Is Ano Natsu de Matteru a romantic comedy or a lighthearted romance?
Overall, I think the anime was expertly executed. I am struggling to identify a romantic comedy equally good. [...]
(He then identifies Nodame Cantabile as a strong contender but feels its focus was more or less elsewhere.)
I've been thinking about this, and I'm not sure that Ano Natsu is really a romantic comedy; it's a romance, but not so much a comedy in the way that, say, Nodame Cantabile is.
Ano Natsu is certainly a lighthearted romance where amusing and funny things happen (mostly because of Remon), but I'm hard put to think of actual comedy that happens in the show. In fact it's strikingly missing many or all of the painful stock comedy elements you find in ordinary romantic comedies. I think it's a 'romantic comedy' only by default, because we don't have a better name for a lighthearted, amusing romance that doesn't focus on melodrama or straightforward love.
(Since I don't watch mainstream American TV or movies, I'm actually stretching my mind all the way back to memories of to Shakespeare's romantic comedies as my basis for comparison here.)
Nodame Cantabile makes an especially good comparison for this because it's clear that Nodame has significant comedy elements that are played that way deliberately. For example, Milch spends a lot of the time being a comedic character that we are supposed to laugh at, we have several secondary characters as exaggerated comedic foils (even if they develop their own depths in time), and we have the ongoing saga of Nodame's messiness versus Chiaki's obsessive neatness. Fundamentally all of these are played for laughs in a way that I don't think any element of Ano Natsu is. Even Remon yanking people's chains has an edge; it's funny because she's making people be truthful (even if other characters don't realize it).
(The closest element in Ano Natsu is perhaps what's up with Mio's odd behavior, but there is very little actual comedy with that and it becomes a strong dramatic element almost the moment it's really focused on.)
PS: this entry is brought to you by insomnia; despite the posting time most of it was written at 4am.
Thinking about why Upotte! goes too far for me
Upotte was supposed to be this filthy innuendo vehicle for dirty perverts… but it really is not. It turned out to be a comedy, and honestly I liked its comedic payload more than that of Naruto SD. Funco dealing with puberty gave the haters the excuse to lash out, but it’s entirely up to the viewer where to focus.
I had a strongly negative reaction to the first episode of Upotte! when I tried to watch it, but that's far from universal and a number of people with good taste actively like the show. Author's entry has pushed me into thinking in more detail about my reaction.
It's certainly possible to deal comedically (and tastefully) with puberty in the way that Upotte!'s sort of trying to do; I even quite enjoyed a highschool comedy that went much further than Upotte!'s relatively tame innuendo. What I think got to me is the presence of the male teacher and the focus of Funco's thoughts on him; this gave the jokes and especially Funco's daydreaming involving him an uncomfortable edge, especially since Funco is in middle school. In hindsight I don't think it's a coincidence that I stopped being able to watch right at the point where Funco was fantasizing about him being the one to work her trigger.
(Looking back on Seitokai Yakuindomo, I think that part of what made it work for me is that basically everyone involved in the sex jokes were peers; adults rarely or never got pulled into them.)
Of course, it doesn't help that comedy is hit or miss with me and usually misses. The odds were always that I wasn't going to follow Upotte! even if I didn't bounce off of it with a strong reaction, but every season I check out a comedy or two in the hopes that they will really click with me. When comedy works, it's great.
Why I'm still watching Aquarion EVOL
Back when I wrote about reducing what I was watching in the winter, I was somewhat negative about Aquarion EVOL. However I'm still watching it, somewhat to my surprise. It's not because of EVOL's plot, characters, or story; I don't like any of them half as much as I do in the original Aquarion. But what EVOL has going for it over the original is that EVOL has completely embraced the crazy, and doing this makes it easily watchable just in order to see what they're going to come up with next.
The original Aquarion was always somewhat crazy but it mostly put the crazy on the backburner in order to have room for the story and the characters. EVOL hasn't bothered with this, so in pretty much every episode it has been free to have something really over the top going on. Electric bracelets that shock the pilots when they get too lovey-dovey for each other? Music that can kill? Burying everyone in a graveyard to connect them to each other? EVOL will do all of that without blinking, and more. The old standby of Aquarion's Mugen Punch turned out just to be the starting point. For me, this makes EVOL quite entertaining to follow; I can always count on something interesting and absurd going on, something I would never have predicted.
Although I'm not a mecha fan, the mecha fights are part of this too. The EVOL Aquarion has far more craziness, crazy combos, and weird powers than the original did. As of the last episode I saw there are even two of them (at least). Crazy unpredictable fights go a long way to making mecha interesting to me.
Sidebar: elaborating my relative views of the two shows
In a move that's sure to irritate fans of EVOL, I find the main plot to date laughable (really, 'Mars needs women'?), the story uninspiring (although there are flashes of promise if it makes a real stab at developing the 'fighting apparent fate' issue with Amata and Mikono), and the characters mostly reduced to barely developed cliches. As usual, the melodramatic romantic angst between the protagonists makes me wish they'd shut up (Mix and Andy are more interesting, partly because they are more low key).
By contrast I actually have fond memories of the main characters and plot of Aquarion, partly because the original focused on far fewer characters and so was able to develop them much better and partly because it actually bothered to give its characters real backgrounds and then tell us about them.
(I am not particularly grumpy about Aquarion EVOL's faults here, I just don't expect much from it beyond easy entertainment.)