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Natsu no Arashi Complete Collection Blu-ray Anime Review

14 min read
Time-travel hijinks that don't quite click.

Time-traveling girls in sailor suits seem to be the focus in this series by the man responsible for School Rumble.

What They Say:
Sometimes when you meet someone, you just know they’re going to be interesting, but when 13-year-old Yasaka Hajime meets an older girl while staying at his grandfather’s house for summer vacation, he has no idea how much she’s about to change his life!

To begin with, while Arashi may only look a few years older than Yasaka, she’s actually closer in age to his granddad! How is that possible? It seems that Arashi’s not exactly human anymore, and besides being a ghost from 1945, she has an important mission that revolves around her ability to travel in time! Since Arashi can only travel temporally if she’s accompanied by a living being from her current present, guess who’s about to become her partner in paradoxity? It’s time for everything to go a little crazy in Natsu no Arashi!

The Review:
Audio:
The audio presentation for this release brings us only the original Japanese language in stereo using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. A series like this isn’t one that will give your speakers any kind of workout as it’s about ninety-nine percent dialogue outside of the opening and closing sequences but there are a few moments where things spike up. Often it’s some of the incidental music when things go crazy and then some of the minor “action” elements as well. Dialogue placement is solid when required and there are times with some noticeable depth to it. Everything comes across well and dialogue is strong as we had no problems with dropouts or distortions while listening to it.

Video:
Originally airing in 2009, this TV and OVA combo release is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The series is spread across two discs with nine episodes of the TV series on the first and four on the second. Animated by Shaft, the series is one that has a number of really neat visual design elements to it but also pieces that just didn’t translate well when it first came out – such as the opening piece with the sunflowers. But that’s simply the source in how it looked as opposed to the ending. The high definition presentation here definitely steps things up a lot – and with a variable bit rate that goes very high regularly because of the various designs – and the colors are very solid throughout even if a touch washed out on occasion on purpose. There’s a greater solidity to things here and the colors, while generally working a lighter and softer color palette, has a lot of pop to it that definitely breathes new life into it.

Packaging:
The packaging design for this release comes in a standard Blu-ray case that holds the two discs against the walls with no hinges. The front cover goes for the familiar key visual from its original broadcast with the two floating above the sky upside down, which is reflected in seeing the city along the top with a nice bit of curvature. There’s a lot of blue and white here but that serves to draw you into it really well and getting the contrast of the darker blacks of hair and variation for costume design helps to give the characters a bit more weight. The layout is a touch awkward simply because it’s doing that upside down thing but the character artwork looks great and distinctive. The back cover is a bit more traditional with some nice shots of the show along the top and to the side while the main visual has Arashi off to the side with an umbrella that adds some nice color while the rest is of the cafe itself. The summary of the premise covers things well and we get a good breakdown of extras and episodes included to know what’s included. Add in a solid technical grid that breaks it all down accurately and clearly and you’ve got a good looking release.

Menu:
The menu design for this release is simple but decent with what it does as we get a static menu design where it uses the theme from the cover and a good quirky feeling to the whole thing. The left side goes for the navigation with a kind of older style menu design that you might see in the cafe of the show and it has a sepia-like color to it that’s punched up by some purple for the selection it. The right side provides some character pieces from the show set against various widgets and things, like the wind chime, and done with a kind of scrapbook feeling that’s quite ideal for it. It’s clean in its own way and certainly sets the mood well by showing off the style of the show. Submenus are quick and easy to load, which is essentially just the extras on the second disc, since there’s no language selection here.

Extras:
The only extras available for this release are fairly typical ones with the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences on the second disc.

Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Originally airing in the spring 2009 season, Natsu no Arashi is based on the manga of the same name that has a literal meaning of summer storm. The work comes from Jin Kobayashi who did this after getting things wrapped up on the School Rumble manga, which went on to be a popular anime. So it was no surprise that an anime would be tried here. The manga began in 2006 and wrapped up in 2010 with eight volumes as the anime simply didn’t do well and the manga didn’t grow from its existence. The show was an interesting one for me as it was one of the early shows Crunchyroll streamed when they were becoming a serious licensed entity and was one of my earliest simulcast experiences. I had found the show interesting and quirky at the time and I’ve been surprised that it was never picked up all these years since Shaft was involved in the animation production.

