After The Rain Collection (Cert 15)
2 Discs Blu-ray (Distributor: MVM) Running time: 293 minutes approx.
May to December relationships always court controversy among those on the outside, evolving into full-blown scandal depending on how large the age gap is, and where the scale begins. After The Rain based on the manga Koi wa Ameagari no Yo ni (Love Is Like After the Rain) by Jun Mayuzuki, chooses not to scandalise such a relationship, instead looks at the people involved from a sympathetic point of view.
17 year-old school student Akira Tachibana is a former track runner, her career ending following a torn tendon in her ankle. She now works at Cafe Restaurant Garden after the manager, Masami Kondo, showed her kindness during her post injury depression. Yet, much to Akira’s surprise, she finds herself strongly attracted to her meek, often hapless 45 year-old single father boss.
Kondo is naturally oblivious to this as are the others working in the restaurant, but Akira is torn up inside between confusion and desire, and makes the first move in instigating a relationship with her boss. Taking baby steps, Akira tries to engage Kondo on a platonic level though Kondo is slow on the uptake as to how serious Akira is towards him, but their time together leads both to very different conclusions.
By avoiding the lascivious route it would have been so easy to follow, After The Rain adopts a coming-of-age approach in exploring the fall out of a forbidden teenage crush, focusing less on a potential inappropriate affair and more on how it changes the lives of the two principals. What should be a contentious and divisive morality play is in fact a sensitive and restrained exploration of finding a direction at the crossroads of life.
Quite a few factors prevent this from being a sordid tale – firstly, Akira is a serious, aloof, and practical girl, gamine in stature and stern in appearance. Her feelings for Kondo seem rather ludicrous under scrutiny, yet somewhat enigmatic in how atypical this is for her. That Akira is the one to initiate the discussion excludes Kondo from being deemed a predator or pervert as per the usual knee jerk reaction.
Since this is a slice-of-life series, there is more going on in the story to contextualise the awkwardness of the central relationship, both personally and socially. Akira is evidently lost after devoting much of her young life to track running, her dreams of major success now in the past. She doesn’t appear to equate her pursuing Kondo as a way of filling this large gap, having resigned herself to never running competitively again.
Ironically, it is an incident in which Akira chases after a customer to return his phone aggravating her injury that first brings Akira and Kondo closer. However, Akira is risking her oldest friendship by not opening up to fellow running teammate Haruka, lamenting the loss of her former athletic aspirations, and shutting Haruka out as a result, since she now has Kondo to focus on.
How Kondo handles the situation is vital to how lurid the story could have been. Since his character has already been established as essentially harmless, there is intrigue as to whether he may end up the victim of a determined predator. Akira’s intentions towards Kondo are vaguely expressed, as this is a new experience for her, although her sense of discipline precludes her rushing into anything sexual, not that this occurs to her.
Factor in that Kondo already has a young son in Yuto, whom Akira naturally befriends, the warning signs should already illuminated. Maybe wisely, maybe stoking the flames, Kondo suggests a date to discern how incompatible he and Akira are. Typically, people assume they are father and daughter, whilst Kondo fails to take Akira’s age into account when planning the date. A second date at a book fair, chosen by Akira for voracious reader and aspiring writer Kondo, goes much better.
Their first date actually replicates a less joyful one Akira is blackmailed into the day before by Ryosuke, a 20-something lothario chef at the restaurant. He discovers her crush and forces her to go out with him, hoping she’ll she prefer youth over seniority, making her Groundhog Day date with Kondo bitterly conflicting in having to suppress the memories of the day before yet be seen to enjoy it for Kondo’s sake.
Providing much needed levity and grounding for this romantic fantasy are the other co-workers at the restaurant, including ditzy Yui who falls for new kitchen junior Takashi – except he has a huge crush on his classmate Akira. There is hulking head chef Ootsuka and older waitress Kayo, who rules the service staff more than Kondo does, her biting putdowns and exasperations are always good for a laugh.
With the manga publishing its final chapter literally one week before the final episode of this adaptation aired, the ending is a little abrupt, leaving some issues unresolved yet not to any real detriment to feel cheated by it. In keeping with the show’s gentle tone, it concludes on a hopeful note that both protagonists will find what they are looking for but not without the ambiguity of whether that means with each other.
Renowned for their work on Attack On Titan, Studio Wit departs from the world of fantasy to animate this show. The backgrounds and artwork are expectedly lush and vivid, whilst the ubiquitous titular rain becomes as much part of the cast as the humans are. The character designs are less “typical” anime, boasting lanky figures but not CLAMP levels of spindly, otherwise the show is very easy on the eye.
After The Rain presents us with a coupling we really shouldn’t root for but find ourselves invested in both of them as individual people rather than controversial lovers. There is the moral grey area of their relationship to encourage discussion but does so intelligently and with panache. The absence of tawdriness is both refreshing and welcome, allowing the heart-warming sentiment it possesses to resonate far and wide.
English Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Japanese Language 2.0 DTS HD-MA
Disc 2 Only:
Clean Opening Animation
Clean Closing Animation
Rating – ****
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