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"The boys were no longer children. But even when they spoke about greater things, they weren't adults yet."
In the France of the late 19th century, Marion Fiese is a young schoolboy who prides himself on his adherence to a philosophy he calls "rationalism". Because of his disdain for emotional display, he ignores anything remotely akin to affection. But when he's entangled in a romantic affair with an older courtesan, Sara, his rationalism is revealed to be little more than a cover for his own emotional immaturity. Learning to love, Marion blossoms under his older lover's care but unfortunately, Marion has yet to learn the true price of the affair. At the same time, Marion's friends (Jacques, Lind and Claude) and Ledania, the prettiest girl in town, have their own love problems...
Natsu e no Tobira (夏への扉, "A door into summer) is a story by Keiko Takemiya. The original manga is a short story, which first appeared in 19th and 20th issues of magazine Hana to Yume in October, 1975. It was later contained in the anthology book of Keiko Takemiya, published in 1976.
A collaboration between Toei Animation and a then-very new Madhouse Studios, the 1981 film version features an all-star crew list of pre-anime boom creative talent. The evocative, theatrical musical score is courtesy of the late, great Kentarō Haneda (Macross, Space Adventure Cobra, Barefoot Gen), while prominent TV anime screenwriter Masaki Tsuji (Tiger Mask, Urusei Yatsura, Kimba the White Lion) contributes a delicate, sensitive script that practically drips with drama. The film is co-directed by two other Tezuka-era veterans, Mori Masaki and Toshio Hirata. The cast was also top notch for the time, led by Yuu Mizushima as Marion and including actors like Tohru Furuya, Toshio Furukawa, Yuji Mitsuya, Keiko Han...
Tropes seen in Natsu e no Tobira include the following:
- The Ace: Marion is smart, handsome, popular with girls, etc., so at first sight he's this.
- Adaptation Dye-Job: In the manga, Lind has light hair but is a brunet in the anime.
- Adaptation Expansion: There are some anime-exclusive scenes in the OAV, like Claude getting hazed by other boys at the start, him and Ledania having a short yet cute talk, and a much longer rendition of the sex scene between Sara and Marion
- Boarding School: The main action takes place in one located in a beautiful little French town.
- Break the Cutie: Four handsome teenage boys. A beautiful young girl. All of them get shattered in one way or another, with fatal consequences for one of them, and near fatal to the others.
- Broken Bird: Sara is a milder version. She wishes she could love as intensely as in her younger days, but is quite worn down by life.
- Country Mouse: Jacques is said to come from a small village, unlike the other boys who are from bigger cities.
- Coming-of-Age Story: For Marion, Jacques, Lind, Claude and, to a smaller degree, Ledania. And it's not pretty.
- Cry Into Chest: Sara allows Marion and later Ledania to do this at different points in the story.
- Dissonant Serenity: Marion breaks a huge fist fight between two senior students without losing his cool, even when one of them attacks him. Then, he and one of the older boys settle the matter by standing in the path of a train to see which one would jump away the last: Marion wins again and manages to stand there even when the train stops right on time not to hit him. Then it's subverted: Sara gets off the train and Marion goes wide eyed, especially after she gives him a kiss on the lips as thanks, and from then on he acts more and more emotional.
- Downer Ending: Claude commits suicide over his feeling for Marion. Marion is heartbroken over both Claude's death and the end of his relationship with Sara (despite always having been well-aware that the latter wouldn't really work); he manages to stop Jacques and Lind from killing one another, but is gravely wounded and has to return to his family in Marseille. Sara and her husband the Count return to in Paris, and Lind transfers to a school there. Out of the four friends, only one remains at school: Jacques, who is implied to have become Ledania's Second Love (but only in the manga, in the OAV it's said that Ledania is so heartbroken over everything that she still hasn't replied to his proposal).
- Drugs Are Bad: Claude was high on pills when he confronted Marion, gave him an Anguished Declaration of Love and, after being rejected, took his own life.
- False Friend: Lind turns out to be this, since when he and the boys find out that Marion is Sara's lover, he plans to reveal this to Sara's husband (the Count of Cluny) to have Marion expelled from school, all because of envy. In fact, in the anime one of the reasons why Jacques violently explodes on him towards the end is because Claude (who had reluctantly helped Lind to locate the Count) told him about Lind's plans before his suicide note, so he (Jacques) really doesn't want such a Manipulative Bastard to get near Ledania, aka the girl they both love.
- Florence Nightingale Effect: Sara finds Marion passed out in the rain and takes care of him.
