You’re Gonna Carry That Weight (Again and Again and Again)
Started watching Natsu no Arashi last night. It reminds me of another SHAFT series: Arakawa Under the Bridge. Both series have a decent sense of humor to them, but they both make the mistake of shoehorning a lot of serious moments into the slapstick.
The problem with Natsu no Arashi that makes it a good deal more annoying is that said seriousness comes down to the same exact point being repeated over and over again.
Natsu no Arashi’s shtick revolves around girls that died during World War II and how they’ve become time traveling ghosts. Two of these ghosts go back in time to revisit their home town before it was bombed by the US during the last days of the war. Various plot threads come and go in these episodes, but the same basic theme is repeated during each trip: War is Bad and hurts innocent people.
There’s only so many ways that this point can be said before it becomes tiresome. Yeah, people are going to say something about not forgetting the mistakes of the past or something along those lines, but there’s a difference between said reminding and beating a topic to death. Natsu no Arashi crosses that line and ends up being the latter.
The writer obviously has something to say about how war affects civilians, and all of that was addressed reasonably well during the first time traveling segment. We see the main characters attempt to save a man and his son from an impending bombing and how they have to ruin the only day in a long time where they could relax and bond together in order to preserve their future. But this is revisited far too many times that it ends up ruining the message through over exposure. Another time traveling ghost comes along and goes to the past to deal with a lost love. The plot details may be different, but it boils down to the same concept. Just because this episode deals with romantic love instead of the bond between a father and son doesn’t mean you’re not saying the same exact thing. Shortly after, the main characters travel back to 1985, but instead of dealing with anything relevant to that time (Short of a “OMG 8BIT IS AWESOME” scene.), the series instead insists on hammering home the importance of their previous actions by showing the grandson of the man who was saved. We already got the point several episodes ago, yet a completely different time traveling excursion was wasted to repeat the same point.
In repeating the same message over and over again, it’s importance is diluted. It’s certainly turning me off as a viewer, and a turned-off viewer isn’t going to appreciate whatever it is you’re trying to get across.
I like to compare this to the way Cowboy Bebop dealt with its so-called “central” storyline: Spike’s past and how he can’t escape from his previous life. While Spike’s life as a criminal is always on our minds once we see the events of Ballad of Fallen Angels, the series rarely revisits these events. The two-parter in the middle of the series, Jupiter Jazz, touches upon it, but that ends up being just as much about the relationship between Spike and Jet (How even a major dispute doesn’t really break their friendship.). It also spends more time dealing with Vicious’ experiences and showing us that loyalty isn’t something that he values, which helps explain the break in his relationship with Spike despite flashbacks showing them being fairly close. It isn’t until the finale that the series really touches on Spike’s issues again.
Bebop has Spike’s past on its mind, but it doesn’t harp about it on end the way Natsu no Arashi does with its wartime plotline. Each series may have a different agenda, and differences are to be expected, but it goes to show that restraint does a hell of a lot to make certain plot points have considerable more meaning. If the wartime events were reserved for the end of the series I think Natsu no Arashi would have played it off significantly better. Throwing it into the beginning of the series and revisiting it the way a bad professor repeats points to a classroom that he mistakenly doesn’t think is smart enough to get it the first time around just plain sucks.
So, Natsu no Arashi is another comedy series that I was digging up to the point where it decides it wants to be more than a comedy series. That’ s fine and all, but if you’re gonna go that route, be sure to pull it off with more finesse.