Natsuyuki Rendezvous

illegenes: “All’s fair in love and war.” Or so Natsuyuki Rendezvous thinks, but struggles to say with a convoluted and messy execution.

It’s hard to really give Natsuyuki Rendezvous a rating; if you’ve checked other anime blogs, you’ll have noticed that they are all polarizing, from an A to a C. This doesn’t mean Natsuyuki is a hard show to like, or it’s a hate-it-or-love-it kind of series. Natsuyuki‘s enjoyment stems mainly from how you view the conflict at the heart of the series. Unfortunately, for me and Steven, this didn’t go well at all.

Let’s start with the goodNatsuyuki Rendezvous is about a man named Hazuki, who is in love with the quiet and gentle Rokka, a woman who is in charge of a flower shop. From the start, we’re dealing with adults, so it’s a nice deviation from the typical teenager romance plots we’ve seen in anime. As Hazuki tries to toughen himself up to ask Rokka out, he finds out that Rokka is a widow, and not only that – her dead husband is very much alive in the form of a ghost. A ghost only he can see. It sounds like a pretty interesting concept, right? The first episode even starts off with a mature air permeating every aspect of the show – the characters appear flawed as well as focused, and the themes of conflict in love seem to be taken to a new level where they’re examined in a new light, without judgement. It’s a great start!

Unfortunately, it only falls from there. The hopes and aspirations of the show are quickly driven to the ground as the show enters clumsy territory, stumbling through a pretty horrible script, but more importantly, failing to do anything with its characters and thus turning them into teenagers. Any maturity these characters had is lost. Nothing happens for a solid nine episodes in terms of chararacter development, which makes the show really hard to sit through. More importantly, the trio dynamic that was introduced in the first episode feels…absent afterwards. Most of the show’s focus shifts to the men fighting over Rokka like a trophy, which just doesn’t sit too well with me, when Rokka’s views are such a minor part of the show. Even the plot change halfway throughout the show feels like a drag, and doesn’t do much to help the problems that already exist. In fact, it worsens them, because on top of changing nothing, it attempts to add other meanings to the story without fleshing or explaining them properly. The show picks up a bit of coherency in the penultimate episode, but completely falls apart with a rushed ending and conclusion that doesn’t even function as a conclusion, but rather as an anti-conclusion. Nothing is really resolved thematic-wise, and the struggles of the characters are rendered meaningless.

The true strengths of the show are the animation and the music, sadly. The animation is strong and the foreground is as visually breathtaking as the background. Especially wonderful is the work put into the flowers and the storybook arc. The ending song for Natsuyuki Rendezvous is also very fitting, being heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time;  But other than that, Natsuyuki falls short of the line. I’d rather recommend AnoHana to people looking for a sort of mature take on ‘moving on’ as well as romance, even though it’s a bit melodramatic. Natsuyuki obviously strives for the same kind of line here, but fails, and it’s sad because the show had so much potential and inner beauty to it.

gallifreyians: I always try to be positive in my reviews and focus in on the good things about a series, but with Natsuyuki Rendezvous I just cannot do that. I feel the same way that I did a year ago when Ao no Exorcist ended: disappointed on fundamental levels that make my feelings transcend disappointment.

There is no other way to say this: Natsuyuki Rendezvous is a bad show. All of the trappings for a good show that would deconstruct romance were there, but all of that potential was wasted spectacularly. Herein lies the question that has plagued both Natasha and me: how much do you factor in a show’s potential? The Rokka/Shimao/Hazuki love triangle and Rokka’s narrative in particular could’ve been the perfect deconstruction of the typical love triangle — which I feel is epitomized in the Bella/Edward/Jacob love triangle in the Twilight books — through thoughtful and thorough exploration of all of their points of view. However, any sort of meaningful exploration of that kind was completely dashed due to the entrenched focus NR had on Hazuki’s limited point of view. In addition to this (and consequently because of this) the love triangle is posited in the same manner as Twilight‘s; on a narrative level both suitors are equally as likely to win the affection of the torn heroine, but on a meta-textual level Hazuki is positioned as a protagonist while Shimao is positioned as an antagonist — just like Edward and Jacob are portrayed in the Twilight series.

Instead of people, the characters of Natsuyuki Rendezvous are shades and caricatures in the same vein as the characters of Twilight. In theory, you could actually completely transplant the casts and both stories would play out in the exact same way. Rokka’s identity  doesn’t matter because, to put it quite simply, she doesn’t have one. We never see how her role as a woman in Japanese society affects her, nor how her relationship with Shimao and his death ultimately changed her. We only ‘know’ things about Rokka — she likes flowers, she owns a flower shop, she was married to Shimao — those are facts that cannot constitute a personality let alone any sort of coherent identity. Outward from Rokka the same is true for everyone else. We know that Shimao likes flowers, we know that he was a good bouquet arranger, we know that he was terminally ill from a young age — but does that array of information mean anything? No, never does the show coalesce these facts into a personality and examine this personality to fully portray his personal identity. Finally, with Hazuki we cannot even say that we ‘know’ much about him. We know that he likes Rokka, and that’s about it. With Hazuki there isn’t even enough canon information for us to conjecture about his personality, let alone his identity.

As for the story, lets face it: the only way it could’ve turned out well in any way was if the character’s personal identities and the identities that others assign to them were explored. That however, as we all are aware, didn’t happen. The foundation of the story isn’t there, which makes every plot point a non-event and the ending an anti-conclusion. With those basic, fundamental, aspects absent I didn’t enjoy this show at all, despite it’s pretty visuals and music.

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