Once again, Natsuyuki excels at being the show that speaks volumes through silence and action rather than through words.
illegenes: One of the many things I like about Natsuyuki Rendezvous is how every shot is framed to fit the themes and narratives of the characters. Body mechanics is something that’s awfully reduced in screen time in television these days, it seems; most of our characters’ personalities are portrayed by dialogue. Which in itself, isn’t a problematic technique of course, but as someone who thinks that silence speaks louder than words, to me, too much noise can ultimately be a distraction. Natsuyuki allows both body and voice mechanics- actions and words- to have their screen time together. The artistic value of the show in other words, fits and is equal in quality to the actual plot and animation. An example of this can be seen in the detail of the flowers and the direction of the shots. The flowers are bright and saturated, giving off lime yellows and magenta pinks. In contrast, Rokka’s apartment is awfully bare. The walls are white, the floors clean. There are little items here and there but nothing to really distinguish Rokka as an individual who has the same sort of dazzling, colorful personality. On the contrary, because the apartment is so simple, it shows that Rokka herself is a humble person who appreciates the simplicities in life and takes them as it is. Rokka’s stances and the way she is shot throughout the episode signifies a person who has dignity but also holds things to herself; a closed off, slightly awkward individual.
Shimao also has his own artistic and body mechanics despite being dead. In fact, one could argue that because Shimao is ghost that no one ever sees (except Hazuki) the direction of his actions are more meaningful and show who he really is as a person. Because no one can hear him or see him, the restraints and courtesy that society enforces on an living being are gone. He’s much more free in his body expression, floating and hovering around and even talking to Rokka when she clearly can’t hear him. Likewise, whereas the show focuses on negative space for Rokka and closed in shots for Hazuki, the show often focuses on Shimao’s face- simply, the most expressive part of the body, but the only way Shimao can really ever show himself to anyone if they can see him. In a world of absence, Shimao’s body expresssion holds no real significance, but Natsuyuki is clever enough to understand that we, as the audience, still pick up body movements as an impression of the character and thus do add in shots of it. Shimao’s memories hold much more significance because of his lack of a corporeal body. It’s here where color use really shines. Shimao fondly remembers Rokka walking on his left side with warm hues, but remembers her sadness and his hospital time in a cold, bleak light blue.
Hazuki has his own merits of being a very emotionally frustrated (and thus visceral) character. Hazuki is the narrator of the story, and everything is mainly from his point of view, so it’s his emotions that we get a feel of the most. From a directional standpoint, because we often hear his thought processes, Hazuki’s actions and screenshots are very focused. We rarely see his eyes, which contradicts the point that we are in Hazuki’s head most of the time. Shielding the eyes in anime is usually a trope that portrays the character as someone who who rarely displays their true feelings, in their moment of weakness. Because Hazuki’s stare is so inert and intimidating (he’s rarely one to make different emotional expressions) when the show does this ‘shielding the eyes’ trope, it’s showing that Hazuki, underneath that emotional insecurity, has more of an internal struggle than an outward one. He shields his eyes either out of shame but simply because he just doesn’t know what to say or do. As such, he’s constantly stuck between trying to confront his feelings for Rokka but also his feelings about himself and if the thing he’s trying to accomplish is right.
Overall, to me, the mechanics of the trio function very much like an entire human being itself. Rokka is the woman who represents the heart. She is the one who loves and is loved in return, and despite the flow of this, she struggles as the “pendulum,” swaying back and forth between her husband and Hazuki. Shimao is the soul, who desperately seeks out the heart- one can’t function without the other, and Shimao holds all the memories that Rokka has left in the past (but hasn’t really, as she’s still very much haunted by their presence). Hazuki is the body. He can touch Rokka, he can heal her, and reacts instinctively with Rokka. Which is something Shimao can’t bear to see because he alone is the one who cannot really interact with the heart; the soul and the heart alone can direct the body but cannot interact with each other.
