illegenes: For the past eight weeks, Natsuyuki Rendezvous has been a roller coaster of disappointments and accomplishments, ranging from downright emotional awkwardness and stagnancy to heartfelt, moving moments. I’m happy to say that this episode reached one of the higher points of the series, as it finally gave me what I asked for: a solid point of view on our least favorable character, Hazuki, and some progression on Rokka and Shimao’s relationship.
We start where we left off last week, with Shimao (currently possessing Hazuki’s body) finally accepting that it is human nature to move on, and leaves Rokka, taking his things along with him. Of course, there are still parts of him that are struggling to hold on, such as him saying “It’s Hazuki who stole [me from] you” to Rokka, but for the most part, I feel like Shimao has finally progressed to a point where is setting himself up to go to the afterlife with no regrets. This is reflected by both an external and internal change. Externally, Shimao leaves Rokka’s shop – an act that weighs significantly on Shimao’s part, as he has never been able to permanently leave the shop for year as a ghost. Internally, Hazuki and Thumbelina!Rokka are switched to a different setting, where Thumbelina!Rokka shrinks down back into her original form; the form we met when Hazuki and Shimao first switched places. In this sense, I feel that there’s a resolution to come. Of course, we haven’t reached there just yet, but the show is taking steps.
Even while Rokka feels that there’s something strange going on – there’s no possibility that Hazuki could even know the sort of bouquets Shimao made for Rokka throughout their years together – she still musters up the courage to ask ‘Hazuki’ in the first place. Through flashbacks, we once again witness how precious Shimao’s things were to Rokka despite how awkward their relationship was. The way Shimao embellishes his katakana, to the way he stomps out his dreams of ever travelling outside; these are all things Rokka fondly remembers, and it’s these memories that enable her to find where Shimao (in Hazuki’s body) has gone. I’m glad these memories serve a purpose in this episode, because before, they just seemed to fill empty space, leaving emotional awkwardness and embarrassment behind (see: back licking). For once, it seems like Rokka is finally determined to settle things out, even telling herself that her indecision and hesitation in ‘picking’ one of the two men she loved in her life was foolish and immature. Insert my “Omedetou!” clap here, because we’re actually getting somewhere for once, and I’m looking forward to see how Rokka will confront Hazuki and figure the truth out if possible.
Back in the fictional world of Shimao’s unconsciousness, Hazuki and Thumbelina!Rokka are in the same scenery as before, but now Rokka is a regular Thumbelina instead of Ariel. An amusing standoff begins as Hazuki once again struggles to clarify his feelings for Rokka, with Thumbelina!Rokka being much cynical than her actual, real life counterpart. Where the emotional part begins however, is when we finally take a proper look at Hazuki’s point of view on his relationship with Rokka. Bound by the common red string of fate, Hazuki feels like he’s a man on wire, stumbling carefully to walk by Rokka’s side. What’s interesting is that the string can never allow a person to walk alongside with another; you can only walk ahead or behind a person. So what does Hazuki mean by “catching up to Rokka” when all he can do is walk behind or in front of her? It is Shimao who achieves the impossible because he is the impossible; he walks with Rokka in his incorporeal form – but he doesn’t walk on the line. At last I feel a fragment of Hazuki’s feelings; the frustration, as well as the sadness. It doesn’t excuse Hazuki’s actions or attempts to woo Rokka so far, but it does give me a better picture of why Hazuki is the way he is. Which is ironic, if you think about it, considering how Hazuki is the main protagonist of the story, but is the last one to get an actual perspective. Desperate, but finally moving forward, just like Shimao, Hazuki finally realizes that life isn’t ‘black and white’ and jumps down the rabbit hole with Thumbelina!Rokka to a world anew, leaving his memories of the past and wistful wishes behind. What makes this moment even more wonderful is the perfect balance and buildup of music; it’s the first time Natsuyuki Rendezvous’ background music has stood out for me. But it also marks the point where everyone in this show is finally moving forward. Rokka is about to stumble on the truth and her real feelings for the men she cherishes. Shimao is about to finally let go of the regrets that have chained him down. Hazuki has finally understood that Shimao isn’t as selfish as he looked, and the realization of his actual feelings for Rokka. Everyone is slowly converging at a single point, each one finally letting go of the emotions that have bogged them down since episode 1.
