Posted on 22 April 2018 with categories: After the Rain, Anime Reviews, Reviews by SuperMario

I suppose that most of us, even the perministic ones, enter After the Rain (Ameagari) with some reservations. After all, the premise about a crush from an 18-year-old girl to the store manager who is nearly 30 years senior raises a lot of red flags here. Yet the show handles this tricky premise with deep insight and offers us two of the more well written characters out there. Originally billed as a romantic drama, the last third of Ameagari steers away from any romantic tension to deliver something more profound. It explores the complexity of human emotion by examining the unlikely relationship between two individuals with broken dreams and how they influence each other to reach back their goals. While I’d love for the conclusion to be more impactful (the ending suggests their relationship is like… ahem… after the rain: fleeting, soft, momentary – I’d prefer for more storming here), this show remains one of the most intimate, sensitive – and ultimately – complex portrayal of bonding, and human relationship. This solid material is further elevated by the understated and strong visual storytelling, aesthetically pleasing visual presentation and color palette and one of the best soundtrack in recent years. Ameagari is pretty much excellent as a whole package.

Any decent romance story has to start with well-grounded and relatable main leads, and Ameagari offers us two characters that worth caring for. Both Tachibana and Kondou are complex characters, especially Kondou who first appears as a goofy likable old man, but through the course of its run, their personality, and their own dreams are revealed slowly. Behind their composure, there lies a huge disappointment of their current lives, and as we know them better, we learn that they have left behind the path they used to treasure the most – Tachibana with her injury that prevents her from running track again and Kondou with his passion for Japanese literature – and gradually lose the essence of who they really are, becomes a shell that has no more dream or desire (in one of the show’s most clever symbolism: he touches the shell of a cicada while speaking that lines).

Meanwhile, Ameagari follows mostly through the point of view of Tachibana. While the show’s never shy from exploring Kondou’s inner thoughts (and what poetic thoughts this guy has), we follow Tachibana mostly through visual cues: her gestures, her “sparkling moments”, the looks from her eyes. Why this difference in treatment? By giving Kondou an inner voice, we become certain that his feeling for Tachibana isn’t romantic or sexual interest, but more about how her reminds him of his own youth and his current lifeless life. For Tachibana, it’s more about fleeting first crush and the show more than nails it underlining those feelings with sensitivity of how first crush is like. As you can guess from the title, rain is the show’s motifs here, and it chronicles the progression of this romance, from gentle, quiet rains in the beginning, then “she comes like a rain” in the middle and bright in the end like a love after the rain.

The main selling point of Ameagari is undoubtedly the amazing chemistry between Tachibana and Kondou. Their back-and-forth exchanges always spark with so much dynamic that every time those two together, they’re bounce to have special moments together – a praise that you won’t hear me say often, especially in anime medium. We have The Confession, The Hug, the Kiss, The Final Confrontation… These moments are the highlights of not only this season, but for my money for the entire 2018 year. They’re impactful. They’re powerful. They’re just perfect. But even in those slower moments, whenever Tachibana and Kondou are seen together, they deliver a natural and positive influence on each other.

The supporting cast help expanding the lives of our two characters, although in retrospect, they still leave a lot to be desire. Chief among them is the inclusion of Kase in one particular episode that leaves a sour taste in the mouth for most of us, but what bad is the way he reverts back to background character and we never learn much about him again. Tachibana best friend, Haruka, receives more attention in the second half and she provides a welcomed conflict to Tachibana’s current crisis, but it feels unfocused when we have a section about her and the ex-captain of the football club (it’s as important as the second copy of the second will). Kondou’s long-lost friend Chihiro, on the other hand, provides an excellent supporting role by the way he counters Kondou about his writing’s passion or reflects further to the path of life that Kondou left behind.

The visual presentation of Ameagari furthers elevate this sensitive love story and makes it a total feast to the eyes. I admit that I didn’t have a high opinion to Wit Studio, mostly because the production approach in Attack of Titan was my least favorite, but I have totally changed my mind with this subtle yet gorgeous visual styles of Ameagari. The reason I bring up Wit studio in particular is because they have their own “make-up animation” team, which is a team who apply special effects to certain important scenes and they sure did the job marvelously here with downright impressive visual palette and strong direction. The soundtracks are simply mesmerizing. They not only bring out the best emotionally from these moments, listen to them alone can transfer you right back to these certain scenes. I could totally picture Tachibana in the rain, or moment when Kondou sees himself in his teen self or the moment they hug each other. I also enjoy the way the show leaves their characters a space to breathe. There are many wordless sections just to record simple daily activities of Tachibana, like when she misses a bus, walks to the train station or when she offers a stranger to walk them with her umbrella.

