Natsunagu!

Natsunagu!

Natsunagu! anime series cover art
Natsunagu!

Series Overview

Natsunagu! (なつなぐ!) is an original anime short about a girl who goes on a journey to find one of her online friends in real life. And from that description, it seems like it could be a pretty good anime. But, as I’ll be discussing later on, this series really doesn’t live up to its potential.

Natsuna and her best friend Itsuki played an online game together which was essentially the new Animal Crossing game. But then one day an earthquake occurs in the Kumamoto Prefecture where Itsuki lives, and Itsuki never logs onto the game again.

So, since Natsuna literally has no other friends, she decides to go on a journey from Tokyo to find Itsuki. The only information she has is Itsuki’s name (if that is her real name), the fact that she lives in a specific prefecture, and a picture of a landscape that Itsuki drew.

Finding Itsuki should be easy!

That’s about it for the plot. As I said, it’s an anime short, so there’s not really that much more going on in the series considering the episodes are 4 minutes long including the ED (there is no OP). But, since I’ll be discussing the things I didn’t like later on, why don’t we quickly go through the things I did like?

Speaking of the ED, I actually liked it. The music wasn’t really anything special, but it had a lot of good visuals, especially all the various shots of Natsuna. And those good visuals carry over to the rest of the series as well. My favorite thing about the anime as a whole is the art style, which sort of reminded me of The Tatami Galaxy.

Also, the character designs were nice to look at.

Characters

Speaking of the characters, there are three main characters who matter in the series. These are Natsuna, Itsuki, and Izumi. And just to get this out of the way now, Itsuki isn’t actually a main character of the series. She’s the goal that Natsuna is trying to reach, so she’s not around for the journey.

But despite not really being a main character, Itsuki’s still important to the series, so she’s worth discussing. We don’t actually know much about her, but we do know that she’s roughly the same age as Natsuna, who’s a college student, and that she likes art, specifically landscape drawing.

Natsuna Keyaki on her phone from the anime series Natsunagu!
Natsuna Keyaki on her phone

Natsuna is a surprisingly outgoing girl for someone who only has one friend, and whose one friend is an online one at that. You’d think that a girl like her living in Tokyo would have plenty of friends, but that’s not the case.

What’s weird about Natsuna, though, is that she’s set up to be a shy, loner character. That’s basically why she and Itsuki became friends in the first place. But once Natsuna is on her journey, it becomes clear that she’s not really so shy after all. She has no problem traveling to a new place by herself and interacting with the locals she encounters there.

And speaking of locals, the final important character is Izumi Chiba, a middle school student who Natsuna meets in Kumamoto Prefecture. Izumi is extremely outgoing, far more so than Natsuna. When she learns that Natsuna is searching for her friend, Izumi decides to help her out even though they just met.

Izumi even invites Natsuna to stay with her and her father while she’s in the prefecture searching for Itsuki. But I think that aspect of her character has more to do with her rural upbringing than her outgoing nature.

Good Idea, Poor Execution

So far you might be thinking that Natsunagu! sounds like a good anime. And it definitely had the potential to be one. But the biggest issue I found with the series is that it’s a short.

I feel like I bring this up every time I review an anime short, but shorts are generally going to be worse than full-length series simply because they don’t have the time needed to develop the world, characters, and plot. In this series, it’s the plot that gets left behind.

The world-building of Natsunagu! actually isn’t that bad. Through talking with the locals, and seeing the landscape of the prefecture, Natusna (and the viewers) get a pretty good idea of how the earthquake affected the lives of the people there. We learn about the hardships they had to go through and how the community helped each other in this time of need.

Izumi Chiba from the anime series Natsunagu!
Izumi Chiba

Likewise, the characters are developed well for the short amount of time we got to see them. Natsuna isn’t the most interesting character since she’s just focused on finding Itsuki at all costs. But Izumi and the other locals are actually interesting characters who have been shaped by the region in which they live.

However, tying into the fact that Natsuna has a one-track mind regarding Itsuki, is the lack of any real plot development. Almost every episode boils down to asking a local if they know Itsuki, and then the answer is no, or that they think they remember her from years ago.

Basically the series sets up this search for Itsuki fairly well, but there just isn’t enough time to follow through with it properly. I would have much rather had a full-length series in which Natsuna could fully explore all the leads she gets regarding Itsuki’s whereabouts.

Conclusion

Natsunagu! is a 4/10 from me. It has some good ideas, but it doesn’t capitalize on them properly, which leaves the viewer with the feeling that they’re missing out on the majority of the story trying to be told.

Also, I don’t really see a reason as to why this anime wasn’t full-length. The studio behind it, Imagica Lab. has only made three anime, and all of them are shorts which have been rated poorly. Two of those three have also been original series, so it’s not like anyone is forcing them to create shorts.

Looking into the studio more, it’s actually more of a broadcasting company, with the anime department only being one small section. So my big question is, what’s the point? I don’t really see what series like Natsunagu! are doing for this business. And maybe that’s the problem. Maybe they don’t even have a real reason for creating them.

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