After the Rain
by Gabriella Ekens,
How would you rate episode 9 of
After the Rain ?
Alright, so following last week's theme of “the characters meet with their friends to sort out their problems rather than continuing to avoid them through a weird pseudo-relationship,” Kondo has met up with his old friend Chihiro, who's now a big deal novelist. Kondo's interactions with Chihiro paint a picture of what he was like in his youth and the direction that his life could have taken had he made different decisions. The big one seems to have been settling down to start a family in a relationship that ultimately wouldn't work out. We don't know much about Kondo's previous marriage, but it seems fair to say that its relatively recent breakdown has been a major contributor to his current funk. Meanwhile, Chihiro remains a freewheeling bachelor – a lifestyle that gives him the freedom and energy to concentrate on his art.
All in all, Chihiro seems like a good friend to Kondo. The two of them do have a rivalry going on, but not the type where they revel in one another's misfortune. Rather, Chihiro starts badgering Kondo to keep writing once it becomes apparent that his commitment to the activity has dwindled over the past few years. He wants his friend to succeed and be happy, plus these sorts of friendly competitions are no fun when one party is fully out for the count. On top of that, he seems to recognize that his old friend is suffering from an acute case of Midlife Crisis, so he takes care to remind him that youth is a state of mind, baby. They part amicably, with Kondo looking more at peace than he has in ages.
On Akira's side of things, her evening with Haruka turns into a big fight when Akira runs off to see Kondo, who's also present at the festival. With this, Haruka realizes that her friend has a crush on this weird middle-aged guy and asks her what's up. When Akira refuses to talk about it, Haruka's frustrations spill out – she doesn't understand why Akira has been so distant lately, or why she's refusing to be open about what she's going through, when Haruka's making such an effort to stay in contact. And on top of that, she's constantly ditching her alleged friend for Some Dad. In the end, Akira says that things can't go back to how they used to be because of her leg. This sends Haruka off crying, and Akira is left to deal with the emotional consequences of what just transpired.
I believe that this is the first time Akira has faced personal consequences (aside from the “you don't know anything about me” stuff from Kondo, which was undone by the rainstorm scene) for her recent behavior. This'll serve as an important measure of Akira's emotional maturity and whether she's learned anything from her experiences thus far. Hopefully she'll realize just how much she values Haruka and cherish the time they've spent together from this point forward. Honestly, while Kondo talks like they're going to be apart for a while, what's happened between Haruka and Akira doesn't seem that severe, especially if Akira starts getting her act together now. This scene is a good model for what Akira and Kondo's relationship is turning into – a sort of mentorship where the older man helps the younger woman parse out the intense emotions she's beginning to experience in her burgeoning adulthood.
At the same time, I have to say that as After the Rain approaches its endpoint, its flaws are becoming more apparent. Most of them are structural, and while they're dampening my engagement with the show somewhat, they're only tangentially related to the central relationship, so it's not too bad. Basically, the show's plotting has lost some of its propulsive force since around episode five or so, when Haruka was brought into the narrative. It doesn't really have anything to do with her as a character – that's just when the plot started getting loosey-goosey, mixing the atmospheric friendship bits with the Akira/Kondo bits in a way that's not particularly dramatic. At the moment, it feels like Akira and Kondo are getting better for reasons that don't have much to do with one another, which is a little disappointing. I do appreciate the naturalism of this approach – how it works to undercut the importance of this one relationship within their lives at large – but I'd still like for the show's ultimate catharsis to come from their dynamic, rather than their relationships with other people.
Otherwise, I can't complain about how the show has been operating lately, and I look forward to seeing what conclusion it will reach in three weeks' time. I'm not sure whether we'll receive an anime-original ending or not. The manga is on the cusp of ending itself, if I'm remembering correctly, but that makes the timetable for putting its ending into the anime pretty tight. And on top of that, I don't even know how far this anime has made it into the source material so far. Whichever route it ends up taking, I now have a solid amount of trust in After the Rain's ability to do right by its controversial subject matter. It's a good show so far, and I have faith in its ability to remain good until 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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