In conclusion, I know the word “done right” can justify anything but Ameagari is a glaring example of a show that done right in every aspect, from its concerning romance premise, to its visual approach and the way it handles the developments of these characters. What makes it raise above everything else this last season is that, all these excellent components are all in the service of its theme. As a result Ameagari feels like a complete product with no real weakness, as the same time delivers special relationship that reminds us once again about the complexity of our own emotions.

Posted on 31 March 2018 with categories: After the Rain, Currently Watching:

So what happens after the rain? The sun will shine again, and the sun after the rain is the most beautiful. _quoted by me.

But it’s exactly a sentiment this show manages to pull off. For fans of romance or for those who wish the two of them will be together, well, you’re about to be disappointed. I don’t know if it was Amaegari’s intention all along (because I don’t think it is), but in the end it’s clear that romance between them is always an illusion. Apart from the Hug and Tachibana’s confessions, there isn’t much of a romance at all, but instead about the bond they share together. Ameagari has shifted its focus squarely to their own ambitions for the last couple weeks now, so it’s natural to see that the show ends on this note. But still, they manage to pull off beautifully. At first, I was a bit afraid that the first half was too slow that Ameagari might not have time to make any meaningful impact. But boy, they did it with style. At this moment, Tachibana and Kondou has established such a strong, solid chemistry that every moment between them feel like a treasure, and that precise moment when Tachibana turns back and sprints into him is amongst its finest. I’m already tearing up as I write this, damn it. That’s the moment where everything comes together perfectly, a moment where all the motifs the show has been set up so far come rushing in together in the best possible way. Tachibana running. Kondou embracing and accepting her love, all the while acknowledges his love. After the rain. Tachibana in her work uniform. That soothing score. That gorgeous visual. Everything was flawless.

The rest of this episode isn’t that flawless, however. Here, in the final episode, Ameagari wraps up an unnecessary side story and produces many – for me at least- over-sentimental and obvious moment. Chief among them is the romance between spikey and blonde, the former doesn’t have much of a voice in an entire story. Its heart is in the right place, mind you, but when Nishida the blonde tears up after his not-confessions, it just becomes a little too much. The same can be said for the two freshman girls who reminds Haruka of her pass (isn’t it way too obvious? Look, they even sharing scarf like they used to) or the little flashback of Tachibana on the ground during the track competition, but still manages to finish the line. I had been watching real track competition before so I can certainly say to you that this is totally soap opera (This is how real life works). It’s nice to say the rest of restaurant’s members gathered together in this last episode, but it does raise me 2 concerns. First, we don’t get to see other faces beside this cast, makes me wonder how this restaurant can survive with the staffs this thin. And second, Kase’s role in the show is pretty under-used. I mean, Ameagari uses him up that one time for mainly negative impact, and then put him back to the background characters that doesn’t amount much. These are, for me, Amaegari’s most notable shortcomings.

Tachibana is again put into test how much running means to her, by ways of teaching Yuuto how to run properly. Witness her swinging her arms to show Yuuto how to run correctly is heartwarming and satisfying. Moreover, Yuuto has a chance to tell her about his promise with his Dad, the promise not to give up halfway and give everything his own. In other spectrum, Kondou put his best efforts to write. His matter now isn’t to write a good novel, but to dedicate his life to writing novels. Make it his poison (and cigarette ashes, it seems). Both Tachibana and Kondou have realized their fire and each of them has sparked that fire to the other. As they embrace, they promise to let each other know once they fulfil their own promises. A mature, lovely if a bit indecisive way to make a proper stop to this story, but then again life and relationship are indeed messy and indecisive that way. At least for Kondou and Tachibana, now they know what they want to do and try their best to achieve it. That’s a beauty.

Posted on 25 March 2018 with categories: After the Rain, Currently Watching:

What does it mean to be special to someone else?

