In a season brimming with highly anticipated shows like Sakamichi no Apollon, Fate/Zero, Tsuritama, and Sankarea, Natsuiro Kiseki bursts onto the scene full of vigor and sparkling with a magical essence unique unto itself. Through the squabbling of four friends and the whimsical interventions of a sacred rock, we are transported to one summer and its fleeting promise of friendship. Natsuiro Kiseki pairs lovable, yet imperfect, characters with well crafted scenes in such a way that makes it incredibly difficult to not like this show once you’ve started it. The quirks that make up the characters’ individual personalities also come together through their friendship; one girl’s gaps are another’s bridge. With the power of these four combined, anything is possible!
Yuka and Childhood Promises
What began as a strong dislike for her high, whiny voice and childish wishes later became an appreciation for her pure and whimsical nature. Yuka is firmly rooted in the past, still keeping the same wish she had from when she was a little girl. She constantly reminds the others of who they were as children, and how much they have changed as teenagers.
It wasn’t until the body switching incident that I truly became attached to Yuka’s character. Of all the girls, I feel that she takes the greatest pleasure out of living, riding so high that the occasional drops are even more noticeable and drastic in their effects. And much like a child who often gets what she wants, there is no forgiving a broken promise no matter what that promise entails. When she’s happy, it’s as if flecks of light dance over every surface. When she’s sad, that shimmering wonder is snuffed out and the resulting darkness is almost stifling.
Her adoration for the pop idol group, Four Season, remains just as strong as ever. Images of her poster-covered room and array of audio and visual recordings constantly appear throughout the anime, reminding both her friends and viewers that some dreams are worth chasing. Yuka comes to embody the wonder and hope that most children hold for the world and their future in it, attributes that are too often choked once they become older and such dreams are “unlikely” and/or “childish.”
Natsumi stands in the here and the now, and has an unparalleled focus on the events that make up her daily life. If there’s a character that best represents the featureless face of the viewer, it’s her. She’s average in most of the aspects in which she is featured, and yet still manages to stand out from her group of friends as the one who holds them accountable to the promises of friendship.
In one of the most telling episodes featuring Natsumi, we witness the straightforwardness with which she struggles in tennis. Because she constantly confronts her opponents head on, her actions are predictable. She will always strike right back at you. Her honest hits ask to be returned in like manner, which obviously does not happen as often as she seems to expect. Although that episode centers on Natsumi and Saki’s game against two of their club’s rivals, the metaphor also doubles (hah, doubles…) for Natsumi’s entire way of being–as seen in the very first couple of episodes with her and Saki’s confrontation.
It’s important to note that Natsumi’s honesty doesn’t necessarily mean that her decisions are easily made. It’s quite the opposite. In her intense focus on one aspect, she wavers between uncertainty over choosing the best viable option and attempting to balance other obligations in her life. She wants to keep all her balls in the air, but keeps finding herself staring at only one.
Growing up Saki-style
Fashionable and confident, Saki faces forward to the future; however, this assertiveness also works to mask her vulnerabilities. Of the four, I find myself more closely aligned to her character than to any of the others, if only because of my own similar uncertainty for the future, which I tend to cover up with assurances meant for both myself and the people whom I’m afraid to disappoint. As Saki is the seemingly more mature member of the group, appearing strong is probably a given.
Although her closest friend is Natsumi, Saki has an odd likeness to Rin, as opposite as they may seem. The two of them seem to work as the calmer counterparts to Natsumi and Yuka. When tensions run high, Saki can usually be counted upon to keep her head cool.
Rin’s Whale of a Tale
Our most silent of the quad, Rin also stands as the backbone to the group and is the very reason that these girls were able to come together in the first place. Her unshakeable resolve is somewhat covered up by her soft appearance and quiet disposition.
“Summer Colds and Whales” reveals her endearing nature–after getting caught in the rain, Rin falls briefly ill to a cold and is subject to a recurring hallucination. The whale is the one image that she sees, swimming through the air and singing its song to no one but her. I sat there in puzzlement for a good bit after that first scene; why a whale?
One fun little fact about whales that I found particularly interesting in comparison to Rin is that whales are conscious breathers. They must choose to breathe, otherwise they will drown. This is why whales are never fully asleep; they rest in a half-awake state that allows their breathing functions to continue. Like oxygen to whales, I view Rin as constantly on the cusp between the reality that everyone else sees, and her own dreamy reality. Not to be restricted to her illness-induced visions, Rin’s almost constantly drowsy eyes and wavy, bedhead-ish hairstyle also contribute to this sleepy likeness. Of all the girls, she is my current favorite, whose eyes I would love to see through for just one day.
It’s little details like these that make Natsuiro Kiseki so special and more than just your average summer slice-of-life. For all its magical realism and daily activities, it is at heart a story centered on its characters and their relationships with each other. This just may be the last summer they spend together, and as Saki and Rin aptly put it, they cannot afford to waste a single second of it.