Just when I thought I had enough of the manpain in this show, Natsuyuki returns to a bit of the former glory that had captivated my heart in the first place. By no doubt is this show still somewhat of a mess, with relationships still staying in one place and our characters refusing to put the first foot forward and the show giving us unequal POV screen-time. But this week, Natsuyuki offers us something a little more behind the sadness for once. Call it human, if you will.
The five stages of grief are as follows: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and finally, Acceptance. As human beings, we all are in one way or the other, defined by our loss and gains. Natsuyuki focuses on the former; we have a man who has lost his body but has gained the opportunity to ‘reunite’ with his wife, a woman struggling to close the last knots of her past with her husband and look to a new relationship, and a boy who is childishly in love with a widow but lacks the social capability of ensnaring her heart. Looking back on Natsuyuki, I can finally see the pieces of these three’s arcs being put together to form these stages. Shimao’s arc however, is the most definitive of these stages, as he has gotten the most amount of screen time so far.
We can see Shimao’s form of denial in flashbacks, when he first gains the form of a ghost. Surprised by the form he’s taken, Shimao decides to stay by Rokka’s side forever, promising to try and make her happy in whatever way possible. Though this may sound emotionally comforting at first, it’s only through Shimao’s point of view that we understand that this mindset is selfish. Shimao is in denial that he is dead, in denial that Rokka could ever fall for someone else other than him. This is a thought process that conflicts with Shimao’s desires for Rokka and his own; he wishes that Rokka remain happy, but cannot bear the idea that Rokka could be happy with another man.
Anger then, comes in the form of childishness and attempting to break up Rokka and Hazuki’s relationship. Shimao is so certain that Rokka will stay by his side (not literally speaking, of course) that he attempts to do anything to make sure Hazuki stays out of his way. This includes throwing pots, coming literally in between Rokka and Hazuki any time they try to initiate verbal and physical contact, and reverting to childish tendencies and yelling at Hazuki. Shimao’s anger is not full of rage, or jealousy however. It is based of sadness and loneliness. Frustrated with his incorporeal body and the fact that he can never come and reach out to the only one he cares about, he takes out his loneliness in the form of immature antics. Of course, this does little to unnerve Hazuki and his determination, so Shimao then progresses to the next stage: Bargaining.
Bargaining of course, does work to an extent, as Hazuki, in a drunken state, lends Shimao his body after two episods of him pleading with Hazuki. “If you let me take your body, I’ll stop bugging you and leave you two alone,” Shimao cries, and Hazuki agrees, finally letting Shimao obtain a corporeal body. Depression and Acceptance then, are the two stages Natsuyuki focuses on in Shimao’s arc. These past three episodes have slowly paved the way to Shimao’s understanding of Rokka’s heart and the life of Hazuki as well as the actual situation of their relationship. Shimao, in trying to live Hazuki’s life and in his body, tries to abuse the nature of Hazuki and Rokka’s relationship. But where does this actually take Shimao? To depression. Shimao’s understanding, as I have it, becomes broadened as he realizes that his wife is in love with Hazuki, but still loves and holds onto Shimao. Shimao is a love of the past – Hazuki is a man of the future. Someone that can possibly make Rokka happy. Realizing this, Shimao struggles to choose whether his beliefs or Rokka’s beliefs are more worthy, and spends his time in Episodes 5-6 trying to find ways to make himself seem like a better option. Ironically, at this point, it’s not about Rokka. It’s about Shimao determined to make sure some part of him exists even after his death, when Rokka moves on. In a way, his question is answered. Rokka finally declares in Episode 6 that she loves Shimao, and she loves Hazuki as well. And it’s with that declaration that Shimao finally realizes that he isn’t just the “one” anymore. In a symbolic scene, we witness Shimao’s descent into the final waters of depression – now in the place of Hazuki, who mimics Shimao’s role as “The Prince”.
This episode then, focuses on Shimao finally accepting his fate as a loved one, but one that no longer can be actively loved in the way he wants. It’s a sign of giving up; of releasing the bonds that have tied Shimao to Rokka for so long. Shimao in this episode then, realizing that he is no longer needed, packs up his things. He takes his pot, the books, the drawings – important, trivial things that Rokka keeps to remember Shimao – and dumps them. He spends one last night with her, and leaves without telling her. All these actions clearly show that Shimao has finally accepted his fate as a ghost; that he lives in Rokka’s memories and a part of her heart, but not in all of her. Not actively.
So what does this mean for Hazuki? Will he finally obtain his body back? Apparently we’ve entered Volume 3 territory in terms of the manga, so we only have one volume left to finish things. While I can’t say that I find either men admirable or worthy partners for Rokka, with their selfish desires, Natsuyuki still does a decent job of rooting them in being human. We are all flawed – that’s why the Five Stages exist. Let’s just hope this doesn’t turn out to be an endless cycle and Shimao reverting back to Stage One; frankly, I’ve had quite enough of the manpain and whining.
Enjoyment Level: 8/10
- “I’m Going To Steal Your Wife” Natsuyuki Rendezvous, Episode 1
- “To Love, And To Be Loved” Natsuyuki Rendezvous, Episode 2
- Meta: “Grow Up!; The Meaning of a Relationship” Natsuyuki Rendezvous, Episodes 3 & 4 and Koi Kaze, Episode 1
- “A Whole New World” Natsuyuki Rendezvous, Episode 5
- “I Need Somebody To Love” Natsuyuki Rendezvous, Episode 6