After the Rain
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 6 of
After the Rain ?
This week on After the Rain, Akira stops creeping on her boss for long enough to interact with an old friend, Haruka from the track team. We've gotten glimpses of this girl since the beginning of the show, but this episode marks the first time she's been introduced as a real player in the story, rather than just an image representing happier times in our heroine's life. It looks like the two of them have been friends since at least elementary school, close enough to make plans to attend high school together after finding themselves briefly separated during their middle grades. So this friendship was clearly quite close, albeit not emotionally intimate enough for Akira to open up to Haruka about her personal crisis. Or maybe it just hurt Akira too much to be around someone associated with that lost part of her life. Either way, what matters is that Haruka is slowly losing her friend, she knows it, and she seems to be contemplating how to save their relationship before it's too late. Still, this is After the Rain we're talking about, so nobody (except for Akira when it comes to pursuing Kondo) is all that assertive about anything.
Haruka is a sweet girl who plays a necessary role as something important that Akira risks losing. Akira's problem is that she thinks she's reached rock bottom in life, when there's actually much more she could lose if she doesn't fight to keep it. Haruka is clearly a caring friend, and Akira shouldn't discard that so easily. This was all conveyed through the show's trademark atmospheric characterization, where the character's feelings are revealed through the details of their surroundings. This part of the episode ends on an optimistic note, with the two of them making a slight commitment to stay in contact (symbolized by the exchange of keychains), but the situation is still far from resolved. Thankfully, the show continues to hold up even when spending time away from its central relationship.
(As an aside, I may be reading too much into this, but there are some suggestions that Haruka might have romantic feelings for Akira. Haruka blushes while thinking about her old friend – an act that's generally interpreted as infatuation in anime. Of course, this might also be because I recently watched DEVILMAN crybaby, which features a track-centric subplot about lesbian infatuation, so maybe I'm just connecting back to that. We'll just have to see.)
In the episode's second half, Akira manages to run into her dream daddy at the local library. For once, this was entirely an accident—after taking note of Kondo's interest in pure literature, Akira went there to try some of the stuff out, while he apparently visits regularly (even though it's not his local branch) just because their selection is good. What follows is yet another metaphor for what their relationship means in terms of their life's lost ambitions. Hoping to learn more about Kondo, Akira asks for some book recommendations, and he responds with a speech on how those sorts of requests are pretty difficult when you don't know what a person likes beforehand. If they don't jive with what you pick out, the suggestion turns into an obligation, and a feeling of inadequacy or resentment may fester. (This is a nice way of not burdening a teenage girl with Finnegan's Wake or whatever else this middle-aged literati may be subjecting himself to.) In the end, Akira chooses a novel of her own volition: Natsume Soseki's Botchan. Now I'm not all that informed about Japanese literature, but Soseki is a canonical author of the stripe that Kondo would appreciate. He's also considered seminal reading for young adults, so the book is a good balance between Kondo's interests and Akira's level of literary experience.
Small moments of sadness and awkwardness aside, this library encounter is a model for what healthy interactions might look like between these two in the future. Kondo doles out some friendly advice, while Akira does him a favor that (hopefully) doesn't stem from a desire to force him into a situation that he doesn't want. The best outcome for the two of them would probably be a friendship on this level. It'd still be slightly unusual, but there's no harm in a weird friendship; I've formed valuable bonds with people along similar lines. In a twist on expectations, Kondo is the one to get some material advantage out of their relationship by gaining access to Akira's library card. While he's initially excited by this, the book he checks out – something that catches his eye on the new arrival shelf at the last minute – seems to put him in an unusually dour mood. Judging by the way he refers to its author, I suspect that some people he used to know had better luck in achieving their ambitions than he did...
All in all, this was another solid – if not particularly exciting – episode of After the Rain. It worked to develop Kondo and Akira's emotional lives further and set up plot points for later in the show. It's more low-key compared to what's come before, but otherwise the show is as strong as ever. I look forward to seeing how it fares in its second half, when this adaptation (based on an incomplete manga) will have to start thinking about its conclusion.
After the Rain is currently streaming on Amazon Prime.
Gabriella Ekens studies film and literature at a US university. Follow her on twitter.
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