The second season of that Natsu no Arashi cartoon concluded a little while ago, and it had a pretty awesome last episode! In retrospect, the whole show was pretty good, but what held it back was a smattering of okay to downright dumb episodes in the middle.
Something that had me confused for a while was just why I felt some of those middle episodes were as lacklustre as they were. In previous writings I balanced the blame between the original work and SHAFT’s delivery, but now I’m inclined to shift the blame more towards Kobayashi Jin. I haven’t read the original manga–so I don’t know how faithful the show is–but when one of your sillier episodes ends with some hilarious amateur stop-motion animation of the Hakobune turning into a giant robot, it’s clear that SHAFT was at least trying to salvage an episode that was dumb, but not dumb enough to be funny. In fact, not being X enough is the main problem with the weaker Natsu no Arashi episodes–the time travel vignettes aren’t clever enough, the dumb jokes aren’t dumb enough, and the drama doesn’t hit hard enough.
That said, when the show hits, it hits hard. Strangely enough, where the show succeeds the most is when it falls back on already established jokes; such as Jun hiding her identity as a girl, Hajime making bombs out of fruit, Yayoi and Kanako constantly getting orders wrong, and that poor bastard never getting his salt. These jokes are usually expertly handled and elicit large amounts of laughter. Part of why the last episode is so great is because it takes a lot of these constantly running jokes and brings them to their logical conclusion.
The cast has always been really great. They’re all extremely silly and childlike people to varying degrees, and refreshingly don’t fall back on many modern cliches. It’s pretty refreshing to see a character like Hajime who actually acts a real teenage boy, and a playful female character like Arashi who’s realistically playful and not “HA HA I’M GRABBING YOUR BOOBS” playful. I’m not going to go into all of the other characters, but they all have funny quirks which are a touch familiar, but in short supply these days. Thank God there’s no tsundere character.
Since this season is more humour-focused, the character’s goofier sides are highlighted, as opposed to being used to more mellow or dramatic ends like in the first season. That is to say, most of the humour is character oriented, with more referential humour being delegated to background elements like music, title cards, or random dances characters may do in the background. Sadly, the characters only really shine as bright as the script does for any given episode, so when the story is a stinker, the characters don’t do much to enhance one’s enjoyment. Well, they do a little bit. But not a lot.
Despite being a mixed bag of good and bad–with the gap in quality being even wider in its second season–I’m glad a show like Natsu no Arashi exists. In a time when everyone and everything is caught up and the here and now, it’s refreshing to see a show which takes us back to an older set of conventions. But more than that, Natsu no Arashi is just a show that likes to have fun, even if it sometimes has fun all by itself.
Here’s a tip to SHAFT if they ever want to do a third season: Bring back Omokage Lucky Hole. You know you want to.