- Four-Philosophy Ensemble: Before the plot begins moving and the world goes to Hell for them, Marion and his three friends fit in very well. Marion is The Cynic (snarky, skeptical, book smart, has quite the disregard for social rules if needed, is proud of being "rational"), Jacques is The Optimist (Hot-Blooded, emotional, stubborn, fierce), Lind is The Realist (calm, keeps the more emotional Jacques in check, rarely drops his facade) and Claude is The Apathetic (mysterious, quiet, not very eager to get into drama). But in reality, both Marion and Claude turns out to have elements of The Conflicted, as both young men end up learning very painfully that Love Hurts and, when Claude commits suicide, Marion says they were Not So Different.
- Gayngst: Claude, Claude, Claude. He's deeply and obsessively in love with Marion and believes himself to be filthy for that, which ends up having terrible and heartbreaking consequences: he gives him a disastrous Anguished Declaration of Love with a side dish of Attempted Rape... and ends up slitting his wrists before throwing himself in a nearby stream.
- Gender-Blender Name: Yes, Marion is a guy. A girly-looking one, but still.
- The Glomp: Played for Drama in the OAV, actually. When mourning for Claude after his suicide, Marion has an Imagine Spot recreating what he believes it would've happened if he didn't reject the other boy. It features Claude glomping Marion and joyfully telling him "I love you".
- Grey Rain of Depression: It's raining when Marion goes meet up with Ledania, has an Heroic BSOD while thinking of Sara and his own conflicted feelings on love as a whole, and gives a rather harsh love rejection to her. This leads to her slapping him in tears and then him running away.
- Hotter and Sexier: The sex scene between Marion and Sara lasts one page and a half in the manga, but it's longer (and more explicit) in the anime.
- How We Got Here: The story begins with Marion rushing to stop Jacques and Lind's Duel to the Death and then switches to telling what led to that.
- Intimate Healing: When Marion is feverish in Sara's bedroom, she convinces him to go back to bed and strips nude to give him body heat. It leads to more rather soon.
- Light Feminine and Dark Feminine: Ledania is the Light, as a shy Woman in White with gentle and quiet behavior plus blond hair; Sara is the Dark as an older and sex-aware adult woman with Raven Hair, Ivory Skin looks. The story has them as Foils: the chaste Ledania is a symbol of passive innocence who can only watch as everything goes to Hell, while the sensual Sara is more of an "adult lover" and The Tease who dramatically "moves" the plot as she appears. Plus they have romantic ties to Marion, but Ledania has her Love Confession rejected by him whereas Sara takes his virginity and keeps him as her lover for some time. Uncommonly for this trope there isn't actual animosity between them, probably because Ledania is too nice to be clingy and Sara knew from the beginning that her and Marion's deal was temporary; heck, there's a scene where a panicked Ledania comes crying into Sara's home to tell her and Marion about the upcoming Duel to the Death between Jacques and Lind, and Sara comforts her over it.
- Likes Older Women: Marion is fascinated by the beautiful and much older Sara and loses his virginity to her.
- Love at First Sight: Marion falls hard for Sara after meeting her.
- Love Hurts: And holy shit, HOW. No romantic deal here goes well, none at all.
- Love Dodecahedron: Ledania is loved by many guys including Jacques and Lind, but she loves Marion. Marion falls for Sara aka the wife of the Count of Cluny, to the point of losing his virginity to her, and isn't romantically interested in Ledania (though Sara implies almost at the end that he may have slight feelings for her after all, and encourages Ledania's love a little). Claude claims that he likes Ledania and they get along in the anime, but in reality he is in love with Marion, angsts a lot about his feelings and ultimately commits suicide, with Marion heavily blaming himself. The tension between Jacques and Lind for Ledania ends up peaking horribly when Lind's Manipulative Bastard nature is revealed right after Claude's suicide, and things end up going From Bad to Worse. Almost fatally.
- My God, What Have I Done?: Both Jacques and Lind have this reaction when they see Marion taking both of their bullets in an attempt to stop their duel.
- My Greatest Failure: In Marion's own words: "I let Claude die!!"
- Noble Male, Roguish Male: The Hot-Blooded Jacques and the more aloof Lind have these dynamics.
- Oedipus Complex: Discussed by Jacques and Lind, who think Marion has this because his mother is always off with her lover. Considering how hard he falls for Sara, they're right.
- The Ojou: Ledania is the kid of the local major and, with her shy behavior, fits as the Nice Girl type.
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse : Ledania, the mayor's daughter, is a lovely-looking girl who attracts male attention wherever she goes. She hates it becuse the guys fight over her constantly.
- Those Two Guys: Jacques and Lind comment on everything that happens around them and their chats often serve as "frame" to the action. Until everything goes to shit, that is.
- Unrequited Tragic Maiden: Both Ledania and Claude are this to Marion, and both are hit with tragedy. Ledania kinda finds happiness again with Jacques in the manga, but Claude commits suicide.
- Your Cheating Heart: Sara is the wife of a very rich Count, and keeps the much younger Marion as her lover to fill the emptiness in her heart. The Count doesn't seem too bothered, even giving her what can be seen as a compliment.