That question just bugs me when I watched the recent development of Ameagari. Maybe it has more to do with what I experience in my real life, but Tachibana and Kondou’s relationship has gotten to that “special” category so I might as well delve into it. The question, to be more precise, is about the extent of letting some stranger become a great part of your life, be it best friends, lover or somewhere in between. Most of these developments come natural, you don’t question it, it just happens. It takes a situation where it doesn’t work, or in this particular case, where the two seem to be in two different world, for us to really question the very nature of what ‘relationship’ entails. I am certain that this episode pretty much confirms that Ameagari won’t make them a couple, in fact last couple of episodes the show moves away from the romance into “friend” territory. But how have their relationship been shaping so far? It’s clear that Tachibana sees Kondou as someone special to her. I’m most impressed with Tachibana’s recent actions, she moves from aggressive, clearly invading Kondou’s comfortable space in the first few episodes to pushing him towards his most comfortable but long forgotten space – writing the novels. She has changed from a slightly negative to become a positive force for Kondou.

But what’s about Kondou? Is Tachibana someone special to him? I can’t tell since he’s always the one who goes with the flow, who is content with whatever direction he finds himself heading. The two impressions that he does feel about her though, that she reminds him a great deal to his own youth, and that she’s willing to read his novel. I reckson it makes sense that the last development Ameagari want to explore, is him telling her how special she is to him, and gets her literally back on the track. At this point, they produce such a strong and unique bond to each other that everytime they’re together is a feast to watch.

That is to say that the real magic of Ameagari is when the two of them together, so naturally this week, when the show digs into each character’s story, doesn’t impact me much like when they’re together, but it’s still a well-developed one nonetheless. On Tachibana’s side, after seeing another girl breaks her own personal record who had the same injury as Tachibana, Haruka visits Tachibana while she’s working, and lays everything down to the table. She wants her back. And when she’s back, they can be close friend like they used to. I don’t agree with Haruka’s method at all, but it does affect Tachibana, since she still isn’t quite sure what she likes better. Running or her love affair. Or even more pointedly, she’s afraid of going back and experiencing that loss again, the feeling of young hope crushed down by injury and disappointment. This for me is a grounded, albeit a bit late to the game, issues that Tachibana has to face.

Kondou’s side is a whole lot brighter, Chihiro visits his home uninvited and from there, they share a great times together reviving their old passions. Kondo always looks at his old pal as a more successful version of his, but in truth, Chihiro is far from happy. The install success of his book (that makes its way into film adaptation) makes him feel vary, both because he himself doesn’t regard it as his best, but also the on-going pressure from his publication and his fans. Visiting Kondou is a way for him to revisit his own passion, why he wanted to write in the first play. Once again, another people encourages him to write. The reason he has put writing off is not because he doesn’t have anything to write, but because he’s afraid that his writing will let his young, passionate-self down. But like his friend Chihiro said, the only solution to this is just write.

From what I gathered, there are still 40 plus chapters yet to adapt and we only have 1 episode left. There is a high chance that the anime (plans) and goes for original route, with honestly I think for the better. Whichever way the two end up going, I’m sure I will remember them fondly.

Posted on 19 March 2018 with categories: After the Rain, Currently Watching:

At this point I can safely say that I will enjoy whatever direction Ameagari will wrap up. It has transformed from a merely love story between two adorable individuals with a huge age gap into something much deeper, more refine and more poetic. This episode is another stellar showcase in a way it feels entirely real, the compliment I can’t say in most of anime out there. Many moments from the show reminds me of real life through the way people interacting with each other and in many subtle glances and gestures. Maybe I’m at the same wavelengths with these characters, or maybe I’m just the same sad sack who let the things I love slowly slipped away, but I can relate all to well with both Tachibana and Kondou’s current situation. Kondou mentioned in the past that he regarded himself as “a 45-year-old boy with no hope or dream”, but in truth it’s not that he doesn’t have any dream, it’s that he had a long-lost dream. He devoted himself to literature and write novels until he got marriage, and the pressure of both pursuing his dream and maintaining his role in the family ended up at him losing both, and like the cicada shell he saw in the park, Kondou loses the nature that makes him “Kondou”.

