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TFP’s Anime List Project #31: Favorite Summer Stories

6 min read

A couple times a month, the Fandom Post community suggests and votes on a new top five list about something in anime, most often from the current season. It’s our way of highlighting something fun or interesting or strange—or even meaningful—about what’s airing now, or about anime in general.

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We’ll save the platitudes—the Autumnal Equinox is not until the 22nd of this month, and we argue it’s the best part of the season—but the beginning of September is routinely used to mark the grand finale of Summer. And that’s where we’ll place this latest list: our favorite stories of Summer in anime. Not limited to single episodes, these can also be story arcs or episodes, or even whole series or movies, sharing the theme of Summer pursuit and leisure.

There may be a string tying this list together where all are in that nebulous category of slice-of-life, all reflecting the daydreaming of long, hot days where time is limitless in the beginning, invisible in the middle, and squeezed at the end. The “stories” of Summer always alternate between adventure and aimlessness.

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#5: The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya, ep. 12-19 “Endless Eight”

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Whatever the intended point of the Endless Eight arc (and there are endless positions to take), as an expression of how the long, hot and languid days of Summer can cause the moment-by-moment enjoyment of it slip away, there is little more direct, in its roundabout way. For someone like Haruhi Suzumiya, whose every moment of existence is an existential crisis, this can only be answered by wringing as much activity and excitement as possible out of the fleeting days of the season, as many times as it takes her friends to get it right. The “problem” of Endless Eight is best solved not by avoiding it, marathoning it, viewing it in its original form week by week, or even dividing it into chunks; it may be instead one a day, every day, deep in the middle of a hot, non-eventful Summer. Even then you may not capture it, but that may be the point. You rarely can, even as a god.

#4: K-On!! (season 2), ep. 11-14, 27

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The next few titles also feature Summer arcs of episodes, though often more traditional in execution. K-On!!‘s initial quartet begins near the end of the first semester, begging the question of air conditioning, or lack thereof, as well as the lazy idiocy of Ritsu, with Summer’s heat descended. It ends with random adventure and discovery, Tsumugi and Ritsu on a day alone, wresting one last strawberry from the season’s bounty. The heart, however, is the middle two episodes, re-imagining the group’s traditional summer trip at a Summer music festival—an almost documentary visit to a fictional version of the real and very large Fuji Rock Festival—and then following the youngest, Asuzu, through a surreal Summer day, alone from her band mates (studying college entrance exams) and anxious of where it will all lead for her, next year. In both episodes the sense of Summer experience contingent on the friends you experience it with, and how fleeting, as young adults, it all is (’27’ is an OVA, taking place just after episode 14, covering the hi-jinx of securing passports for trips to extend their journeys together) has rarely been as well expressed. Except for, or along with, the remaining choices below.

#3: Cardcaptor Sakura, ep. 16 “Sakura and the Rainbow of Memories”

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Episodes 16 through 19 of Cardcaptor Sakura are its own Summer arc, starting with a family vacation, a school trip to the shore (and test of courage), a Summer festival, and the dread of Summer homework for lazy and distracted Sakura. (Also, three new cards.) Episode 16 is its simplest, and is notable as the first episode of the series where a Clow Card is not captured (though Rain, still as a climax, is used). The story here is family and loss, two of the series’ strongest themes, and the innocence and beauty of Summer, a time of rainbows, to frame it. Nearby the cabin she and her father, brother, and Yuki are staying Sakura encounters an old man at a palatial house, who offers her tea and, later, a glimpse of the young joyful life his granddaughter once spent there. There is a deep connection to it all, of course. Though how it’s kept from Sakura is an awkward twist of writing that has befuddled fans and critics for years. Chalk it up to the innocence and naivete of youth in the throes of Summer.

#2: Non Non Biyori, ep. 4-6

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The Summer episodes of the first season of Non Non Biyori are not so peculiar from those of most other series, tracking the usual impatience and yearning of school children trying to capture it all before it goes. The circumstances, however, of those kids living in the sparse rural village of Asahigaoka (there are not often more around than the four girls, Komari, Hotaru, Renge, and Natsumi, above) makes for curious and surprising differences. None more, perhaps, than the fourth episode, where the youngest, Renge, age six, meets someone entirely new to her in this place: a girl her own age. Like Summer, it is too fleeting and unpredictable, and these episodes may be best remembered for Renge’s reaction to an unfamiliar emotion, abandonment. (There’s still a happy ending.) Episode five we’ve featured before, the priceless trip to the beach for the group centered on the exhaustion and accidents of such day-long adventures. The last story captures all remaining themes: Natsumi’s reckoning (foreshadowed in episode four) with her bad grades the previous semester, finishing a Summer project for school (and the limits of obsession), a test of courage (designed more as another way to tease Komari), and the simple, most memorable moments of Summer spent with friends and fireworks.

#1: Aria the Natural, ep. 12 “Chasing That Mirage / The Light From That Nightshine Chime”

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The peculiar dream-like visions of Summer, brought on by its occasional unrelenting heat and human desire to let it pass it by, touched on by several of the choices above, is distilled to its most affecting with none other than an episode from Aria. Episode 12 introduces Akari, and her pen-pal, Ai, more to the Summers of Aqua. The first part finds the confusing mirages of a heat wave leading Akari into, once again, the mystical underworld of the cats of Neo-Venizia, and this is for a moment, in Aria’s guileless way, a fitting light Summer horror story, before a glass of iced milk, and President Aria, brings Akari back to the present. Part two finds the continuing melding of romantic Neo-Venizia and deep Japanese tradition that flows throughout Aria, here imagining Nightshine Chimes, made from luminescent beads from its Summer oceans that its bearers let fall away into the sea at the end of the season, almost an Aqua-version of tōrō nagashi, the floating paper lantern festival often used to mark the end Obon. This all strikes Akari as the perfect expression of the fleeting and effervescent emotions and memories of Summer, as she spends Summer evening tea parties with President Aria out on the water, her Nightshine Chime their only light.

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Join us next time just for sport. To have a say in what makes it on that list, and the next list after that, check out the forum thread, read up on the rules, and join the Fandom Post Anime List Project today!

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