The series revolves around a young teenager named Hajime who is living in a somewhat suburban feeling area where he works in a restaurant. He lives with Arashi it seems like who is a couple of years older than him and nudges him into the things he needs to do, like waking up in the mornings and going to work in the restaurant where she works. Along with a couple of other women and another guy around his age, they spend their days working away in the seemingly relatively quiet place with little going on other than the excitement that they create themselves.

The opening episode revolves around Hajime’s latest creation, a strawberry that’s packed with all sorts of powerful peppers. His goal is to give it to someone in the restaurant that he’s doing battle with. He originally made three but now there is only one and he’s uncertain how it happened. The man he wants to give it to is someone that Arashi is interested in, or perhaps it’s that he’s interested in Arashi, and he wants to embarrass him in front of her by giving him this and watching his mouth explode. Unfortunately, he seems to have a problem finding the strawberry and it ends up in various other places with other meals and deserts and affecting other people.

There’s also the twist that Arashi and at least another waitress there, Kaya, are able to transform from their usual outfits into sailor suits and travel through time. So we see Hajime traveling back in time to earlier that morning to find his missing strawberries. Yes, time travel is reduced to this. And unfortunately, the humor value doesn’t seem to be there either as Hajime is the kind of smallish nerdy male character that begins to grate after a short period of time. Far too hyper, nervous and skittish, he’s always moving about and feeling like he’s in a panic over things, whether it’s the customers he’s trying to annoy or wondering if Arashi or Kaya or the apparent owner Yayoi is going to go after him for something. It has that kind of nervous energy to it that is admittedly rather off-putting in this scenario, especially where some of the basics aren’t made clear. Suffice to say, the show starts off awkward but thankfully gets better as it goes along and reveals more of itself.

Things get better with the second episode that takes us back a bit further from where the series started two takes us back in time a bit to when Hajime had just arrived in the small village for the first time and is looking for his grandfather. The first place he ends up in is the Ark restaurant where he discovers the hauntingly beautiful Arashi. At least she’s quite stunning to this thirteen-year-old guy who focuses on her breasts and posterior and proclaiming it to be true love. He’s quite interested in her and ends up defending her from someone who has come to collect her and return her to her family. The diminutive Hajime breaks the mold by actively taking him on – from behind of course – in order to protect Arashi. This sets up the chain of events that has the two touching hands and forming an electric connection.

Arashi soon makes her big revelation to Hajime that she’s actually a ghost as she shows him the town as it looked from her day. He’s shocked by the news and thinks its all a dream, but she’s claiming that she’s going to stay with him at his grandfathers now because she’s going to possess him. Hajime is sort of incredulous at this but his grandfather gives in easily since it means a cute young woman will be living with him. Shifting the focus back to the private investigator and working with the restaurant itself for awhile, the remainder of the episode sets up the basic character interactions and how everyone ends up in their main roles working at the restaurant and dealing with each other. Having seen the end result in the first episode, nothing here is surprising but we do get to know the core cast a little bit better. The humor isn’t quite so spastic or out there and the pacing is a bit slower and more relaxed, allowing us to get into the groove of this quiet little village.

With Arashi having shown Hajime that she truly is a ghost and can travel back in time, he’s all ecstatic about their shared secret they now have and the bond that it’s created, at least in his eyes. Of course, Arashi doesn’t treat it the same way and has no problem telling anyone about it since it’s just who she is. But even with the proof that Arashi has shown to Hajime, he’s not exactly 100% convinced yet, which is really strange since you’d think walking around World War II Japan would convince anyone.

The timing is just right as we learn that there’s a group of students making a film in the area and they’re doing one based on the school where Arashi used to go to. With the premise of the ghosts of students who died in the war coming back in the summer to haunt it, they fell in love with Arashi at first sight and wanted to use her. Of course, she wasn’t there when they came to ask and they ended up with the Ark Master instead which proved to be spookily amusing. Arashi is interested in all of it though and signs on to participate in the event. She fits the role well for obvious reasons and she has that sort of classic ethereal beauty about her when they put her through the full process.

The other arc to this story involves having Arashi return to the school she used to go to in order to prove to Hajime exactly what she’s been saying since they first met. This has her pulling out a picture from one of the books in the library that was used as a bookmark when she was originally there that has her in it. It’s an amusing sort of proof but one that works more towards exploring her friend of the time, Kaya. The two were separated during the war and it’s only now once Hajime talks about it that she thinks about actually trying to find her to see what happened. Of course, we know there’s something different about her friend from then because we saw Kaya working there in the first episode. This area comes full circle with this episode and starts tying up some of the little areas like that which gets us closer to moving forward again.