The same can be said for Tachibana and her track career. The doctors mention that with a proper rehab, she could get back on track, but she decides not to. We know that running used to be her passion, we know that she still cares about running through her frustration when seeing other teammates practice, or through her buying a “Running” photobook. In an essence both Kondou and Tachibana try to look away from the passions, one keeps hanging on with life, the other pursues another (unhealthy) path. As the story progresses, the love story has evolved from “girl gets boy” into them support each other finding what they really love, and in turns, who they really are.

And I still haven’t mentioned some wonderful moments between them. First with the book fair where Kondou meets his old bookseller, wanders around mindlessly by himself and exchanges the shortest texts ever with Tachibana. I do find them repeating the same symbols kind of obvious, but well, the message is still rewarding. You can also see the more Kondou loses himself to his own thoughts, the more impressed Tachibana has for Kondou. She comes to the point of knowing him AND still love everything about him. Their exchanges towards the book she read, the swallow and then her speech in the end play out near flawlessly. Let’s delve a bit into Kondou’s own thought on the last swallow who has trouble flying. The manager comments that even if the bird can’t fly, he’d find happiness in the place he stays, but still looks up to the sky sometimes. It’s no doubt that there is a parallel between the bird and Kondou’s own feeling about his life. He accepts the life he’s living now, although he knows he’s leading a boring life with lost dream and no future, and maybe it’s Tachibana who can crack this and makes him write again.

This episode also addresses the on-going fallout of Tachibana and Haruka, as the two of them clearly still care for each other, as they check out each other’s posts but feel awkward to even make a move. Last episode, I took it as they need some time off (10 years!) like Kondou and Chihiro before they can feel comfortable to talk to each other again, but the way I see it now, they will get back sooner; and I hope Ameagari gives us a satisfying ending for both this plot thread, Tachibana’s running, Kondou’s writing and most of all, Kondou and Tachibana’s relationship. They might not be together in romantic sense at the end of the day, but they come to understand each other more and giving each other a necessary push to embrace life again. And for me that relationship is hundred time more precious than they’re romantically interested in each other.

PS: just the other night I listened to Ameagari’s scores on Youtube (what little of them anyways), and the soundtrack is mesmerizing. I could totally picture Tachibana in the rain, or moment when Kondou sees himself in his teen self. It’s not often a piece of music can carry you to such a specific place and time and mood so I treasure every second of it. Certainly one of the finest soundtrack in recent years. And to think that it’s just one part that makes Ameagari so excellent: the story, the direction and the visual (for those of you who aren’t aware, Wit Studio has their own “make-up animation” team, which is a team who apply special effects to certain scenes, as you can see in one of the screenshot) are all special in its own ways. This show is truly exceptional.

Posted on 10 March 2018 with categories: After the Rain, Currently Watching:

We take a side road from our main romance between Tachibana and Kondou in this last two episodes, instead focus on each own friendship, short story Rashomon and pimple. Not that I consider Ameagari anything less than stellar, the show moves with confident pace with so much lovely subtle details. After the unforgettable event where Tachibana “somehow” caught a flu from her manager (or should I put it, an unforgettable night where the two umbrellas fall on top of each other), Kondou tries his best to keep their relationship in the safe “just friends!” zone, and throughout the course of these two episodes we come to learn what true friendship really entails. As much as I consider Ameagari a lean product, as there isn’t much fat in the storytelling and everything onscreen is there for a reason, I do find focusing on Haruka and the ex-captain football ace Yamamoto a bit off-focus. Haruka is a tertiary character so I don’t necessary care much about her inner emotions beside her chemistry with Tachibana. Granted she comes to learn about Tachibana’s mindset through Yamamoto, but consider the drama unfolds afterward, I have a feeling that both her, and Tachibana’s understanding of each other have taken a step aback.

