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.
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.
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.
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.
Oh, and the animation looks nice.