2008 in anime – #2: Jaws dropping under a summer sky

by Grungi

Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~… The perfect summer anime. The best one to air this summer, all genres included, at least according to yours truly. What could more fitting than a slice-of-life-with-a-touch-of-magic show depicting the life of a young girl, Suzuki Sora, going from Hokkaido to Tokyo to learn magic for a month ? Especially with such gorgeous visuals ? Between the most photorealistic backgrounds you’ll see in a while and characters with that distinct “Beck” flavor to them, the life of Sora is a real feast for your eyes. Add to that a beautiful soundtrack composed of celtic-inspired melodies and acoustic songs sung by a girl near a train station which Sora passes by everyday, and you’ve got something exceptionally pleasing for the senses.
And if that wasn’t good enough, the story and characters themselves are very muck likeable, each one in their own way. From the innocent Sora, to the grumpy Gouta, and including their classmates, and even their teachers, you’re bound to find at least some of them attaching. Thus, even though most of the series is slow-paced, it never feels boring. There’s a plenty of things that make you want to come back to Shimokitazawa (the Tokyo neighborhood Sora is living in) to see how events unfold : what will Sora’s next client be like ? Will Gouta be able to use magic properly ? And, as becomes evident pretty soon : when are Sora and Gouta going to go out together ?
I’ll have to admit, they make one of the, if not the, cutest couple I’ve ever seen in an anime. And the way their relationship evolves feels completely natural, including the way they “confess”, without really saying much. I couldn’t help but to go “awww” when they held hands together the first time. For once, this is a show where there’s no love triangle, no one ends up in tears because they were left out. Natsu no Sora is like condensed happiness for everybody involved, including the viewer.

That is, until episode 10.
In one of the most dramatic plot twisting I know of, your whole perspective of the show changes. I won’t spoil it here, but let it be known that this will have almost anyone feel a huge emotional shock. It’s at the same time both brilliant and cruel. It does turn a fairly inconsequential slice-of-life anime to something with a much greater impact, but you can’t help but to feel that it is incredibly unfair. You half-expect something like Sora having to separate from Gouta, her first love, at the end of summer, and you’re prepared to feel pretty sorry for both of them, but you aren’t prepared for what’s happening.

If Natsu no Sora was a TV drama, the “shocking truth” would have been revealed right at the start, and the overall tone of the show would have been greatly modified. But here, because of all the happy moments you’ve shared with Sora, you feel robbed of something. Or rather, you feel that she’s the one being robbed of the happiness that should have been hers. The last episode even goes as far as having Gouta and Sora’s mother meeting, but without knowing who the other is. It’s the last coincidence that makes you wish things would have turned differently.

But in a way only japanese anime do, you’re left with a strange mix of emotions at the end of the twelfth episode. You want to cry, to smile, to scream it’s unfair, to be happy for how Sora’s summer went, in the end. So you go through a little bit of everything, and it’s a feeling like no other. And that’s why the jaw-dropping revelations of Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto ~Natsu no Sora~ episode 10 get this second spot in my list of 2008’s anime moments.