The catch-up phase before bringing us back to the present also covers Kaya some and get to understand who she is and why she is like she is, going the traditional route of introducing main characters episode by episode with their story. I struggled with some of the mid-range episodes of the series and their focus because it largely didn’t click when it came to Kaya and Jun. Jun is still struggling with her position in the scheme of things but she’s glad that she has someone to confide in as Kaya is keeping her secret well and being receptive to the issues she’s having. With someone on her side in a sense, Jun is facing the problems fairly well at this point.

That means it’s time to throw a harder problem into the mix for poor Jun. Unsurprisingly, that involves Hajime who has been fairly quiet as of recent with what he’s been doing. A sale on watermelons has Hajime and Jun heading off to get them which is certainly a challenge as Jun is portrayed as the weak female who can’t lug a couple of them along from the stall back to the Ark restaurant. Hajime takes up the slack but he’s intent on getting Jun feeling fit and capable at some point. There’s a cute moment when the two share a drink and Jun is avoiding it well because she doesn’t want her first indirect kiss like this. But in doing so, she ends up falling down the stairs and Hajime catches her, thereby sending them sprawling and suddenly swapping bodies with each other.

I don’t know about Hajime, but if I changed bodies, I’m sure I’d notice something was missing just from how I walk. Anyway. Hilarity supposedly ensues at this point as the pair return to the restaurant but nobody believes them and they have to try and figure out how to get back to normal. And Jun needs to do this desperately before Hajime discovers that the body he’s in is actually a woman’s body. The gags are obvious as this plays out but there are cute moments to be had here, including one non-related salt movement in the background. Body switching isn’t a new trick by any means but the way the series has become so laid back it doesn’t feel like it plays out well here. And that’s without taking into account the way that most people would realize they’re in a different kind of body. But then again, maybe Hajime is that oblivious…

The end of this season takes us back to the beginning in a way because it revolves partially around the Cutie Cherry bomb he’s created which is very reminiscent of what he did at the start with the exploding strawberry. And that episode was very difficult to get through so the tone for this one wasn’t set all that well for me. The same kind of plot is used here with Hajime has this great exploding cherry bomb that he wants to see how well it will work and he lands a very tempting target with a certain gentleman that he feels is making the moves on Arashi. Of course, the cherry is lost, gets mixed in with hundreds of others and could literally end up in any number of places and cause a whole lot of trouble. Arashi does her best to help out and a bit of time travel is naturally involved to help make sure everything is smoothed over.

What frustrated me even more than this is that they go back to the whole expired milk gag again at length. There is a legitimate reason for using it as a parable for some of the paradoxes of time travel and how funky everything could potentially be messed up with how they flit back and forth as often as they do. But after so much mind-numbing stupidity between the characters in discussing it in a previous episode, bringing it up again here really just felt like overkill. Making it worse was that for the bulk of the episode, due to the heat, the cast is running around in a variety of skimpy outfits or very skimpy cosplay costumes. Natsu no Arashi has done a number of these kinds of odd things in previous episodes and it continues to feel forced and out of place a lot of the time, leaving me feeling like they’re really stretching for a particular kind of gag that’s not connecting for me.

In Summary:
At the end of thirteen episodes, outside of the minor skirmish that played out in the last few episodes, I’m really unsure of what the point of all of it is. Of course, this only adapted some of the manga and there’s a second season that may or may not be licensed, but overall what they showed me here didn’t really hold my attention strongly. There are some small moments of greatness here, such as the character designs which are classic and a lot of the opening sequence. The time travel aspects are really intriguing since they’re dealt with seriously at times and it feels out of place in the rest of the show, but it added a wonderful little angle to all of it. As a whole, however, Natsu no Arashi is the kind of show that struggled when I saw it in its weekly format but didn’t radically change when I finally got to just binge the whole thing. I’m definitely glad it got licensed, however, as it was long overdue as one of the first streaming series.

Features:
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing, End Cards

Content Grade: B-
Audio Grade: B+
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-

Released By: Maiden Japan
Release Date: November 12th, 2019
MSRP: $59.98
Running Time: 325 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen

Review Equipment:
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.


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