Jun Mayuzuki’s After the Rain is one of the finest examples of seinen manga anyone could read. (And yes, I know I mis-categorized it as “shoujo” in the past, so apologies!) The story of former track runner Akira Tachibana (Sayumi Watabe/Luci Christian) falling in love with her older boss Masami Kondo (Hiroaki Hirata/Jason Douglas) started off as a strange possible romance in the making. However, it evolved into a tale of rediscovering lost dreams, with the two using one another to catapult themselves back into their true passions.
In 2018, After the Rain received an anime adaptation as part of the renowned noitaminA block. Attack on Titan animators Wit Studio were the ones responsible for bringing to life Akira and Masami’s story, an odd choice considering their repertoire. One would be worried that adapting all ten volumes of the manga into a mere twelve episodes, as that’d me a lot of important things could be left on the cutting room floor. Fortunately, with only a couple of liberties taken, Wit Studio managed to capture everything that made Mayuzuki’s original work so enchanting in animated form.
After the Rain focuses on Akira and her day-in-the-life routines. At the restaurant she works at, she secretly fawns over her older boss Masami. With a leg injury still healing, Akira struggles with what she truly wants in life, be it a romance with her boss or a return to the track where she shone the brightest. Meanwhile, Masami has his own dreams he’s yet to achieve, with Akira somehow finding a way to bring back that passion hidden deep within.
As Akira attempts to get closer to Masami, both do their best to find out who the real person is behind their eyes. Although Akira started off looking at Masami as a possible love interest, those feelings evolve into one of a strong friendship. Slowly, Akira is pushed back into the world of running, with her friendship with Haruka (Emi Miyajima/Elizabeth Maxwell) being rekindled as the story progresses. For Masami, his love for writing is brought back to fruition both thanks to Akira’s positivity and his successful friend Chihiro (Mitsuru Miyamoto/Joe Daniels) pushing him back to putting pen to ink.
Halfway through, After the Rain no longer becomes a romance story. Instead, what it becomes is a narrative of lost hopes and dreams being brought back to life. There are lots of frustrations both Akira and Masami deal with, as they appear frightened of taking the first step towards going back to the passions that they loved. The fear of rejection and failure rides close to these characters, as they attempt to get comfortable in their current situations. And yet, Masami pushes Akira back on the track & field path in the same way Akira unleashes a writing bug to bite Masami.
It’s this element that makes the overall story one of the most enjoyable tales of self-rediscovery. Some may cringe at the romance in the beginning, before sighing greatly when it’s pushed aside by series’s end. In a big way, the anime brings a feeling of inspiration that will hopefully push viewers to go out and achieve the things they’ve put in the back burner. Perhaps the big lesson the story tells is that no matter how old someone else, a dream is still worth accomplishing.
Granted, there are some elements of After the Rain that scriptwriter Deko Akao (Anonymous Noise, Flying Witch) had to chuck to fit into twelve episodes. One of those is the fragile friendship between Akira and Haruka. The manga demonstrates their highs and lows together in a comfortable and believable pace; the anime instead sprinkles the tension sporadically before unexpectedly exploding in its ninth episode. Sadly, the side story of Yui (Haruka Fukuhara/Maggie Flecknoe) crushing on Akira’s classmate Takashi (Junya Ikeda/Gareth West) is taken out completely, although that thankfully doesn’t affect the main narrative at all.
Despite these changes, Mayuzuki’s original story is adapted strongly in animated form. The important beats of After the Rain’s heart is on full display throughout its runtime. Moments of joy, sorrow, inspiration, and dejection that were apparent in the manga are presented in a fluid narrative that makes it feel like nothing’s amiss from the source material. Although there are scenes that I enjoyed in the manga that aren’t here, their lack of inclusion doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a fantastic adaptation of the source material.
Mayuzuki’s art style is brought to life in all of the most perfect ways. Wit Studio focuses its character designs to stay with its 90s shoujo manga-like aesthetics, giving way to more expressive eyes and CLAMP-influenced body designs. In a way, it brings an extra coat of varnish and shine to an older look that hasn’t been done in anime in quite some time. (The closest any other anime has gotten to this was Production I.G’s 2017 adaptation of the classic manga comedy Magical Circle Guru-Guru.)
Surprisingly, it’s the rest of After the Rain’s animation that dazzles. With the theme of storms playing hard, the look of every rainfall that occurs is breathtaking at times. This also plays well with the emotional tone that’s presented in the show, with bright colors overtaking joyful moments and dimmer shades front-and-center during the tense and sadder moments. But it’s when you see the characters in motion where Wit Studio shows its greatest strengths. The way Akira runs, dances, and excitedly jumps for joy is so fluid and filled with life, bringing out her truest beauty when you least expect it.
Both the Japanese and English dubs have very strong performances, specifically when it comes to Akira and Masami’s voice actor performances. Hirata and Douglas capture the good-natured and warmth of Masami, demonstrating the character’s frustrations on the job while keeping a bubbly exterior personality. For Akira, Watabe’s performance brings a mixture of shyness and lovesick into her mentality. As for the English version, Christian starts Akira off with a somewhat tsundere-like tone, only to fortunately evolve into a more open book-like vocal performance.
Composer Ryo Yoshimata brings to life a classical-styled score, focused primarily on piano & string pieces. It flutters when warmth is in the air, but haunts when tension surrounds the anime’s characters. No matter the mood though, the compositions are truly beautiful. Opening theme “Nostalgic Rainfall” by CHiCO With HoneyWorks is a dazzling display of love & happiness, with a melody that will never leave you once you first hear it. Aimer’s end theme “Ref:rain” is a gorgeous closer, with more a sadder passion towards love that contrasts well with the opener’s cheerier mood.
After the Rain is a beautiful story, both visually and emotionally. Despite its odd beginnings, Akira and Masami’s tale transforms into an inspirational story about rekindling lost dreams. It’ll make you laugh, cry, feel warm & fuzzy, and — hopefully — push you towards accomplishing the things you’ve always wanted to do. So long as you’ve got an umbrella always in reach, anything can be achieved, even after the rain has fallen.
Voice Acting: (Japanese dub)/ (English dub)
Final Grade (not an average):
Promotional consideration provided by Mike Bailiff of Section23 Films