Will they make it in time? So far, all these three have been about is bad timing, but with the simultaneous change on everyone’s part, hopefully everyone will be able to actually convey their feelings for one another, truthfully and maturely like adults for once. We have three episodes left. Because I’d hate to see this potential go to waste – for I, like Hazuki, have grown tired of waiting around.
Extra Note: Also, I found it interesting that Hazuki’s hand position and the hand position in the ED were very alike. Coincidence?
gallifreyians: I am the kind of person who does not forgive easily, and when people (or in this case, anime) disappoint me, they have to work hard to gain back my trust. While Natsuyuki Rendezvous has certainly not gained any amount of trust in my eyes to let them handle the emotional narratives of Shimao, Rokka, and Hazuki, episode eight does seem to be a step in the right direction.
Hazuki, our protagonist (and ironically my least favorite character), has been trapped in a dreamworld of Shimao’s creation since the end of episode four, which I had forecast as the harbinger of Hazuki’s character development. While Hazuki certainly has not progressed as I had hoped he would, episode eight saw a minor piece of dialogue marking a major move forward for Hazuki as a character. He recognizes — however slightly, however briefly — that Rokka may be happier if he allows Shimao to permanently inhabit his body, that maybe he is not the right person for her. This is a moment of true, human insecurity from Hazuki; containing no man-pain, no angst. What a far cry from the previous Hazuki. Whining and pining was all that used to take up his screen time — tired and shallow thoughts like “Why doesn’t she like me?”, “That stupid husband of hers should just die.”, “What did Rokka ever see in Shimao, I am so much better.”, “Hey Rokka, do you love me yet? Because I LOVE you.”, “We should just fuck now.” populated his mind and flooded the screen with problematic clichés, making me infinitely displeased with Natsuyuki Rendezvous. (Even now I find it hard to watch the show because of Hazuki, let alone watch it on any sort of consistent basis and then blog about it.) I digress.
Hazuki’s character and his ultimate path in the narrative in this show appear to be looking up; and while the same cannot be said of the dream world and Thumbelina!Rokka, it can be said of Rokka and Shimao in the real world. Rokka finally starts to think that something is awry with Hazuki when she sees the countless bouquets laid out on the shop floor, bouquets that only Shimao could’ve possibly known about. What has frustrated me about Rokka and her narrative so far has been her decided lack of agency and characterization — the former of which can be attributed to Hazuki’s shitty actions. Episode eight takes steps to reconcile these grievous oversights in having Rokka make the decision to go out, track down Shimao-possessed-Hazuki, and find out what the hell is going on. Instead of being a reactionary force in the story — a passive person who only waits for things to happen to her, for others to make their moves and then act accordingly — Rokka takes on an active role and becomes an actual agent of the narrative. Seeking to make something happen not only finally gives Rokka agency, but also does reveal aspects of her character. Contrary to the portrayal that has been painted, Rokka is not a weak woman, harboring inner confidence and drive enough to go out on her own (something I subconsciously thought Rokka was incapable of). As for Shimao, I also think that he has underwent some character development. I did not get a chance to talk about it in our review of episode seven, but his decision to erase his previous existence from Rokka’s life shows a lot inner strength and a distinct shift from his “I will never leave you” mentality.
Overall I think that I do have to commend Haruka Kawachi for turning Natsuyuki Rendezvous around, even if it was only slightly. I honestly had thought we had crossed the point of no return, but I am being showed up in the most delightful ways. Ever the optimist, I think that this show will in fact be able to reclaim it’s episode two glory when the arcs of Rokka, Shimao, and Hazuki meet in the coming episodes.
- “A Path to Acceptance” Natsuyuki Rendezvous, Episode 7
- “I Need Somebody to Love” Natsuyuki Rendezvous, Episode 6
- “A Whole New World” Natsuyuki Rendezvous, Episode 5
- Meta: “Grow Up!; The Meaning of a Relationship” Natsuyuki Rendezvous, Episodes 3 & 4 and Koi Kaze, Episode 1
- “To Love And To Be Loved” Natsuyuki Rendezvous, Episode 2