I love a good romantic anime, and after the first few episodes of After the Rain I thought I had found one of the best. Akira Tachibana is a high school student who works at a restaurant and has fallen in love with her boss Masami Kondo, who showed her kindness when she needed it the most. The only problem is he’s 45.
I thought this was going to be a story about how love conquers all, and age gaps and the judgement of others should not matter. Initially there is some traditional rom com stuff, with Kondo failing to understand Akira’s feelings, assuming she’s playing a joke on him because he can’t quite believe anyone could be interested in a middle-aged loser like him, let alone a beautiful teenage girl. Refreshingly, the story moves on rapidly, and soon Akira has roped her boss into going on a date, which is predictably awkward for him, but the best day of her life. Their different perspectives are interesting, but mainly it’s just delightful to see her doing a cute little dance of joy at moments where she seems to be winning through with the love of her life. These moments have all the more impact because she is usually so reserved.
At this point I mentioned the series to an anime group, only to receive a consensus of opinion: the series starts great, and then goes rapidly downhill. Gee, thanks. They were, in my view, only half right though. What happens is the romance is placed on the back burner. If, like me, you’re loving the steadily growing relationship that isn’t yet a relationship between Akira and Kondo, this is obviously a crushing disappointment. I was looking forward to each new episode of this more than any romantic series since the sublime My Love Story, and then it became… something else.
The something else is admittedly a really, really strong story, and if I’m logical and honest about it, the series it becomes is intrinsically more worthwhile and interesting than the one it started off as. Of course, I didn’t care too much about that, because I just wanted to see the romance play out, but instead we branch off into examining Kondo and Akira’s backstories, which mirror each other in their ambitions and failures. Kondo adores books, and for a while Akira tries to share his passion and develops a deep admiration for his hobby, but when he was younger he was aspiring to be a writer. His friend made it, but Kondo stopped writing. At some point he stopped chasing the dreams of his youth and settled for a quiet, average life.
Akira has similarly abandoned her dreams. She was an exceptional runner, but an injury forced her to stop. She has now healed (physically), and some rehabilitation could see her return to her former glory, but something is holding her back. Her track team friend Haruka is an important character, trying desperately to maintain a friendship with Akira, who seems content to move on and also seems certain that things between them can’t be the same again. Poor Haruka is desperately sad about that.
The writers deftly take the two main characters on a journey to a place where they feel able to chase their dreams once more, and each of them helps the other to realise the importance of not giving up. Their final resolution to find each other again once they have got their lives to where they should be is a hopeful ending, while a little unsatisfying for those who were saying “just kiss the girl” at their television. The romance fans will have to settle for an embrace that is full of emotion. In the end, these two people mean something very special to each other, whatever the future holds for them. It’s a story of how the right person can have a hugely positive influence on somebody’s life, with or without the romance. Rain plays a big part in the series, accompanying all the key emotional moments between Akira and Kondo. When the sun comes out they are ready to move forward with their lives, and each has helped the other to heal their emotional scars. Whatever a person’s age, we can all find something to identify with in After the Rain. RP