And then we have Tachibana doing her literature homework. With Kondou’s fondness for writing, it’s a good opportunity for more quality time between those two. And indeed, we have. There are cute awkward reactions from both Tachibana and Kondou during that time, but moreover, the way the Rashomon short story weaves together to the main plot, ala their romance is rather impressive. The story is a moral tale about the young servant, while witnessing an old woman stealing hair from dead body, decides to steal rather than stay righteousness in order to survive. The lenses of focus here is the young servant’s attitude, and both Kondou and Tachibana say their own thoughts on how they feel about the servant’s action. Kondou asserts that if he were the servant, he’d stay out of the rain, out of all the trouble – signifies that when he has to deal with sensitive issues (like certain age-gap relationship), he would not do anything risky.  Tachibana, on the other hand, just contents with whatever decision the servant is about to make – signifies that she’s okay with whatever Kondou chooses for their relationship, that she puts his well-being over her own wish. The pimple, in addition, represents the youthfulness. The youthfulness that Kondou thinks he had lost a long the way, the gap between him and Tachibana; as a result; I bet everyone found it whimsical to see the manager got a pimple himself. He can always feel young again, it seems.

Coming to the festival, Haruka and Tachibana seems to be perfectly fine with each other until Tachibana spots Kondou, and things get out of control pretty quickly. Haruka feels hurt not because that all Tachibana’s attention is squarely to the old guy, she feels hurt because Tachibana won’t talk about her issues to Haruka like they used to, a clear sign of a broken friendship. I can see where Haruka comes from, when their friendship used to be that intimate, it’s tough for her to know there is something going on with her best friend, but that friend refuses to open up. Tachibana puts more salt to that open wound with “we can’t go back to how we used to be” speech. Insensitive maybe, but it’s the truth nonetheless.

Still back on the topic of friendship, Kondou meets his old friend, turns out to be the author Chihiro we learned for the past few weeks. And things were nice. The night was warm, the food was oishii and they picked up where they left off after 10 plus years like nothing ever happened. Kondou has a chance to open up about writing books, in which he still manages to not entirely giving up, and a further reminder of his long-lost passions. They get along well, and Chihiro’s declaration that got to me the most. “We’re not adults, but classmates”. Like the fight between Tachibana and Haruka, we learn later that there was a rift between them: Kondou ditched his friend on the trip to India in order to marriage his now ex-wife. The decision that singlehanded separates them into two different lives, and make them unable to talk to each other. But like how Kondou said later to Tachibana in a glorious super-Moon fashion, the friendship may grow apart, but what happened before still exist. Those precious moments they did share to each other never going to disappear, and friendship might come back around when they grow apart, and sometimes relationship needs time and space to grow apart to make it stronger. Maybe that could apply to this rather special relationship, as well.

Posted on 24 February 2018 with categories: After the Rain, Currently Watching:

Dang it, this episode. Before you know it, a typhoon comes right in sweeping everything away. At first few minutes no one would never have guessed Ameagari evolve in such a complex way, even though we still know next to nothing about that Chihiro person. How should I take on the action of Kondou hugging his underaged employer while they’re alone in his house? I don’t know and none of the main duo seems to know either. But first, let’s tackle the episode’s earlier conflict. When Kondou is increasingly bothered by the book by that Chihiro person, Tachibana keeps blurting out about how wonderful a person Kondou is. Kondou knows he is everything but, so he straight up cuts their conversation short with “you don’t know anything about me”. He doesn’t mean any ill, but there’s a lot of truth behind that statement. The truth remains that they live in a different lifestyle that it feels like they live in two different worlds: Tachibana with her high-school life and lives in the centre of Yokohama, and Kondou lives alone in the crappy apartment trying to make ends meet and raise a kid. Even such a simple topic like a chatroom apps for staffs would remind her how difference a gap between her and the middle-aged Koudou is.

Moreover, Tachibana for the first time feels some resistance from her manager, and it pains her that she might become a nuisance to her crush. That thought totally wrecks the poor Tachibana (and I always think Tachibana isn’t the kind who let her personal feel affects her work) to the point she comes into his apartment, in the freaking typhoon, to… what exactly does she come into his house for? The depressed girl announces that she wants to know more about him, echoing her lines in last few episodes. But Kondou has his own reasons for feeling irritated with all the praises Tachibana says about him. For him, Tachibana holds the idealized version of him that he knows he never going to be. The version that everything about him, although flawed, is kira kira in her eyes. But maybe it’s her who sees through him, it’s her who see many great characteristics from the wear-down, failed and awkward middle-aged man. He doesn’t feel that Tachibana is a nuisance. Quite the opposite that it’s her youthfulness reminds him of many feeling he thought he had forgotten, in which he’s grateful.

