Waiting in the Summer – Review
While testing his 8mm camera at night, Kaito Kirishima is caught amid a mysterious explosion in his small town. Strangely, Kaito wakes up the next day perfectly fine, but with no recollection of what exactly happened the day before. Unfazed by what seems to have been just a dream, he heads to school not giving much thought to the incident. Discussing with his friends about the camera, they decide to make a movie during summer break. They invite two upper-class students to participate in the project: recently arrived Ichika Takatsuki and the odd Remon Yamano. In a strange twist of fate, Ichika starts living with Kaito as his sister has to work overseas. Summer days are about to get exciting for the small film crew.
With a screenplay written by Yosuke Kuroda, Waiting in the Summer is a series that attempts to offer an original approach towards its narrative, but also easily befalls to the numerous tropes of the romantic comedy genre within anime. With its usage of a female extraterrestrial love interest, various risqué shots of its female cast, and a rather predicable harem-esque plot line, the series contains a multitude of familiar elements that viewers of this particular genre will have seen before within other works. This is interesting considering that one of Kuroda’s most famous contributions within his career was that of being the screenwriter for Please Teacher! (2002), in which one has to wonder if a return to a similar genre such as the one in that show would be detrimental to Kuroda’s ability to expand as a writer, distancing himself from his prior approach of construing romanticism with the likes of fetishism. Unfortunately, Waiting in the Summer returns to almost the exact themes he’d focused on in previous works—excluding much of the creativity that made works such as Please Teacher! original for its time.
The common premise of an alien girl unexpectedly coming to earth and intermingling with that of humans is certainly not a new concept in the slightest—it’s one of the most overly utilized themes within anime. What makes Waiting in the Summer somewhat frustrating is that Kuroda already showcased this theme within his previous works, including that of the aforementioned Please Teacher!, a work that is almost identical to the premise established here. This approach doesn’t necessarily help the series in regards to providing a unique take on a rather conventional theme, instead relying on the tired tropes that have thus hindered this concept from expanding in a creative fashion. In other words, the premise of an alien girl falling in love with an earthling boy has increasingly become a gimmick within anime, a mere narrative device in which a story is constructed around. A major problem within Waiting in the Summer is that the series never truly expands on this premise to any significant standard, gradually keeping it in the background without much effort to sustain it as a reasonable facet of its story.
This approach can almost be expected of Kuroda considering his past works, where such contrivances were used to a substantial degree. This can further be seen within this series, where the idea of the alien girl Ichika is not that as forthcoming as a major element of the plot, and where the main focus is shifted to that of the romantic relationships between the characters. This positions the subject of Ichika being an alien as seemingly an afterthought, a move that makes its inclusion more apparent as a gimmick as series progresses. But if this was a plot device to simply focus upon the relationships of its characters, it doesn’t fare much better. The relationship between Kaito and Ichika is oddly forced; the series makes no appreciable attempt to make these two characters seem compatible whatsoever—unless you take into account that Kaito’s only mainly attracted to Ichika’s physical appearance, a notion the series continuously lends its attention towards. The series extends this approach towards other characters as well, in turn becoming an unnecessary labyrinth of emotionally vulnerable individuals subscribing to a complex model of conflicting love interests i.e. boy likes girl, but another girl also really likes the boy, but the boy doesn’t like her, but he kind of likes another girl too, and then that third girl comes to like another boy and him, etc., with the end result of the viewer just wishing these characters would come clean and simply admit their love for one another.
Thematically though, one could appreciate that the series does deal with some important issues regarding the fleeting passing of youth and first love. Waiting in the Summer puts special emphasis on these two elements, making the series more relatable on a purely sentimental level than anything. We slowly begin to understand these characters actions and how they correlate with their growing love and closeness towards one another. There is a palpable sense of friendship that the series adheres to as well, where sacrificing one’s interest for another is a real sign of true friendship, and where respecting the pursuits of a friend’s love interest is both admirable and courageous. In many ways, Waiting in the Summer would’ve been a much more appropriate series if it just focused more extensively on the aspects of teenage love and companionship rather than interject the whole concept of Ichika being an extraterrestrial from a faraway planet. While that certainly provides the series a touch of uniqueness, the connection between the characters is the series’ main strength—not its extraterrestrial women or galactic skirmishes. Kaito and Ichika’s relationship—as faulty as it is—gives the series some pertinence towards the notion of falling in love with someone you know you can’t be with. Director Tatsuyuki Nagai handles this aspect of the series with considerable attention, never allowing the emotions of the show’s characters to deteriorate into adolescent melodrama.
This approach is where Waiting in the Summer works out extremely well, and where the series finds itself rising slightly above its conventional premise. But the most significant detriment within the series is that it’s relies on all-to-known conceptual traits to advance its story, which alleviates it from eliciting any real emotional response offered through its characters. The added element of Ichika being an extraterrestrial seemingly has no effect on the outcome of the story, instead only utilized for purposes of strangely reinforcing her physical relationship with Kaito—with one prime example of her having to kiss him in order to deliver nanomachines to his body. One aspect of the series that is quite accomplished though is the development of its characters, which can certainly be accredited to Kuroda’s skills as a writer. If the series didn’t involve itself within the realm of the supernatural, it would’ve worked out great as a simple romantic comedy regarding one character’s willingness to direct a film with friends against the backdrop of a transitory summer. While the viewers may appreciate the series’ character development, other elements just seem as an unnecessary distraction more than anything, making Waiting in the Summer a series that awkwardly subscribes to both a tired premise as well as considerable character development—with neither one truly complementing the other.
Author: Miguel Douglas
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