Pink gerberas. Black and white cats. Sandals with ribbons. These are some of the things that makes Akira Tachibana happy. But what makes her happiest in life is… Mr Kondo.
Based on the manga series by Jun Mayuzuki, AFTER THE RAIN tells the story of high school student Akira Tachibana who has fallen in love with her restaurant manager, Mr Kondo.
Mr Kondo isn’t your everyday typical crush. He’s eccentric; cracks lame jokes; and has no confrontational skills. He is also a 45-year-old divorcee with a young son. With the huge age gap and working relationship between Tachibana and Mr Kondo, After the Rain is an unconventional romance anime that will no doubt trigger concern with viewers. Besides, why would a 17-year-old like a 45-year-old man who is old enough to be her father?
When we first met Tachibana, her world felt bleak. As the camera silently follows Tachibana and her everyday movements, the audience can see and feel this pang of loneliness. Featuring limited narration and spoken dialogue, it is obvious that Tachibana likes to ostracise herself from the world and immerse herself in her own bubble.
For a world that supposedly emits a mundane vibe, the world was still beautiful in its own fragile way. Against the anime’s intricate backdrops, we often hear distinct sounds in the distance, including rain droplets, crickets chirping, and leaves rustling. Time continues to move on without hesitation and the rain keeps falling every day.
Something is obviously gone from Tachibana’s world, and we have yet to discover the hole in her heart. The audience soon finds out that Tachibana injured her leg during a training session, and has not returned to her track team since then. During this difficult time of depression, there was only one source of bright sparkles — Mr Kondo.
In Tachibana’s eyes, Mr Kondo is her saviour. Like a flower blossoming in Spring, her love is nurtured by her admiration, respect, and love for him. Utilising pastel colours, ripples, sparkles, and light reflections, Wit Studio has honourably captured Tachibana’s feelings rather delicately.
Besides mesmerising close-up shots on Tachibana’s face and stunning aesthetics that mirror her happy place, the score soundtrack also injects life to the story with its compilation of bittersweet melodies. From piano to strings, each score sets the scene and audibly plays out the shards of Tachibana’s heart. Sometimes it feels like time has stopped due to loneliness. Sometimes it feels like an overwhelming wave of happiness. Without a doubt, After the Rain has one of the best romance anime soundtracks to date. (And also, we like it how the anime completes the overall package by having the concept of ‘rain’ for the opening and ending songs.)
But let’s get down to the core of the story. Did After the Rain do the taboo romance justice?
As Tachibana and Mr Kondo continue to hang out outside of work, they both begin to learn new things about each other. With Tachibana’s gutsiness and youthfulness, she makes Mr Kondo reminisce about his younger days and the youthful feeling that he gets when he is around her. In return, Mr Kondo is able to offer Tachibana knowledge, wisdom, and advice whenever Tachibana needs them.
For a majority of the 12-episode series, Mr Kondo awkwardly deflects this ‘friendship’ and is incapable of asserting boundaries with Tachibana. Although there is some sort of connection between the manager and high school student, it felt like Mr Kondo was stringing Tachibana along the whole time. As a result, this creates false hope for her, and the audience is stuck in the limbo of being hopeful and frustrated for her
almost one-sided feelings.
However, one must question the state of Tachibana’s mind — were her feelings genuinely ‘love’? Or simply a form of misattribution since she’s lost the love of her life (aka running)? With growing pressure for Mr Kondo to revisit his writing career and Tachibana to rejoin the track team, their lives are so different yet so similar in certain ways. What does the future hold for Mr Kondo and Tachibana? Will they ever cross paths again?
Despite the taboo nature of the story, we admire Director Ayumu Watanabe’s overall vision of After the Rain. Viewers may know Wit Studio for its action-packed animations such as Attack on Titan and Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress but Wit Studio has proven itself to be victorious in other genres as well.
A surprisingly wholesome masterpiece — After the Rain illustrates that love and feelings have no boundaries. Complete with beautiful aesthetics and heart-pulling score pieces, we wouldn’t be surprised if you’re also yearning for that wondrous feeling of falling in love. If you’re looking for a good romance anime, this is the one.
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