Seeing the crying Tachibana, in the moment of brief black out (which unassumingly creates a perfect mood), he hugs her – the first physical contact between them, all the while thinking to himself that he “will close my umbrella and get wet in your rain” – whatever that means. Is it then, the fleeting feeling of love from Kondou? It’s hard to pinpoint, and I’d argue that it’s best not to delve into it too much. The hug, even as a friend or more than that, is still just a hug (we just know one thing for sure that’s is how Kondou transferred his cold to poor Tachibana). Everything in that moment is perfect, from the music, to the lighting and the atmosphere. Definitely one of Ameagari’s best moments to date. We also have quite a treat to see Tachibana again fantasying about that moment hugging Kondou… naked. Gosh, those developments could easily become distasteful and too much in other series, so why on earth Ameagari delivers them so heartfelt and graceful here? As our commenters point out last week, the manga will end soon so there is a high chance Ameagari will finish as the manga approaches its last few chapters. Completed story is always a plus for me and judging how Ameagari performs so far (in other words, flawlessly), I have my high hope that we will have a satisfying ending waiting ahead.

Posted on 18 February 2018 with categories: After the Rain, Currently Watching:

This week is another light week in terms of central romance development between our leads, as the first half spends its time to Haruka, Tachibana’s childhood friend. Thank God, even with this segment that feels more like a side story, Ameagari still continues to hold up very well. Haruka always feels that she is left behind Tachibana, both in the field and in their relationship. It’s not just a figure of speech, as in one flashback we can clearly see Tachibana running ahead while poor Haruka following behind. Their relationship has been stalled since Tachibana left the track team duo to her injury. For Tachibana, she temporary shuts everything that reminds of track team, of the life she once felt belong to. Haruka feels the distance growing between them, and while there is argument on whether or not Haruka has a “romantic feeling” to Tachibana, it’s clear that she’s hurt that Tachibana seems to only regards her as “running friend”, and nothing more. From those flashbacks from Haruka (which are lovely, by the way, given we are treated to see Tachibana the middle-scholler and Tachibana the primary schooler), she has been admiring Tachibana from a long time, and their relationship had been tested once, briefly after she had to move to another school. And now she feels like it’s being tested again.

In defence for Tachibana though, I think she doesn’t think that much. She’s just too occupied to win the heart of Kondou. She again moves on to the new direction, leaves Haruka behind, and she’s afraid of Tachibana’s slipping out of her hands again. I guess both of them now are dealing with their own pains, Tachibana from not be able to run again and see everyone enjoys the things she once loved. In order to keep their friendship together, they just need to be honest together and the letter in the end (with the lucky but ugly charm Mukihiko to boost) is the right step into the right direction of being honest to each other. On other notes, I greatly appreciate the visual-storytelling of Ameagari, showing us the normal day of Tachibana missing her bus and walking all the way to the station, and later her sharing an umbrella with a stranger in a silent, quiet manner. The show is confident enough to just let the visual do the talking, assisted greatly by the wonderful violin score that I swear I could listen to all day. Even in the slow episode like this, there’s so much to love in this beautiful and tasteful show. Rain in Yokohama has never been this attractive.

In the latter half, we’re back to our duo Tachibana and the manager as she spots him in her local library. Her attempt to know more about Kondou’s taste proves to be in vain as he refuses to recommend books to Tachibana, prompt her to pick Botchan (arguably one of the most popular novels in Japan), and photobook about running (love it!). But his attitude changes when he sees the book written by Chihiro Kujo, which my guess for now is his ex-wife, or the person who had the same writing dream some twenty years ago. The latter especially could prove to be interesting, as this episode once again forces our main leads to look back on their past relationships, about their own shattered ambitions, in order to make sense of who they are now and what they really want to do. I am pretty much on board with that.

