Film / Reviews

'After the Rain': A problematic love story deftly presented with emotional heft

by Matt Schley

Contributing Writer

“After the Rain” (“Koi wa Ame Agari no Yo Ni”), the 12-episode anime series that finished airing March 30 (and is streaming worldwide via Amazon Prime), centers around 17-year-old Akira Tachibana, a high school student who falls in love with Masami Kondo, the manager at her part-time job, who is 28 years her senior.

Though the manga that “After the Rain” is based on began its run in 2014, the anime adaptation comes during a moment when not only so-called May-December romances, but also those between women and men in the workplace are being closely examined.

Japan has no shortage of movies, manga and more in the older-man-younger-woman “forbidden love” genre. In real life, the country is looking to update its lopsided minimum marriage ages, which currently allow women to marry at 16, to 18 for both genders. Issues of age aside, the idea of a relationship between a subordinate and her boss brings up another set of thorny issues.

After the Rain (Koi wa Ame Agari no Yo Ni)
Rating
Run Time 12 episodes at 22 mins. each
Language Japanese (English subtitles)

But while the premise may set off alarm bells, the actual execution of “After the Rain” makes it less a #MeToo tale than one about two humans intersecting at very different, but equally important, periods of their lives.

As the story begins, we learn Tachibana was the star of her high school’s track team until she injured her Achilles tendon. Sidelined and aimless, the track-obsessed student finds herself waiting for the rain to stop one evening in a family restaurant when the friendly, middle-aged manager gives her a coffee on the house — and her crush begins.

A cute girl, a rainstorm and a cup of coffee: A thousand Haruki Murakami fans’ hearts just went racing.

The manager, Kondo, isn’t exactly a catch — he’s 45, divorced and, according to Tachibana’s co-workers, smells funny. But that’s not really the point: Tachibana’s crush is less about Kondo himself than her need for something to fill the void left by her injury.

As for Kondo, he is clearly aware of how inappropriate a relationship with Tachibana would be, but her attention does help him remember — and revive — his own youthful dreams of becoming a writer. For Kondo, too, Tachibana is less a realistic romantic option than a totem representing what’s been lost — and what might be found again.

The series was animated at Wit Studio, the folks who brought us “Attack on Titan.” There are no battles with giant monsters to be found here, but deft touches from director Ayumu Watanabe give this quiet series just as much emotional weight.

“After the Rain” takes a prickly premise and gives us a story about two people with broken dreams that just might be mendable. A live-action adaptation of the manga starring Nana Komatsu and Yo Oizumi is set for May, and time will tell if that film can match the anime’s quiet grace and subtlety. In the meantime, stream this one on a rainy day with a cup of coffee or two.