It’s the summer of 17-year-old Akira Tachibana’s second year in high school. While her fellow students take part in track and field activities after school, Akira goes off to her part-time job, waitressing at a family restaurant. She is harbouring a secret crush on Masami Kondo, the restaurant manager, 45 years old, divorced, with a young son – she’s also concealing the fact that she was the star of the school athletics team until she tore her Achilles tendon, forcing her to retire. As the Yokohama summer wears on, Akira tries to get to know her boss better but as a relatively sheltered, inexperienced schoolgirl, this doesn’t always go the way she fondly hopes. The rest of the restaurant staff, from the blasé young sous-chef Kase, who makes a cynical pass at Akira to new hire, classmate Yoshizawa who has a (hopeless) crush on Akira himself. And the object of her affections? World-weary, only too aware that he’s not a young man any more, bumbling but well-intentioned, will he take advantage of the situation as he slowly comes to realize that she’s utterly smitten with him?
There’s also Akira’s best friend Haruka, who’s still running the track team; the two used to be inseparable. We learn that Akira’s injury has driven an invisible wedge between the two of them. Haruka is hurt that Akira hasn’t kept in touch – perhaps not really understanding how difficult it is for Akira to watch her friends running when she is unable to participate. And Akira, who is the stoical type, not used to expressing her feelings, is just doing as best she can to adapt to her new situation.
However, new relationships are blooming. Akira and Yuto, Kondo’s young son, get along well (she helps him with his homework) which opens up a way for her to get to know her crush better, even going uninvited to his bachelor flat with young Yuto. That’s when she glimpses the books and writing materials in her boss’s study and begins to understand that there is quite another side to him than the one she knows at the restaurant. And books lead them to a better understanding of each other; she realizes how much reading (and maybe writing?) means to him, even though she’s not really much of a reader herself. A visit to the local library also sets in progress a chain of events that result in Kondo meeting up with an old college friend whom he hasn’t seen in ten years: novelist Chihiro Kujou.
If you’ve ever been seventeen and fallen madly in love for the first time, you’ll relate to Akira. The anime, which is very faithful to Jun Mayuzuki’s delightful manga, shows her in a sympathetic light – although with a certain detachment as well, allowing us to be amused by some of her more impulsive moments, such as hiding in a wardrobe at Kondo’s apartment when he returns unexpectedly just after she’s cooked an omurice for Yuto. She stays out of sight until, stifled by the summer heat, she can’t bear it any longer and falls out, bright red, much to Kondo’s bemusement. When this anime series was first announced, the sound of loud tutting could be heard as reviewers got ready to disapprove of the portrayal of a liaison between at 45-year-old and a high school girl – but then, as the series progressed and revealed itself as something quite different, the realization set in that this was something quite special in the themes it was exploring. At heart, it’s a slice-of-life, a snapshot of a summer in Yokohama in which the main viewpoint character, Akira, grows and changes and learns to move on. It’s also a reflection on the passing of life and the importance of holding on to your dreams and aspirations. By the end of the anime, summer is over, Akira and her year are looking at college entrance and new beginnings.
Much of the comedy in After the Rain comes from Akira’s co-workers in the restaurant and the daily routines that the team perform. Each member of the team from the chef to the other two waitresses (one middle-aged, who’s seen it all, the other, a cute blonde the same age as Akira) is vividly brought to life so that you feel you get to know them all.
Yokohama is another star of this anime, portrayed in all weathers from typhoon to full shimmering summer heat haze. The skyline views captured by the art team at WIT Studio, as well as a variety of street scenes, bring the area vividly to life for the viewer. The theme of rain permeates the whole series, from the episode titles ‘Rain Drops on Green Leaves’, ‘Raining Tears’, ‘The Scent of Rain’ through the imagery in both OP and ED: umbrellas, darkening skies, torrential downpours, puddles… to the way the true significance of the title is revealed at the end.
The Blu-ray Complete Collection (Episodes 1-12) from MVM has excellent sound and picture quality and is easy to navigate. Special Features comprise clean OP and ED, Japanese promos and some other Sentai trailers.
Personally, I like both sub and dub as each cast brings something slightly different but no less convincing to the characters. The original cast has Hiroaki Hirata (Sanji in One Piece) as Masami Kondo and Sayumi Watabe (Els in BEASTARS) as Akira Tachibana, whereas the US Sentai dub has Jason Douglas (Beerus in Dragon Ball Super) as Masami Kondo and Luci Christian (Nami in One Piece) as Akira Tachibana. Luci Christian sounds older than Sayumi Watanabe but brings a little more nuance to the role.
Music for the series is by Ryo Yoshimato (Somali and the Forest Spirit) and is gently nostalgic, re-using the thematic material to underscore significant moments for Akira and Kondo. The Opening Theme: “Nostalgic Rainfall” by CHiCO with HoneyWorks is a charmingly frivolous song, animating Akira’s dreams, filled with umbrellas, fluffy alpacas, hearts and flowers. The Ending Theme: “Ref:rain” by Aimer illustrates the more intense side of first love. Both OP and ED are catchy and apt for the series and you’ll find yourself singing them long afterward.
With character designs from Yuka Shibata that are faithful to Jun Mayuzuki’s manga and a script that captures the unique character of the original material, director Ayumu Watanabe (Children of the Sea, Space Brothers) has created a very special slice-of-life anime that repays many viewings.