[Review] After the Rain – Episode 1

What’s it about?  Akira Tachibana has felt adrift since an injury forced her to quit her high school track team. Looking for a way to fill her days, she took a job at a diner—and has fallen in love with her middle-aged manager.

CONTENT WARNING: Discussion of adults preying on minors.

It’s nice to know that if Hollywood ever spines up and kicks Woody Allen out for good, he could still find a very fulfilling career in anime.

Sorry, did I say nice? I meant horrifying. As horrifying as the rictus grin on my face as I type this review.

Kondo walking out of the break room, talking to himself. caption: you can do this, middle-aged man
And if the record shows anything, you’ll still be allowed to work!

After the Rain is proof that a story isn’t automatically feminist or inclusive just because it was written by a woman. Age-gap romances where one party is a minor are never not problematic, but there is, at least, a way to tell that story so it serves as a kind of safe space for young women to play out the fantasy of falling for an older man. After the Rain, however, does not read like that kind of story. Instead, it reads like a fantasy geared for those older men desperate to justify their predatory behavior.

While Akira isn’t sexualized in a traditional sense—there are no upskirt shots, no groping scenes—she’s still a walking, talking fantasy, lusting after the older Kondo while he has no awareness of how she feels. It’s not this middle-aged man’s fault! This underage girl was just throwing herself at him, what was he to do? Truly, officer, she was the one who started all this. She wanted him to touch her there!

I believe you get the point. The news is rife with tales of adult men making excuses for themselves about how their young victims came onto them, about how they lied about their age or were in some other way seeking to take advantage of the older, predatory party who should know better. And, lo and behold, that is the exact situation that After the Rain sets out to validate.

Akira talking with a coworker about Kondo. caption: He's just so pathetic.
Remember men, the only women who will ever be critical of you are shrill, ugly harpies who don’t deserve your quirky and very viable D.

More than just being the aggressive party, Akira is written with every last dog whistle of being a “totally excusable, no really” partner for an adult man. She doesn’t have anything in common with the other girls at school, who are squealing over fellow high schoolers she has no interest in. The boy who has a crush on her is so obviously childish; clearly it is not a boy but a man she is seeking after the trauma of her injury set her apart, for she is Not Like Other Girls.

The opening theme implores you not to “treat [her] like a child,” even though that’s exactly what she still is. The other waitress who scoffs about Kondo being pathetic and unlikable is drawn as a comically ugly toad. And of course, Akira is wonderful with Kondo’s son and primed to step into the role of motherhood at the ripe old age of sixteen.

I was prepared to write this off as gross, but in a way that anime has often been gross even this season with the sexualization of young women. Then, about halfway through the episode, I realized they’d made it personal. Because this anime cast Hiroaki Hirata to play Kondo.

Akira leaning in toward Kondo at his desk. caption: can you stop glaring at me?
I know Kotetsu T. Kaburagi. And you, sir, are no Kotetsu T. Kaburagi.

This isn’t necessarily unexpected—Hirata more or less cemented himself as a player of hot dads when he voiced Kotetsu in Tiger & Bunny. The difference is that while T&B also had a teenage girl pining after the hot single father she worked with, that show firmly framed her crush as hopeless and firmly portrayed Kotetsu as trying to be a father-figure to her all the way through. Granted, the show’s primary relationship also had an age gap, but the younger partner was twenty-five—a grown-ass adult in his own right.

To hear that warm, charming voice and a lot of what might be deliberately similar mannerisms coming out of this show feels like an extra, personal insult, flipping the script of an attractive archetype that appealed to a lot of women and twisting it into something made to make predatory men feel better about themselves. This series was never going to be on my good side. Now, though, I would happily see its ratings burned to ash. If the word hate was carved into every cell in every centimeter of my body, it would not equal one-billionth of the hate I feel for this show at this micro-instant. Hate. HATE.

Akira burying her face in Kondo's shirt
Wow, you can really smell the midlife crisis.

Oh, and the animation looks nice.

 

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  • Natalie

    I think what I disliked the most about it (after the huge elephant in the room), was how good of a premise this could have been if the ages were a bit different.

    A romance about a 22~ish college student who lost all motivation after an injury that cut their primary social circle, with a mid 20s romantic interest raising a kid by themselves. Something like that plus this production value could have been lovely.

    Even the small hope I had of a one-sided crush that didn’t go anywhere got crushed right in the OP.

    • Roman Komarov

      Or, another possibility: he just says “no”, she moves on, they become friends. And there could be endless ways to not make it… this. But the OP, really, seals the deal 🙁

      I think I’ll check it a bit more of it (until third episode probably) just to have more arguments that it is not “a kind of safe space for young women to play out the fantasy of falling for an older man”, as that can be potentially a really dangerous anime as it has a really good production quality and a lot of people could fall for it really easily.