Posted on 10 February 2018 with categories: After the Rain, Currently Watching:

It’s a bit of a slow episode this week, with the appearance of the show best character (Tsubu!), Tachibana becomes a pepping Tom, Kondou’s unexpected popularity amongst his staff and Tachibana plays a motherly role to Kondou’s son. Well, I said “slow” in regard to the romantic development between our two leads compare to last few episodes, but the central romance still progresses gracefully. This episode splits into two parts, one we have Tachibana visits the manager’s house and the other one involving our cute little hamster. At first, Tachibana finds a chance to voluntarily take his son to his house, without any ulterior motive I’m sure. She even gets into the house while he was away, and comes hiding in the closet when he gets back home in the Blue Velvet fashion (“She wears blue velvet”). While in there, we see her fascination to know more about Koundou’s private place: the messy bed, the empty fridge, the bookshelf that has all the books about being a successful manager or “How to do an install trick” (great details here as you can see how Kondou thinks about his position within his choice of book), and the work room where there are papers lying around.

While hiding in the closet, Tachibana both overhears and overheats the conversation between him and Tachibana. It’s the time like this when his personality can be shown the clearest: he doesn’t have to pretend to please someone else, he doesn’t need to make any formal gesture, but the guy behaves earnestly, just like the way we see him in early episodes. Yuuto tries to get him into take care of a little hamster, on a ground that he can visit him more often. The manager reluctantly accepts it, and reveals that he loves reading books. I noticed in the closet where Tachibana was hiding, there’s a box that said “1990”, makes me wonder if they’re his manuscript from way back. I like the smart visual motifs when Ameagari cuts to the manager waving his hand in rejection, match-cut to Tachibana waving her hand out of the heat, to Yuuta waving his spoon while eating. I also like the way Ameagari underlines many Tachibana’s actions this week as sensual (like how the tea spilled over her shirt revealing her bra, or how she is physically blush when wearing her crush’s oversized shirt; and other of her activities with the father and son as part of a family (she was cooking for his son, they were walking together in the rain), both of these affect Kondou, obviously, further challenging him on what her role is gonna be in his life.

But both the lovebirds could never have guessed is how suddenly Kondou regains his popularity through the staffs’ mutual love for our little hamster. Tachibana is jealous with this newfound recognition where she finds it difficult to reach him anymore, and jealousy has never been this adorable. In fact, look more closely and you might realise that Tachibana is walking a thin line between showing her affection to the man she likes, and manipulating his life with her sheer determination. For now, I’d rather say she never cross the other line, but it’s a close call. She snaps the high-spirited mob to back to their work, while announces to the manager that she’s the first source regarding any hamster-related issue; an act of monopolize him I would figure. Ameagari almost reaches halfway point, but the execution to this sensitive romance drama still remains thoughtful, quiet and graceful as ever.

Posted on 2 February 2018 with categories: After the Rain, Currently Watching:

NO. I don’t like this third wheel development at all. Obviously, this romance is going to meet heaps of obstacles along the way, but it’s better not this. Suddenly, a side character having a creepy treatment, force the plot moving forward right before the two having a date together? One thing that upset me is how Ameagari makes it pretty clear about the conduct of this character Kase. He’s anything but nice. Plain and simple. He’s manipulated and dirty and annoying. No, Ameagari. You don’t brute-force the plot to squeeze out some drama like this, and you don’t make a guy evil so that we have to root for the main duo, ever. But for what it takes, Ameagari succeeds on making me worried for Tachibana and her forced date. Although received a clear signal from Tachibana, this dude keeps on pestering her to extend the date, including forcefully grabs her hand and later kisses her. Dirty little bastard! He even goes so far to say that the romance between her and Kondou will never work. And by his behaviour I’m sure that this creep will do his best to make his claim true, whatever it takes. I’ll be honest that I don’t like this Kase dude as a character and as a role in this story. Such a pity but I consider this as Ameagari’s first major misstep so far.

That date also serves as a parallel to Kondou and Tachibana’s date, as it happens in the goddamn same place, with the same sequences: horror zombie movie first (anyone noticed the same man in suit in front of their row?), then a sip of coffee and later a walk on a bridge. Such repetitiveness is meant to highlight the differences in Tachibara’s mood and the contrast between two dates. When she’s with Kondou, a “downfall of mankind” type of film suddenly becomes entrancing, coffee feels sweeter (well, literally) and the outside background is bathed with such pink and dreamy color palette. The time feels longer (like it’s stopped) and the linger for those moments feel much stronger. Kondou, on the other hand, thinks that the date would bore her so fast (wrong!) and there is a beautiful moment when he is again taken back to his youth self with his first black coffee experience before realizing that he was the only middle-aged man with a young girl in the shop. It sure is the taste of bittersweet youth. Last week, his excuses had always been about the reception of other people and Tachibana’s own well-being, but this time it’s all about his own feeling: that he would feel uneasy seeing her youthfulness because he can’t stand the fact that he isn’t young anymore. Pretty neat development here.

