Grow Up!; The Meaning of A Relationship in Natsuyuki Rendezvous (Episodes 3-4) and Koi Kaze Episode 1

It would seem that the once-so-ever-stable Natsuyuki Rendezvous is now walking on a tightrope- careful where you fall.

gallifreyians: Natasha and I had a hard time reviewing these two episodes, and for a while there we couldn’t figure out why. Natsuyuki Rendezvous is a show we’ve given such high praise to because of it’s incredible use of body language (in an anime no less) and unique portrayal of perspective on a meta-textual level. After some very long conversations however, we’ve come to the realization that episodes three and four mark a stagnation of Natsuyuki Rendezvous‘s characters and relationships which has had a lead to a distinct devolution of the show across the board, dragging the perfect ten both Natasha and I prophesied down to a seven at it’s best and a five at it’s worst.

Episodes three and four are relatively pointless, and there is no getting past that: nothing is accomplished, the plot is not moved forward. This show sits in the precarious position of its plot being entirely dependent on its characters, their narrative arcs, and their development. Ergo for the plot of the show to be good and to move along, the characters have to be constantly changing, constantly at war with themselves and their ideals. Above all though, for the plot of the show to move along, the characters have to be constantly explored in a meaningful way and have their flaws examined as such so that they can move beyond them.

illegenes: As tough as it is to say, Steven perfectly summarized what I feel like has been the downward slope for Natsuyuki. It’s not that it’s any less entertaining of course- the graphics and animation have been wonderful and fluid, with a rather decent plot script. No, it’s more to do with the fact that there hasn’t been the character development that I’ve been looking forward to. Visuals and body language can keep me going only so far in a story where character relationships should be nuanced and expanded upon. Except, Natsuyuki hasn’t been really doing that. If anything, it’s only gone to show how flawed our characters are but how they stubbornly refuse to bring something out of those flawed relationships. These past two episodes have had the perfect chance to bring out the struggles Steven was talking about. I mean, I considered Hazuki’s decision of asking Rokka to go out with him to the amusement park a pretty dickish move (if you mind my language), but at least it set up a possible examination of how Rokka would view Hazuki’s assertiveness. But instead of progressing, I feel like the show only continues what it has been doing: setting an unreliable and unstable point of view, and holding back any potential for character and relationship development. This can be contrasted with a show I just started the other day, called Koi Kaze, and I think in comparing the two, both which have a similar feel to them, I’ll be able to point out how Natsuyuki has been disappointing me.

Koi Kaze is a story about how Koshiro, a 27 year old man, falls in love with high school girl Nanako, only to find out that she’s his little sister. While incestuous relationships have been poked at here and there in anime, Koi Kaze offers a slice of life and mature look at this sort of relationship and the character’s struggles as they try to understand themselves and how taboo the relationship is in society. The show is narrated by Koshiro, a man who is pretty socially awkward and doesn’t really take love all too seriously. Yet despite taking relationships so lightly, he’s struck by how much he feels for Nanako. Koshiro’s point of view and feelings toward Nanako are strongly portrayed, though never explicitly stated. The way he stares at her, forgets what he’s supposed to say, struggling with his desire toward her but also what society might think of him- these are all clear signs that Koshiro is very much in love with Nanako. He voices that he likes her for her kindness and the way she makes himself feel, but the strength of his feelings are mainly shown through artistic direction and body language. Nanako’s feelings are not as quick to develop as Koshiro’s, but she’s straightforward and young, so her feelings are displayed pretty early on as well, despite her trying to hide them. Her view on certain topics is shared which reveals how mature she really is.

In Natsuyuki Rendezvous,the narration is directed by Hazuki himself- he’s the main protagonist, and so the show focuses around his point of view. He discusses his ~feelings~ toward Rokka, which really are all about how shiny her forehead is and how she makes him ‘happy’. We never find out, for one thing, what Hazuki likes about Rokka. He likes to see her laugh and be happy, but is it her genuine nature that makes him love her? Or her simplicity and kindness? We don’t know these things.  This sort of vagueness already makes Hazuki’s perception seem awkward and insecure, but it becomeseven more messy when it’s tied in with Shimao’s point of view, which is thrust into the show at random places. His narration is one of the past, where he fondly remembers his life with Rokka and what it used to be like. Shimao’s views on his relationship, though less in screentime, are much more in depth in relation to Hazuki’s. He explains why he loves her- the small and the large things. However, the person both Shimao and Hazuki love- Rokka- is the one who gets the least screen-time when it comes to her thoughts on her relationship with both Hazuki and Shimao. In episode 4, her entire focus is reminiscing her time with Shimao- a clear indication that she doesn’t really feel anything for Hazuki. Even if she did, the show fails to give us that information. Why does Rokka like Hazuki? Does she even view him as a love interest, or just a way to pass the time and try and feel that sense of love again, when she was enamored with Shimao? We don’t see this either. I’m not asking for direct answers, when Natsuyuki strives to be a show about subtlety, but I do ask for some hint in one way or another. Which so far, we’re not getting much of.

Koi Kaze’s first episode also starts out with the two love interests going out to a date at the amusement park. However, whereas Hazuki directly asks Rokka to come with him to the fair (in contrast to Rokka asking Shimao to go together), Koshiro is so embarrassed by his love for Nanoka that he doesn’t ask her out- he just hands her the tickets and Nanoka deduces that they should go together. The main difference in this is the assertiveness. Koshiro is a man who doesn’t understand the idea of love, like Hazuki, but he’s willing to admit it and go along and figure out his mistakes. Hazuki on the other hand, is so confident in himself that he appears to be self centered. He not only deliberately asks Rokka to a place that might be sensitive for her memories and her well being, but he also tries to make Rokka “smile” without thinking of the consequences. He takes her around and does what he wants to do, not vice versa. Hazuki views Rokka as a ‘to do list’ rather than just a person. Koshiro on the other hand, is fully aware that Nanoka is a child and that he needs to treat her more gently (despite this being subverted as Nanoka turns out to be quite a mature girl). A relationship is based on mutual understanding and desire. Hazuki doesn’t take Rokka’s feelings into consideration, and nor does he want to. There hasn’t been any sign of change in Hazuki since episode 1, toward himself or toward Rokka, and it’s this stagnancy that’s disturbing me.

