After the Rain
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 8 of
After the Rain ?
Following last week's crisis of emotional and physical contact, After the Rain has slowed things down with perhaps its most purely expository episode. While Akira got a slice of what she wanted when Kondo embraced her during the typhoon, he's also begun insisting that they're “just friends” – an assertion that clashes with her romantic ideations. So this episode begins with her contemplating how she might push their relationship in the direction that she wants. Thoughts of coercion are cut off, however, when the two get into a deep discussion of literature, which ends up revealing much about how the two of them approach their lives.
But before that, there are some antics from the side cast. It looks like Nishida and Yoshizawa have begun hitting it off, which makes me happy. The two are well-suited to one another, and it's a nice contrast to see an uncomplicated and appropriate coupling in this show. Anyway, Yoshizawa was barking up the wrong tree in pursuing Akira – something that he may learn the hard way if her involvement with Kondo ever becomes public.
Otherwise, most of the episode's thematic meat is concentrated in Akira and Kondo's discussion of Rashomon. After the Rain has invoked this story before, and it functions pretty well as a metaphor for their relationship – particularly how their actions (as questionable as they seem to an outside observer) are in truth reasonable responses to how life has treated them. Sure, you can assume Akira is a perverted weirdo for liking a middle-aged guy, but from her perspective of emotional crisis and impoverishment, this is her way of finding new motivation, just like how the characters in Rashomon resort to thievery in order to keep from starving. Desperation and crisis on this level, whether it's literal life-or-death or just emotionally feels that way, tend to upend or even rewrite a person's morality. From an outside perspective, while you don't have to like what these characters do, it can still be useful to empathize with them so you can understand how these behaviors and desires come about. That applies equally well to both Rashomon and After the Rain as works of art, since they both want you to understand why people engage in behaviors that are distressingly common despite being socially maligned.
Confronted with the question of what they would do in the characters' situation, Kondo says that he doesn't think he'd be able to break with his morality for the sake of survival. Akira, meanwhile, seems to identify more with the thieving servant, admiring the courage it takes to go against society's dictum when it confines you to death. While the situation she's found herself in is nowhere near as dire as the one in Rashomon, Akira is preserving her youthful passions—which she subconsciously considers as precious as her life—by wrapping them up in an illicit crush. She and the servant are alike in that they resort to something unconscionable in order to protect some part of themselves. And while I think we're supposed to like Akira for this, showing her bravery as intertwined with her intensity and her beauty, the show also doesn't neglect the danger of her decision. The servant's fate is left a mystery, and while Akira wishes him the best, she's going to have to put some serious work into ensuring her own future.
I'm optimistic for our girl. At the end of the episode, she makes the unusual decision to attend the upcoming festival with Haruka, rather than badgering Kondo into accompanying her. I take this as a sign that Akira has matured to some small degree – symbolized by the loss of the youthful pimple on her cheek. Kondo, meanwhile, has caught the blemish, which implies that contact with Akira is serving to reawaken youthful sentiments within him. As usual, I hope that things work out and their unconventional friendship will become a positive experience for both of them. At the moment, things seem okay, but we have several episodes left to go in this drama, and I suspect that we'll see a crisis prior to any happy ending.
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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