rather tacked-on for a bit of extra angst. Overall, though, the daily lives of these strange characters are interesting and I may eventually turn to the manga to see what becomes of them. 

I don’t suppose Shaft will return to the series for another season, though – after all, salt guy FINALLY got his salt, and if that doesn’t signal that a series is complete, I don’t know what does.

Bonus! Super-fanservicey DVD scenes!

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