Member of: The Jinnouchi Clan
Voiced By: Brina Palencia (English) Nanami Sakuraba (Japanese)
Featured In: Summer Wars
Of the many varieties of anime I’ve seen in my years, there is a small handful of what I would call as being relatively “normal.” I say “normal” in the sense of their respected stories and characters are not only feasible in our real world but could almost be mistaken as true stories adapted into animation. While Summer Wars is a bit of a stretch as far as the advancement displayed via OZ and such, its many characters are so delightfully human. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find that each and every member of the Jinnouchi family is based on an actual person rather than the common characteristics and mannerisms.
Natsuki is one such character in that she is someone that I swear I could meet in the real world. Heck, I knew a girl so much like Natsuki that the nostalgia alone gave a huge leap to my choosing her as my favorite character amongst the cast as a whole. Contrary to most of her family who all have surprising backgrounds in their own right from selling supercomputers to working in the emergency and police forces to even being an actual paid OZ online martial arts celebrity… Natsuki is simply Natsuki.
That’s not to say that she’s an uninteresting character just that in a family surrounded by all manner of jobs and backgrounds, hers is the only one that is atypical of an actual teenage girl from Japan. She’s high-spirited and is generally well liked amongst her peers but she’s not another one of those… what do they call them “royal” types? The kind of girls that, for whatever reason, either own the school because of their near insane popularity amongst boys and girls or through some unbelievable amount of wealth and/or charisma.
The only thing that I dislike of Natsuki’s character, and this is a very minor thing on my part, is that she did have a crush on her grand half-uncle, the sardonic forty-one year old Wabisuke Jinnouchi. Now I’m not a girl nor do I pretend to try and understand the female mind because I, as a male, am almost guaranteed to not know anything of the sort but it is to my understanding that it is a common trend for girls to develop a crush on older and, arguably more sophisticated, men. This has been done many a times before and I have no problem with it being done here save for one thing.
The man in question is a member of her family.
No matter how extended one may be on the branches of the family tree, if you have to actually stop and think about it, you’re already too close to consider for anything beyond familial love. This is something I’ve seen frequently in anime and for the life of me I can’t wrap my head around the idea. I’m sure it is another one of those cultural differences and one that is, unfortunately, still holding some bit of ground with the “bro” and “sis” cons out there.
If you don’t know what that is, you have my praise. If you do, you have my sympathies.
As to Natsuki’s relationship with Kenji, it is one that was, in a sense, initially built on deceit insomuch that she had tricked him to come with her to celebrate her great-grandmother’s 90th birthday. I say in a sense because while there is nothing shown of how either them knew each other prior to the film, there is no mistaking the fact that the two of them do know each other with Kenji admitting to being in the same club as her and though she did ask him and his friend at the same time, she chose Kenji in the end.
Their romance steadily blossoms as Kenji proves himself to her, to her family, and to himself by showing an amazing amount of courage and ingenuity. Sure he’s a bit of the atypical geek but it’s because he’s a bit of a geek that makes his and Natsuki’s relationship so bloody refreshing to watch. There is an actual build up to it and even then it doesn’t end with an exchange of “I love you” between the pair but a nice, and subtle, confirmation of their new relationship in the form of Natsuki kissing Kenji on the cheek and sending the lucky boy to blissful unconsciousness.
Seeing as everyone in the world has a distinct avatar in OZ, I suppose that I should take a moment to speak of Natsuki’s own avatar. Natsuki’s avatar is an anthropomorphic mouse version of herself garbed in a simple shirt and hakama. I think it’s supposed to be a specific Japanese outfit but being an American male, I have next to no idea as to what. The avatar gets a major upgrade though in the form of OZ’s “guardian angels” a pair of questionably sentient A.I. that roams through OZ and gave their “approval” of Natsuki when over a 150 million users gave her their avatars to bet against Love Machine in their game of Koi Koi.
The thing is… aside from some impressive cosmetics in the form of golden phoenix like wings and tail feathers and an outfit to make a Shinto goddess green with envy, there doesn’t appear to be anything of actual relevance that comes from this change. Heck, one of Natsuki’s relatives even goes far as to say that all the change was an “auspicious rare item” whilst another states that he doesn’t get it, he can appreciate it.
Admittedly, it is quite an impressive design but… again, I think there’s something missing in translation here.
Overall, is Natsuki one of my favorite characters overall? Meh… not particularly no… While I would acknowledge her and her refreshing normalcy amongst countless oddities in anime, that works against her. Still, I love Summer Wars and I especially enjoy the climatic game between Natsuki and Love Machine especially.