This can be pinpointed at the climax of both shows in their respective episodes, when the pairings enter the ferris wheel. In Koi Kaze, both Nanoka and Koshiro have been recently dumped, and this time allows them to speak their feelings about how they’ve changed or what mistakes they think they made.

Nanoka and Koshiro both discuss their personal views on relationships.

…which leads to significant character development and mutual understandings.

Here, there’s a sense of balance. Both are sharing their stories from their own point of view, but are trying to find the truth about what they did wrong in being dumped. It’s only through realizing the thought process behind the other’s love that they realize their own. Nanoka comes to understand that her feelings for the boy she liked are something she shouldn’t throw away, despite them hurting her so much. Koshiro understands that in throwing off a relationship cooly, he only hurt the person he did care (in a way) more. In other words? They spark a conversation, and relationship builds itself through shared interests, point of views, but also understandings. This is relationship development: individual and shared character growth through interaction. At the end, Nanoka’s simple act of placing her hand on Koshiro is a reaffirmation of this fact. That body language is important too, because humans rely as much on body language to express their emotions as conversation and facial expression.

Natsuyuki ultimately fails to understand this process. There’s no balance in Rokka and Hazuki’s interaction. The story decides that if it’s going to be narrated mainly by one dude, it must always side with the dude. In both episode 4 and 5, Hazuki is the one who directs where their relationship should head toward. He even takes it to the extreme in episode 5, where he bluntly asks Rokka if they would ever have sex. Hazuki not only wants to rush things and get them done- he objectifies Rokka, seeing her more as a thing than a human being. Thus the ferris wheel scene between them isn’t about sharing things about themselves, or coming to a mutual resolution and understanding. Hazuki literally grabs Rokka’s hand (in contrast to Nanoka patting Koshiro on the head) and sticks it in his mouth- not just an invasion of privacy, but a sign that Hazuki thinks he can do whatever he wants to Rokka. This failure of understanding is connected to any sort of conversation Hazuki starts with Rokka, which all start out and end the same: Me, me me!

Great conversation skills, Hazuki. [insert side eye here]

It’s not even that Hazuki lacks social skills- so does Koshiro- it’s that he lacks empathy. To put yourself in another’s shoes is a critical skill when it comes to today’s world, and it’s needed especially when you’re dating a widow. Hazuki’s interaction with Rokka is limited by his failure to understand how she feels. He assumes that Rokka is completely, irrevocably in love with him and has forgotten all about Shimao (yet another sign that he sees her as less of a human being) and thus sees no need to understand how she feels when he assumes that he knows everything about her. This is even more of a crucial mistake, which leads to Rokka crying and Hazuki completely failing to understand why (and then proceeding to ask if he should sleep with her). He thinks it’s about him, when it’s really about Shimao: something I find ironic, because Hazuki’s attempts to woo Rokka and be ‘considerate’ go to waste because he doesn’t consider that Rokka is too busy reminding herself of the time when she dated Shimao and they both went to the same amusement park. Not only this, but there has been no change in the characters themselves because of this lack of connection and communication.  Rokka hasn’t grown more open toward Hazuki, and Hazuki hasn’t come to understand Rokka’s emotions and the way she feels.

Interestingly enough, Hazuki completely refuses to use reassuring body language in this scene (when he so daringly took Rokka’s hand in the ferris wheel); something that can be contrasted to Nanoka affectionately touching Koshiro when he is crying.

Hazuki’s relationship with Rokka is selfish, to conclude. But then we must ask ourselves the question: isn’t Rokka’s relationship with Hazuki is also selfish? Isn’t Shimao’s determination to keep Rokka to himself selfish? And this would be the part where Steven and I would say that Natsuyuki has so much potential for becoming the love story we never expected to hear about. Love is selfish as it is selfless. And in Natsuyuki, a show where characters are holding onto themselves so desperately, it makes perfect sense as to why Rokka would use Hazuki as a way to keep her memory of  Shimao alive, and why Shimao would equally keep his hold onto Rokka so he could keep himself ‘alive’. But the show disregards this completely, because we lack the pivotal mechanism for exploring those narratives: the point of view of each character. Natsuyuki’s problem isn’t just about how it refuses its characters to actually develop solid relationships, but about how unequal time for character’s narrations can be detrimental to understanding these characters and their relationships in the first place. Koi Kaze on the other hand, understands that in a relationship, there are two sides of the same story, and doesn’t hesitate to explore them successfully, which leads to a very fascinating look at incestuous relationships.

Rokka also seems to use Hazuki for her own gains.

That’s not to say that Natsuyuki and Hazuki have completely failed me. Next week’s episode looks interesting as Shimao finally is allowed to gain access to Hazuki’s body (that short scene at the end hit me right in the kokoro, no lie- now that is how you do interesting character interaction). I still believe that Hazuki has potential to grow from being a self centered jerk to someone who understands, empathizes, and accepts Rokka’s feelings, not just toward him, but toward Shimao as well. We’re all adults here- so why don’t we start acting like it? Hopefully these kids will learn how to grow up, properly, before destroying each other and ruining themselves.

Enjoyment Level: 5/10

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