After all of the shows that he’s been directing and will be directing in 2009, it’s safe to say that Akiyuki Shinbo has been the most prolific director of the past decade: I can’t think of anyone who directed as much series as he did, especially in the past five years. Natsu no Arashi started out as one of the many dark horses of the past Spring Season. At first sight it looked to be full of your usual shounen clichés and all, but it turned into a very interesting and engaging series.
At first sight it’s easy to label Natsu no Arashi as one of those moe comedies around high-school girls, but that’s only half of the series. The other half is a surprisingly serious and deep storyline about time travel, World War II and people who are deeply affected by the past. For once in one of Shinbo’s series, the characters have strong personalities and yet are more than a bunch of paper bags. Hajime may seem like a bit of an oddball here, but his purpose in the series really is to act as the straight man, compared to the issues and stories that the rest of the cast has, and he pulls this off really well as the main character.
On top of that, this series also has a very inspired sense of humour. As this is a series about time-travel, it really makes the most of it by including jokes that can only be shown in this kind of series. This leads to priceless discussions about a rotten fish, among others. It also likes to poke fun at one of its on-going plot threads, in which one of the characters (Jun) is a cross-dresser. A number of absolutely hilarious episodes are centred around all sorts of crazy situations in which she has to try and keep her secret and pretend to be a guy.
Overall, this series is really well balanced, with the serious and silly episodes alternating so that the end result is a very varied series that grabs the best of both. The only downsides are the first and last episode. The first episode really gives a wrong image of what the series is going to be about, while the last is mostly a rehash of jokes (something that the other episodes managed to avoid so well), and carries Shaft’s style a bit too far. nevertheless, if you’re looking for a series that has both light and dark parts with engaging characters, then this is a show you should check out.