As Hajime’s sweltering summer continues, Kanako and Yayoi have started working at the Ark Café with the rest of the gang. As ever, serving the customers takes a backseat to going out and enjoying the season – and what better way to enjoy the sun than with a trip to the beach? While the men fish up nothing but bikini tops and Sayaka attempts to get a date, self-conscious Jun has to try and conceal her gender from Hajime. Though when the group stays overnight at a hot springs resort and Jun must share a room with him, it proves to be all the more difficult to keep her secret. Whether the staff of the Ark café are finding a partner for Yayoi, travelling in time or ignoring a customer’s request for salt, it’s safe to say that their summer will be anything but dull.
Studio Shaft continued its unusual fantasy comedy in 2009 picking up just a few short months after season one concluded (suggesting that it was made at the same time). Season two is a logical conclusion taken from the direction of travel picked up from at the end of the first season. This is not a good thing. Having started as an enigmatic sci-fi/paranormal hybrid, with an slightly weird artistic style, it slowly evolved into being a lightweight slice-of-life. Gone now is the sub-plot involving Hajime and Arashi voyaging back to World War Two Japan to save the townsfolk from American bombs. Gone too is the story of unrequited love and sacrifice involving Kaja and the man she loved back in 1945. These dark brooding elements are absent and nothing replaces them. Gone too is any over-arching narrative and menace presented by the characters Yayoi and Kanako. Their little monochrome skits still make a regular appearance having moved on from books to movies. We think they were meant to be funny but the humour never translated into anything meaningful. The joke involved Yayoi reading a book that she could not remember the name of. She would then relate the story to Kanako with extremely poetic and flowery language. The punchline would be delivered by Yayoi attempting to repeat a catchphrase from the story but getting cut-off half way through. We can only guess that these jokes maybe worked to those familiar with Japanese story-telling and culture. Without understanding or explanation the humour flies way over the head of the audience. This joke is continued into season two outside of the original monochrome skit format. Yayoi has to take a food order at the café but cannot remember the name of the dish. So, she describes it in truly bizarre terms to Kanako who then claims to understand what it is and returns from the kitchen with something that isn’t even food. Poor Hideo is the butt of this joke with one of his orders turning up as a Rubik’s Cube. Freed from its literary obscurity the joke might have fared better but by this point the writers are flogging a dead horse. The rest of the show relies less and less upon time-travel and more upon quite normal activities such as trips to the beach or the drawing of manga. The humour is now largely drawn from the different nature of the characters and their reaction to events. There is little or no story development. The only elements that continue are Jun’s desperate efforts to keep her true gender from Hajime’s attention and the possible romance between Arashi & Hajime. He has to face up to the fact that at the end of summer the ghosts will be gone again. She tells him that he will not see her again. Quite why is not explained but she tells him that he will not return which angers him. Otherwise, the story is all standalone episodes which repeat elements previously covered. “Natsu no Arashi!” got off to a great start and then nose-dived as it rapidly ran out of ideas. Season two sees it coasting along on auto-pilot relying upon the devotions of the audience it established during its promising opening. The characters are great and the premise was promising but it had no mileage in it. Very disappointing.
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