    • Teka the Budgie

      One of those “of all the myriad ways this could not be creepy, the creators chose the single option that drips with creep from every frame” shows. 😛

  • Brainchild129

    Meanwhile, I’m just stuck on the fact that he looks like Capt. Goto from Patlabor. I’m not the first person to make that observation, but the likeness is so strong that it verges upon distracting, even in screenshots.

  • ImaniToo

    Oh nooooooo. I saw this fun screenshot on Twitter where the character made a nice dry joke about body odour and making bad puns. Funny line, appealing character design–this looks like it could be a nice show, I thought. But it’s this guy….it’s this creepy pervert guy! This is the show.

    Anime, why. :'(

  • anony

    Thank you for writing about this so eloquently & sitting through this garbage fire. A lot of people don’t get that even if some problematic element is justified within a narrative, choosing to present that kind of narrative in the first place is a bad move. And seeing comments in the anime community (generally, not specific to this show) like “she is really mature for her age”, “it used to be normal to have kids at age X”, “the age of consent in Japan is X” or “I want a hot young gf like that” make me die a little every time. It sounds like the messages reflected by this show are really damaging, especially for teenage girls who might be watching. Good thing there are plenty of wholesome shows this season to watch instead!

  • Vrai

    Nah, I call bullshit. It’s absolutely about a romantic relationship forming between the two leads–the opening theme and the final shot of Kondo imagining himself as the student trying to hit on Akira firmly cements that.

    Moreover, it’s absolutely centered as a fantasy for dudes. We might follow Akira around, but Kondo’s internal narration is the only one we hear–it’s firmly cemented as his story while pretending like it’s hers and her agency. It’s insidious, slimy garbage masquerading as “mature storytelling.”

    As far as the other coworker, she’s not obviously ugly but she’s also portrayed as immature compared to Akira–and her criticism of Kondo is far less severe than frog-faced woman’s (she thinks he smells weird, not that he’s pathetic and going nowhere in life).

    • Dawnstorm

      I don’t remember the opening. The final shot sees the manager imagining a younger self. I’m also not quite convinced the coworker is portrayed as less mature than Akira; Akira’s just more quiet (and it’s less likely you make a fool out of yourself when you’re quiet). I’m also not quite sure yet, what role Akira’s admirer is going to play. I’m not entirely convinced it’s just comic relief, or portraying someone less mature.

      It is a romance, no doubt. I’m not convinced, tough, that it’s quite the slimy garbage you see it as.

      Especially since the mood right after it rains isn’t something that lasts (and I think it’s a mood metaphor, rather than a moral it-gets-better metaphor). I’ll wait and see.

      • Iona

        I don’t think anyone is arguing in good faith that it’s trash. It’s more like it’s a matter of principle and highlighting some really messed up aspects that anime viewers tend to ignore altogether.
        For example, here you have this young woman who’s shadowing her boss and when she’s caught smelling his shirt, he just takes in stride because….

        Moreover you also see him break his airhead persona on several occasions during the episode. So the show is telling us quite clearly that he’s not really the dunderhead they’re setting him out to be. It’s like the anime wants to have its cake and eat it too which I think it’s an aspect that’s worth investigating a bit more.

  • Teka the Budgie

    “…but there is, at least, a way to tell that story so it serves as a kind of safe space for young women to play out the fantasy of falling for an older man.”

    Known for short as “Ancient Magus Bride.” That show caters to my inner daddy complex so much.

  • TrackFourtyFour

    Isn’t it possible that all of the “not like other girls” (read: appropriate as a partner for a 45 year old) framing of Akira is an intentional depiction of her own self-concept that the show is going to interrogate? A lot of this episode was in her POV, and of course she would consider herself an appropriate partner for the person she likes. Her attraction to Kondo being tied to her injury and isolation might be read as an indication that it is something that needs to
    be healed rather than as an explanation for why she’s an appropriate romantic partner for him. In the scene with her track-club kouhai Akira is pointedly nonchalant about her inability to participate – this might be because she’s coping with the feelings of frustration and helplessness that that kind of injury would entail by construing herself as above the whole business of being a girl in high school. Of course I could be wrong and the show could turn out to be a straight-up romance, and it could straight-forwardly commit to the framing of Akira as Kondo’s destined partner, but I didn’t really get the sense in episode 1 that it was trying to frame Akira as appropriate for Kondo so much as it was trying to explain why she’s attracted to him.

  • Iona

    Thank you for writing this review. I thought I was going crazy for a while there what with all the people gushing about the production values. I even had to drop a blog because of the way the dealt with the criticism.

    Really glad I found this place. I want to vent about this thing but gah… I’m on a deadline. Will have to come back and leave a more nuanced reply.