This episode is light on rain, but fear not since there are a whole leg fetishes going on here. Ameagari is excellent of underlining small body movements to convey the mood of the characters and in this episode, the focus on legs not only tell you the temporary state of mind a character is in, but also the distance (or lack thereof) between Tachibana and certain characters, signifies their intimacy. Ameagari still has its chops for sensitive visual storytelling, especially the sequence on the bridge takes my breath away for its beauty and moody atmosphere, but at the same time I consider this episode my least favorite episode so far, given that it opens to another conflict that I’m not fond of. Remember Ameagari, the drama works best when it comes from the struggles within the characters themselves, not from some outside creepy force that tries to blackmail AND then spill out their romance to everyone.

Posted on 28 January 2018 with categories: After the Rain, Currently Watching:

Gosh, the romance tension sure escalated quickly, which for my money is for the better. This week we have Tachibana in both her lowest and highest (AKA entirely in her unstable mood), the 45-year-old clueless victim who tries his best to brake the relationship from going too far, and a coming date of the two at the end. The last part stands to me as the only sour (last) note to this extraordinary episode. You see, that “date” is obviously a plot device so that the two of them can spend more time together, and it breaks the established mood although by that point I was already invested in the two of them and their romance to let it pass. The factor that I appreciate the most out of this episode is of course, Kondou’s reactions to Tachibana’s confessions. Ameagari skates the thin ice in this sensitive issue but the show manages to pull it off with even more sensitive approach. The guy not only act like a normal 45-year-old guy would do, but he convinces her with many sounding, sensible reasons and appropriate actions. Responding straight to Tachibana about her confession, for one thing. Giving her two main reasons to reconsider her options, one of them because of the huge age-gap (which she couldn’t care less), and the other because of his own empty self (an empty middle-aged boy with no dream or hope – so much honesty here). The second reason is important here, he feels himself unfit for someone like Tachibana, whose life is just at the beginning of her stage, and she’s attractive on top of that.

But it’s the emptiness that seemingly bring the two together. That brings me back to the first half of this episode, Tachibana meeting the track club members. After seeing them enjoy running and making progress, she’s deeply frustrated and left. A brief montage of the events led to her injury further demonstrate the fact that 1) now that her track career is gone, Tachibana feels empty, thinking that she has hit the thick wall ahead. And 2) she meets Kondou in the exact time when she was at her lowest point, the moment really gets into her that she finds the spark in the man. Many could say that it’s unrealistic, but I totally believe that’s how young people fall in love, especially the love at first sight. That frustration from seeing her being left behind by the wheel of present and the track field which once made her special lead her to pursuits the love to Kondou AGAIN, in the rain (it sure rains like hell in Ameagari). And when the message is out there’s no holding back there, for both of them.

This third episode makes it the first time we entirely see the events play out from Kondou’s point of view. After he tries his best to avoid the love message from Tachinaba in every possible way he can think of: first seeing it as a formal compliment from the girl, then taking it as a dream, then as a prank (there are nice little sequences play out in his head there); he deals with her the best way anyone could. What really sells me is the way Ameagari displays his perspective in an insightful and subtle manner: we could see his nervousness through his drinking the can that had cigarette ash in (he experiences the true bitterness of that love, as some might say), or through him searching for cigarettes but couldn’t find it. His thoughts as well, are so personal but well-placed and honest. Despite all the “you should reconsider this” stuffs, I can see how her confessions affect him in a good way. He feels flattered by the thought of someone attracted to him, he feels young again (with the smart visual of him in his teen self), he feels love and being loved again. And honestly, what is wrong with two people falling in love?

My bottom line: this is the best episode not only for Ameagari, but I consider it the best of episode I’ve seen so far this Winter season. I’ve heard someone compare this to Wong Kar Wai’s romance films. While at first I thought this’s too early a game to make any concrete statement, with this episode I do feel a resemblance here, especially the way they develop well-grounded characters we care for and their mature love relationship.

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