Natsu no Arashi!

TV (13 eps)
3.41 out of 5 from 1,880 votes
Rank #7,817

When thirteen-year-old Hajime goes to stay with his grandfather he gets lost and wanders into the Ark Cafe. There he meets Arashi, a sixteen-year-old girl with a big secret, and is immediately drawn to her. When a large private detective clad in camouflaged trousers and dark sunglasses walks into the cafe looking for Arashi, Hajime manages to help make him back off - for now. In thanks, Arashi goes to shake his hand but as she does so the pair connects and Arashi takes Hajime back in time to show him how the town used to look... while she was still alive! Now, after being ‘won' in a bet by the con artist currently managing the cafe, Hajime is working alongside the ‘ghostly' Arashi and fellow middle-schooler Jun who also suffered the same losing fate. As his life takes this unexpected turn, Hajime's stormy summer filled with strawberry bombs, moped races, and plenty of time travelling is only just beginning.

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Season one of Studio Shaft’s 2009 supernatural fantasy offers us a dark and original comedy streaked with enigma. Stick with it past the first two episodes and it becomes increasingly rewarding. (Episode one confusingly jumps into the middle of the story and does the show no favours by doing so.) There is a lot going on here so take deep breath and dive in. The main character is thirteen-year-old boy Hajime Yasaka who meets the beautiful sixteen-year-old Sayoko Arashiyama (Arashi) in a local café where she works. He is smitten and when their hands meet there is a literal spark of connection. She declares them compatible and rushes him outside and jumps backwards in time. She explains that she is a ghost who died at the end of World War Two. However, she is able to time travel back to the past as long as she is able to hold the hand of a compatible living partner from whom she draws her power. Then Arashi’s equally-dead best friend Kaja Bergmann soon turns up. She quickly partners with her compatible time-travelling living partner who happens also to be Hajime’s friend Jun Kamigamo. The wide cast includes Sayaka, a con artist who owns the café where they all work. Then there is regular customer, nicknamed “shades” (Hideo Murata), who is a private detective hired by shadowy figures to bring Arashi back to them. Those shadowy figures are Kanako Yamazaki and Yayoi Fushimi – two ghosts who knew Arashi & Kaja at school. They are after her for their own reasons as is later revealed. Kanako and Yayoi feature in cryptic monochrome shorts through the first part of season one before they enter the story proper. The story itself enjoys multiple threads and themes. Arashi uses her time-travelling powers to go back to war time Japan the warn her neighbours of the bombing raids that take their lives. Kaja goes back to the same time for more melancholic reasons – she sees the boy she was in love with who died under US bombs in 1945. Jun is struggling with her sexuality after turning up in the story disguised as a boy. Only Kaja has realised her secret whilst dim-witted Hajime seem unable to see the obvious truth about his best friend. Between the sub-plots the characters work in the café and partake in long-winded philosophical discussions about time travel and its many possible paradoxes. The story is, at times, bittersweet, thought-provoking, mysterious and always on the brink of becoming a sublime thriller. Sadly, it draws just short of greatness. It occasionally jumps backwards and forwards, repeating itself with the same motifs or has all the characters inexplicably dressed differently with no apparent explanation. There is an implication that maybe these are parallel timelines in alternative universes but the audience is left guessing as to their meaning. The visual-style is an eye-sore with male characters drawn as stereotypes whilst female characters lack sympathetic details. The outdoors is sun-bleached with the scenery demarcated by unnatural extremes of shadow and light. It is a style that is seldom easy on the eye and takes a bit of getting used to. It is based upon the manga written and illustrated by Jin Kobayashi (also the writer of School Rumble). “Natsu no Arashi!” is a bit of a mystery all round but the audience gets no payback on the dark brooding elements that haunt the story. It never quite lives up to its possibilities as the writing draws short of exploring potential plot twists in its dark side. At every opportunity it reverts to a simplistic and easy story resolutions. Watchable, fun but don’t expect it to live up to its infinite possibilities. Seriously though: time travelling ghosts! Cool or what?

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