The Nihon Review - Anime Reviews & Editorials

Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: Natsu no Sora

Title: Mahou Tsukai ni Taisetsu na Koto: Natsu no Sora aka Things That Are Important to a Mage ~Summer Sky~
Genre: Drama
Company: Hal Film Maker
Format: 12 episodes
Date: 2 Jul 2008 – 24 Sep 2008

Synopsis: Mages are a special group of people who possess the ability to use magic, and Suzuki Sora is one of them. Apart from her unusual ability however, she is just a chirpy girl from the countryside. One day, fulfilling the wishes of her late father, she accepts the opportunity to hone her magical skills in Tokyo. Upon arriving in the capital city, she meets up with a few other people like her, including sharp-tongued Asagi and Kuroda, the meek Hiyori and a reluctant Gouta. Together, they not only improve their magical skills but learn everything about life, from meeting clients with different forms of distress, to dealing with disappointment and friendship.

The Highlights
Direction: Kobayashi Osamu‘s work is too obvious to be missed.
Music: Indie music that cleanses the heart and soul.
Main characters: Exceptional relationships between the main cast.
Side characters: Deserve as much attention as the main characters.
Animation: Lazy animation and backgrounds, despite some nice photographic settings.

I have a question to those who’s already tried watching Natsu no Sora: did the first few scenes of the first episode give you any clues as to who directed the series? Probably those who are familiar with director Kobayashi Osamu will raise their hands to my question. His works are becoming more conspicuous ever since his direction of the slice-of-life series BECK and subsequently Paradise Kiss. His directing traits of incorporating real-life photographs, strong character relationships and great music into slice-of-life drama has made him one of my favorite directors in anime.

One of the reasons why I like Kobayashi‘s work is because he knows how to make characters shine without having to ditch them into bizarre situations or having outstanding physical features. Instead, the characters possess deep emotional complexities shown simply through idiosyncrasy and individuality. Sora possesses naivety and compassion common for someone who comes from the countryside, while Gouta possesses rebelliousness and indifference – apparent qualities coming from a troubled family. Another positive aspect of the characters is the strong relationships developed between them through their idiosyncratic behavior. This is exemplified through Sora and Gouta’s relationship despite their polar differences, and also Kuroda and Asagi’s relationship despite their personal similarities. This emphasis on character idiosyncrasy and strong relationships, coupled with the expected heartwarming music, is what makes Natsu no Sora different from other slice-of-life series.

I do have a few peeves about Natsu no Sora, and this is something shared with Kobayashi‘s previous works. Real-life photographs are used as background settings in Natsu no Sora and I admit that some of them are breathtaking. The thing is, the use of these photographs as backgrounds seems to be a lazy excuse for animated ones which would have better complemented the animated characters. No camera angles are used, and this makes every scene look flat and awkward. Furthermore, I was disappointed with the unambitious animation of the characters, which also brought down BECK and Paradise Kiss. The character designs are fine but the inconsistent and disproportionate artwork ultimately drags down the series’ overall quality.

Natsu no Sora is a pleasant slice-of-life drama with a strong assembly of characters but is disappointing in the animation department. The unique presentation of down-to-earth stories of adolescence makes Natsu no Sora one of the better yet underrated series of what I thought was a rather dull summer for the anime community. I wish that Kobayashi would improve more on his visual presentations while retaining his directing approach towards stories about growing up. Give this series a try and, despite its shortcomings, by the end of the series I’m sure you’ll still be happy to have watched it.

The Rating: 7

Reviewed by: AC

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