A Whole New World; Natsuyuki Rendezvous Episode 5

I always thought Natsuyuki Rendezvous would be a show to ground itself in realism despite having slight supernatural elements- I guess I was wrong.

illegenes: It’s hard to write about my feelings for this show – it takes so many unexpected turns, and while in most cases I do enjoy surprises, Natsuyuki executes these turns in a way that’s a bit disappointing to me. I for one, really loved the idea that this series was for the most part, realistic despite having a sort of supernatural twist to it. In that way, it does make sense for the show to become increasingly supernaturalistic, but there’s a difference between being supernatural and then having something become unrealistic, and I think Natsuyuki kind of verged on that line this week. At the same time though, this episode gave me a lot more insight into one of the characters, so I do appreciate it.

For one thing, the fact that Hazuki would be placed in a surrealistic world that reflects Shimao’s dreams, youth and disillusionment is both promising and yet, strangely off. Shimao’s past was well explained here, with both Rokka and..uh, fairy!Rokka narrating the story of how Shimao came to terms with his terminal illness. Shimao was already a child when he was diagnosed with the illness, but he never expressed any sort of anger or denial. Instead, he took his disappointment and sadness in the form of drawing; drawing anything, namely his love for flowers. It’s understandable of course, as flowers can be related to human fragility. They have a short life, and spend most of their time preparing to bloom. The short while that they do bloom is the period when they are most beautiful, but most vulnerable. Flowers, like humans, require a lot of care and tending to. There’s no doubt in my mind that in drawing these plants with vivid colors, Shimao was hoping to secretly become something more than just a flower that would wither and die away. The world that Hazuki immerses himself in then, is a world of both sorrow and beauty. It is both a reminder of how short lived Shimao’s life really was, as well as why he came to love flowers and why they are precious to both him and Rokka.

That said, the idea that Shimao looks at his wife as a Thumbelina figure is too weird to me. For one thing, Shimao treasures his wife and so I thought that he looked up to her as an equal – possibly more than just an equal. His perspective of Rokka as a gentle, but tiny and fragile creature thus opposes these views that had been built up in the past 4 episodes. At the same time, arguably, Thumbelina might be the perfect representation of Rokka’s character. Thumbelina is an awkward, kind and yet very inward sort of character in the folktales. She is extremely passive, but she seeks her own kind throughout the story, which in essence, is how Shimao and Rokka fit. They’re both shy, passive beings who have a hard time admitting feelings for each other and are seemingly delicate. (The only problem with this argument is that we don’t know really what Rokka was like before Shimao died, which is a problem with the screen time of Rokka’s narration- see our previous review on Episode 4). What is interesting is that Thumbelina Rokka – or Shimao, depending on how you see it – sees Hazuki as the Mole, or  Thumbelina’s prospect for marriage in the folklore (which she sadly turns down because she thinks the Mole looks disgusting). Is this a reference to the way Shimao sees Hazuki? Or the way Shimao thinks Rokka sees Hazuki? Hmm….

In the real world, Shimao is enjoying himself almost a bit too much. Taking his revenge in the form of getting Hazuki ‘nerd’ glasses and even cutting his hair so he looks like a brown haired Natsuki is what I would call too childish, but then again, it’s been a while since Shimao has had a body. These sparse moments of comedy relief are mingled in with tragic moments though, as Shimao cries over the fact that Rokka kept all of his clothes even after his death. I think it must be a very confusing and disorienting feeling for Shimao to be in Hazuki’s body;  it’s just unfortunate that the show doesn’t choose to express this sort of disorientation well enough so that I can truly understand what Shimao is going through. Which I think, is my problem with this episode – it had a great set of ideas, but the execution was more or less scattered. It wasn’t about it being not well done, but more of just being…half-done.

gallifreyians: While Natasha obviously did not enjoy this episode too much, I found the removal of Hazuki and his problematic actions a breath of fresh air. Hazuki awkwardly and relentlessly trying woo Rokka without any consideration for her basic consent and agency was very frustrating and trying because Natsuyuki itself did not throw any shade Hazuki’s way for his agressive, insensitive, assertive, disgusting, and sexual advances. And while his issues may not be indicative of being a horrible human being and instead  stem from the common failure to perceive other people as fully-fledged individuals, it still does not make any of his actions either forgivable or excusable. Hazuki’s issues are, however, the precise reason I like this episode; they are (thankfully) removed via Hazuki becoming trapped in Shimao’s subconscious and the show — even though it still does not acknowledge Hazuki’s problems — seeks to rectify Hazuki’s failure to see others as people and finally start to develop him (and not to mention characterize Shimao as a person and not simply as a lonely ghost).

In hindsight I am aware of how painfully verbose that was; in simpler, less complex terms, I enjoy immensely the absence of Hazuki trying to date Rokka and the current situation of Hazuki being trapped in Shimao’s subconscious because it is a splendid opportunity for Hazuki to get past himself, grow, and realize that nearly everything he’s done up until this point has been horrible. Sure, this may be a great departure from the (relative) realism the show has shown  thus far, but I don’t think that is wrong or out of line for the show to do. What else was Hazuki supposed to be doing while Shimao runs rampant in his body?

Speaking of Shimao, I do find his childish behavior like buying a ‘geeky’ pair of glasses and cutting Hazuki’s hair off himself to be a little out of line. Yes, I know this is coming from the person who said that Hazuki following an apparition of Rokka with dragonfly wings through an acid-washed forest is an a-okay thing, but I honestly do think that Shimao was being just plain weird. I understand he wanted some form of revenge for Hazuki trying to ‘steal’ Rokka from him, but I would anticipate it being something far less petty. Based on what we know about Shimao so far, I would not have ever ventured that he would be capable of being so small and so it is as if all of this is coming out of the blue.

Honestly though, Shimao’s slight out of character behavior is the only thing I really found wrong with this episode. Learning more about Shimao, working towards Hazuki’s development, and seeing the heart-breaking interactions between Rokka and Shimao via Hazuki really put me on high.

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