Because the heart and soul are so close to one another, an idea that I’ve formed over the past two episodes is that perhaps Rokka was the one who kept Shimao in this world. We finally get to see some flashback of their interaction and when Shimao was dying, and how she bottled up everything inside of her- even taking a divorce paper and happily tearing it apart. As said before, Rokka is one who bottles up her emotions inside of her, very much like Hazuki. Is it because of those pent up feelings of regret and loneliness that Shimao was left behind? Who suffers more- the one who is loved, or the one who loves? In a way, each character is loved and loves in return, which creates conflict. But how will each character confront their fears about the flaws found in love? Is there even a happy ending for these three? Natsuyuki tackles this theme really well so far and I look forward to the answer it brings in the next episodes. All of these characters are in their own way, struggling with their internal emotions and what’s best for the people they care about. They are all selfish in one way or the other, but Natsuyuki makes it a point to say that in these cases, love in itself is selfish. It thrives on selfishness as much as selflessness, and in that aspect this story is a character study as much as it is a heartbreaking love tragedy story. So far this show is doing a fantastic job of accomplishing what it wants to focus on. Let’s hope that it keeps this quality up!
gallifreyians: What perfect anime have I stumbled upon? The first episode yes, did contain subtle and nuanced animation that brought depth to its character interactions, but came across as a quasi-typical love story that portrayed the new love interest as a lovable underdog, the girl as perfect, and the old love interest as horrible person. There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with that, but the typicality of that kind of love triangle often leads into a set kind of story that I am quite tired of watching play out over and over again. Episode two transcends it’s own love triangle by alternating character perspective and including all important flashbacks.
The typicality of the situation as I said above arises not from the love triangle itself, but from the execution and portrayal of the love triangle. In episode one we were contained by Hazuki’s point of view, and he does see Rokka as a perfect woman and Shimao as a horrible person; these images that we see of the rest of the cast through Hazuki’s point of view are imperfect however. Hazuki can only show us what he sees, and moreover what he sees is colored by his hopes, his perceptions, and his imaginings. The Rokka and Shimao that we saw in episode one weren’t real, they were Hazuki’s projections of these people. Hazuki wants and hopes for Rokka to be the perfect woman and Shimao to be a horrible person, because that would be a simplification of who they are and a justification for Hazuki to steal away Rokka without considering her previous marriage. If Rokka and Shimao were as flat as Hazuki imagines them – if they were simply a wonderful woman and a douche-y dead man – then Hazuki would be able to ignore the idea that they loved each other and he would be able to justify going after Rokka, because it would mean that he would be saving her from her dick of a husband and all of the trouble he would go through would be worth it since she is perfect. But, like I said, the idea of Rokka and Shimao that Hazuki has in his head is imperfect, so, through his perspective, the audience only sees cracked and imperfect portrayals of who Rokka and Shimao are.
That’s why the alternating perspective that episode two utilizes is superior, because it allows not only for all of the characters to come to life as fully-fledged people but also for their own flawed perceptions of others to be illustrated. In this episode we see things through Rokka’s perspective, which reveals that she is torn between Hazuki and Shimao in a very human way – internally Rokka feels the conflict of the idea of honoring her love for her husband and her marriage versus the idea of honoring her husband’s wishes and moving on. We also get clued into how she sees Hazuki as a young man utterly focused on the physical and her husband as a silly free spirit; yet, from our vantage point, we know that that is not all there is too either of the men in her life! Hazuki is a shy, awkward guy who is actually in a romantic love with her and Shimao is a quiet person who holds everything in and has trouble letting go.
I simply cannot praise this show enough for the new dynamics it has brought to an otherwise boring love triangle. In the alternating POV that it provides, we are even more immersed in the story and it becomes all the more like real life. We are provided not only with insight into who these characters are as people, but also to the shadows that they cast – who they are as others see them. In the discrepencies between who Rokka, Hazuki, and Shimao are and who others think they are lies Natsuyuki Rendezvous‘s wonderful ability to portray fiction just as complicated and flawed as life and reality are.
As it stands, Natsuyuki Rendezvous is an A+ show for its unparalleled ability to portray not characters, but people. it is my sincere hope that the next episode not only keeps this trend going, but manages to even push past it and become an S-rated show (of which there are so few).
Enjoyment level: 10/10