Monday, November 18, 2019

Missed it Monday - After the Rain (Anime Review)

A high school girl, head tilted back against a wall on a bright blue day, an umbrella leaning against the wall
Missed it Monday is the column where I review anime/manga that I didn't get to watch/read when they first came out.

After the Rain (anime) - 5/10 (if you've read the manga) or 7/10 (if you haven't)

This was a very hard review to write. I waited to watch After the Rain until after all the volumes of the manga had  been published and after I had read them. That means that I would be judging the anime not on its own terms, but against the manga. And I loved the manga, and really really loved the way the manga concluded. I felt the manga was emotionally and characterizationally consistent and honest in its conclusion. While I liked the anime, it truly paled in comparison to the manga, particularly the ending. It's short running time of 12 episodes did it no favors.


For those who don't know the gist of the story: Akira Tachibana was a highschool track phenom. She tore her Achilles tendon and has refused physical therapy after the surgery and gave up track to work at a restaurant. At the restaurant she falls in love with the 45-year-old, slightly balding, slightly bumbling manager, Kondo. But it turns out the manager was a novelist who lost his way and gave it up. The manga is not a story of their romance, but of mutually finding their way back to their true selves. However, that purpose gets undermined by the changes made in the anime.

The anime covers the first two US volumes (all double volumes) of the manga almost exactly for the first 9 or so episodes. The last three episodes pick and chose a few parts from the final three volumes, leave out a lot of important character development and changes, but then add some of its own original content in order to wrap up the narrative arc quickly.

One of many things that made the manga amazing was its slow pacing. By forcing three double volumes worth of character development into the final three episodes, the anime undermines this pacing. Maybe worse than anything, the ending is both subtly and drastically different than the manga.

SPOILERS: The manga spends a lot more time on Kondo and his writing and history (particularly in the final three volumes that get gutted in the anime). Through this, we get the parallel between his losing his way (with writing) and Akira losing her way (with track). We see two hurt and scared people on parallel tracks who come into each others lives and help each other find renewal. But in the manga, they don't get together and there is no hint that they ever will. Kondo is very very clear throughout that he will not go there, either in his own fantasy or in reality. He is upstanding and holds her youth in sacred trust.

However, in the anime, the final moments of the final episode leave open a possibility that they will get together sometime in the future. This fundamentally changes the original author's intent and the value system that underlays the whole manga. The purpose of the original manga was to juxtapose two hurt and lost souls journeys back to health. Yes, Akira thinks she is in love with Kondo, and she might very well be, but that romance isn't actually the purpose of the manga. However, with the small changes in the pacing and big change to the ending of the anime, it turns a rich character study into a romance. That was disappointing. SPOILERS OVER

But let's talk for a minute about what the anime gets right. First, the art is dead on for the manga. It looks just like you'd want it to. Second, Akira's voice acting, animation, expressions, body language, etc... are just perfect.

However, Kondo does not have his little bald spot in the anime. This was an essential part of his character (and was in some ways symbolic of the impossibleness of them actually getting together) and her affection in the manga, and I really wonder if it was left out of the anime in order to play up the possibility of actual romance.

For those who have read my posts in the past, you know that I can't stand when there are relationships between adults and teens in manga/anime. Particularly when those adults are teachers. Here we have an adult, male, manager. There is an inherent power imbalance there for three different reasons. Thus, it is critical that Kondo's position over Akira isn't abused. While the manga does a superb job at showing the honor, morals, and ethics of Kondo in refusing to move their relationship forward, the anime isn't quite as perfect, but it really isn't too bad either. In neither version did I feel skeeved out or upset by the dynamic between the two. The only exception being the very ending of the anime which (SPOILERS) leaves open the slightest possibility for the future (SPOILERS OVER).

Along these lines, there are also some episodes that tonally shift to more of a romantic comedy vibe rather than the manga's melancholy atmosphere. Again, I have to think this was done to make it more of a romance anime rather than a deep character study on loss, grieving, and healing.

So all that being said, I have to imagine I might have felt very different about this anime if I hadn't read the manga first. Judging the anime on its own (to the best of my ability to be objective) you have picture perfect animation, great characters, perfect depictions and voice acting for the leads, and a charming story.

But compared to the nuance and the richer ending of the manga, the anime pales. It is too quick a conclusion. We just start to learn about Kondo as a complete and complex person towards the final few episodes, so we never really understand that his story is meant to parallel hers. Instead, we just see him mostly as an object of her desire, and never truly understand his rich complexity. Also, the atmosphere in the anime is hit or miss. Some episodes capture the melancholy of the manga perfectly, others are too light and comedic. It's just so uneven in comparison and ruins the purpose with its more ambiguous and open-ended ending.

So this was really tough and I must honestly give it two different ratings. If you've read the manga, you'll likely be somewhat disappointed, particularly with the ending and that knocks it down heavily to a 5/10. But if you haven't read the manga, you'll likely enjoy this anime, even with its imperfections. So taken on its own, it's more like a 7/10.

🚺

Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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