There are basically countless anime that deal with love. A lot of my favorites deal with it as one of the core themes. There are many variations, but they usually break down to boy meets girl, relationship builds through conflict and misunderstandings, conflict is resolved and a happily ever after. Some of them resolve conflict before a relationship is formed, some after, but the end result is normally the same. So my question any time I start an anime like After the Rain is “What will this anime bring to the table that is different?” Spoilers ahead.
This story revolves mainly around two characters: Akira Tachibana, a 17 year old high school junior, and Masami Kondou, a 45 year old family restaurant manager (I can already see the gears turning in your head so I’ll just come out and say it: yes, the romance plot of this anime is between these two characters).
Tachibana is a former star of the track and field team at her high school. Due to an injury to her Achilles, her career ended unexpectedly and she was left with an uncertain future. Until the injury, running had been a part of her life since some of her earliest memories. For Tachibana, running was natural and relaxing, something she instinctively needed.
Kondou is the current manager for a family restaurant called the Garden Cafe. The show slowly reveals that his life turned out nothing like he expected, previously wanting to become an author. Marriage and eventually a kid, along with (what appear to be) several failures entering the writing world professionally, left him with an attitude that can be best described as complacent. Any time his stagnant career is challenged, he simply blames his age and concludes that there was no point in changing now. Instead, he reminisces about his youth and the vigor and passion he had for writing, thinking he could never hope to achieve that now. Rather than taint those memories with new disappointing attempts, he’s content to remember it bitter-sweetly. This attitude eventually pushes his wife to divorce him, taking custody of their son with her.
For a love story, this show has an almost record time for confession. Tachibana makes it known early to Kondou that she has feelings for him. He, of course, writes her feelings off as nothing more than misguided; she was giving far too much credit to a man of his age and talents. But for Tachibana, it was never about those things.
She has a reputation for being someone who gives little thought to the opinions of those around her. When she forms an opinion, no amount of social awkwardness or mockery can change it. She is strong willed and passionate.
Kondou, on the other hand, has spent his entire life catering to the needs of everyone around him, whether they be customers or employees. For him, being liked and submissive brings about the least amount of conflict, and he prefers to avoid conflict at all costs.
What After the Rain (Koi wa Amaagari no You ni; Love is Like after the Rain; 恋は雨上がりのように) brings to the table is a slight twist to this love story, eventually making the love story a supporting role. It becomes a story about healing and growth for both Tachibana and Kondou.
Tachibana learns what it means to be young and not have all the answers. She slowly begins to realize that her love for Kondou, while very likely genuine, was born as a symptom of the loss she experienced with her running injury. She gave up running despite being told by doctors that she could make a full recovery with proper physical therapy. Instead, she threw herself into work, partly to fill the void and partly to be near Kondou.
Through his relationship with Tachibana, the feelings of youth and vigor long thought lost begin to stir in Kondou. He remembers why he loved to read and write. Seeing Tachibana ignore her passion of running so early in life gives him perspective as an outside observer on the similar path he had followed with his writing.
In the end, both Tachibana and Kondou realize that they have a lot to work on as individuals, each needing to pursue the dreams they had once held dearly in their hearts. Neither of them could give up on life yet, and the show ends on a promise that, when they have accomplished their dreams, they will find each other again. It’s that bittersweet hopeful note that made this one so memorable. It’s far from the ending that I expected after watching the first couple episodes, but it’s a much better one because of it.