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Waiting in the Summer (known in its native Japan as Ano Natsu de Matteru) is a twelve episode romantic comedy brought to us by the creative minds behind Please Teacher and Please Twins. What distinguishes it from countless other anime high school romances is Ichika Takatsuki, the show's leading lady, who happens to be a red haired, bespectacled alien. Stranded on Earth, after asteroids pelt her spaceship to the point of beyond repair, Ichika decides to enroll at a nearby Japanese school under the guise of a foreign transfer student. Perhaps it would have been wiser to lay low and await rescue, but whatever. If other anime shows are to believed she'll fit right in as Japan's student body is already oversaturated with robots, espers and vampires.
On her first day at school Ichika catches the eye of Kaito Kirishima, a teenager who has a passion for amateur filmmaking. It doesn't take long for the pair to strike up a friendship culminating in Kaito allowing the homeless Ichika to stay at his oversized country home, which is presently empty as his parents are deceased and his elder sister has just started a new job overseas in Bolivia. Despite the eyebrows raised by the couple's cohabitation, Ichika ends up integrating well into Kaito's circle of friends. From that point on the story advances to tell the tale of how the pair and Kaito's friends (Testuro, Mio, Kanna and Remon) spend their summer vacation recording an amateur movie.
Ironically Ichika, who is trying to keep her extra terrestrial heritage under wraps, gets cast in the leading role as (yes you guessed it) an alien. Love begins to blossom between Kaito and Ichika, but is the relationship doomed for failure? Ichika's time on Earth is likely to be limited, not to mention that there are others vying for Kaito's affections. Katio's posse of chums seems to be made up of numerous love triangles were everyone appears to fancy someone else. Gripes these adolescent courtships are almost as messy as Ichika's cooking recipes (which amongst other things include a menu of chocolate curry.)
Looks wise Kaito Kirishima doesn't fit the stereotypical mold of a male romantic lead. His bushy hair and thick-rimmed spectacles scream nerd, which would repel anything with a vagina in the real world, but in the wonderful world of Japanese animation his good heart is sufficient to attract the ladies. Kaito is always seen clutching a handheld 8mm camera, which he uses to record real life events as well as movie footage. Being an orphan he regrets the little time he had with his parents and how his memories of them have began to fade over time. With that in mind it's easy to see why he would be drawn to filmmaking, a hobby that affords him the tools to preserve cherished moments for posterity. In terms of personality Kaito isn't as colorful as the rest of the cast, but he gets props from me for manning up and pursuing Ichika once they get past their awkward flirting phase (something many other animes fail to do.) One thing I enjoyed about the character were his daydreaming bouts, in the early episodes, that give the viewer a glimpse of his chaotic inner thoughts, which are in stark contrast to his normally composed exterior.
Although Kaito is a geek, the same cannot be said of his friend Tetsuro whose dashing good looks have earned him the reputation of being a ladies man. Even the female schoolteachers go weak at the knees when subjected to his advances. Despite memorizing the name (and erm measurements) of every girl in school, Tetsuro only has eyes for his childhood friend Kanna. Unfortunately for him Kanna is smitten with Kaito. One similarity the two share is their unselfishness when it comes to matters of love. Throughout the series Tetsuro does his utmost to hook up Kanna with Kaito, willing to sacrifice his own desires for the sake of making the one he adores happy. In a similar vein Kanna is guilty of offering words of support to her rival Ichika even if by doing so she is giving ground in the contest for Kaito's heart.
Should things not work out between himself and Kanna, Tetsuro has a consolation prize waiting in the wings in the form of Mio. Unlike the tomboyish Kanna, Mio is more ladylike wrestling with the shyness that to date has prevented her from revealing her feelings to Tetsuro. One thing I don't get about Mio is why she is so bashful as it is revealed that nudists raised her! Lets discard those thoughts of nakedness though (like unwanted clothes) and move onto Remon who is my favorite character of the piece.
Despite looking like a minor, as she is vertically challenged, Remon is a senior student in Kaito's school. She's an odd character who goes to class wearing a uniform that matches neither the school's colors nor design. Remon is the first human to befriend Ichika after spying her struggle to adapt to human customs. Remon has a sharp mind and knows how to get her way. In no time at all she effortlessly seizes the movie's directorial position from Kaito and revels in manipulating the sexual tensions within the group for her own amusement. I always dug how she would creepily snigger after expertly orchestrating things to put the troupe in compromising positions (such as the time she took provocative snaps of the group, after getting them intoxicated.)
Anyone acquainted with my reviews will know that when it comes to anime I usually shun mushy stuff in favor of action, comedy, horror and fantasy. That said I am glad that I gave Waiting in the Summer a chance as I found it thoroughly enjoyable. The amusing slice of life moments early on endeared me to the cast, getting me invested in how things would pan out once the romantic drama started to get into its stride. With a group of two guys and three girls you don't have to be a math wizard to work out that someone is going to be left disappointed once the dust settles. The narrative really tugs at your heartstrings and thanks to the rapport you build with all the characters you don't want any of them to suffer. I can't say that I disliked anyone... heck even the token cute mascot (who looks like a jellybean shaped Tellytubby) didn't get under my skin.
I appreciated how in a mere twelve episodes the series managed to build up the Kaito/Ichika dynamic in a realistic manner. That's something many other animes fail to achieve, even with the benefit of a higher episode count. Despite Ichika's interstellar origins the narrative plays out like a down to earth teen romance, with sci-fi elements only coming to prevalence in the last two episodes (when galactic enforcement show up to forcibly eject Ichika from the planet.) By that point I was so convinced Ichika/Kaito were destined for each other that I was glued to the screen to see how things would play out. The creators manage to keep the suspense going until the very last second in what proves to be a solid climax. Whether it's a happily ever after ending or one of those bittersweet finales that leave a lasting impression I'll reserve for you to find out. The series is currently available to buy in the UK from MVM Entertainment, as part of a two-disc set. If animated romantic comedy is your thing it's well worth checking out.