Review: Natsuyuki Rendezvous

Natsuyuki Rendezvous

Story—A man falls in love with a woman who owns a flower shop. Sound too boring and typical to you? Now throw in that he’s 22 and she’s 30. Still not interested? Okay, how about she’s a widow, her ghost husband stalks her, and this poor man is the only one who can see him? I could go on and this would sound stranger, but the point is, we’ve got a very unconventional romance anime here. No fan service, nosebleeds, or tsunderes, I’m afraid.

With a humorous mix of slice-of-life and supernatural elements, this series caught my attention right away. The romance is far from ordinary because the ghost husband constantly intervenes between his wife and “the challenger.” Some people will find him to be incredibly annoying, but I really got a kick out of their competition. Lesson learned—don’t underestimate the ghost. He won’t give his wife up easily or let this anime fall to boredom, either.

Since we’re dealing with the afterlife here, the series asks some heavy and mature questions, such as: what’s more painful, being the one who’s gone or left behind? I know that losing one’s partner is one of the most painful experiences in life, but imagine that you die first and become a ghost, watching your beloved move on with their life everyday. You can’t talk to them, touch them, or help them. Only stare. Basically, you’re just a creepy stalker. If they happen to fall in love with someone else…well…what then? Maybe you can’t answer these questions, but the series skillfully explores them with all three characters, resulting in some pretty powerful emotions. What they end up doing may very well surprise you and make a tear roll down your cheek.

Supernatural stuff aside, I simply adore the main couple. A lot of differences come with an age gap of eight years. The younger partner is usually inexperienced and lustful, while the older partner has already been there and done that. What holds this woman back is the guilt of loving someone else other than her husband, not to mention it’s hard for her to take this young guy seriously. The new challenger gets it rough too, huh?

If there’s anything I wish the anime did that it didn’t do, it would have been to flesh out the main lead character. He may love this woman to death, but we have no knowledge of his life prior to meeting her. Flashbacks of his childhood/teen life or family could have made his character a lot more interesting. Did he struggle with relationships before? Anything dark swirling inside of him? I mean, he’s still interesting, but the ghost clearly steals the show here.

While I hope my review piques your interest, what I’ve said so far is only just the half of it. The plot twists are so good that I can’t bring myself to spoil innocent readers who are discovering this series for the first time. Just know that I enjoy this anime most for being such a great character study and for trying out some unique, bold ideas that make it stand out from the crowd of romance anime. It’s definitely for a mature audience who don’t mind a slow-paced love story. =)

Mimi’s Score: 8.5/10 meeps

Alex’s Score: 9/10 meeps 

Natsuyuki Rendezvous Episode 11 [Final]

Episode 11

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen an ending so perfect. Considering that many anime today don’t end anyway, or they’re so complicated that they leave more questions than answers, this is very refreshing.

The big, intense moment comes down to what Rokka and Atsushi are going to do. Live happily ever after? Bring Hazuki back? Or kill themselves? As it turns out, Rokka really does love Hazuki and wants his body to be returned to him, but she’s also willing to leave with Atsushi to “the other side.” The decision rests with a pair scissors in Atsushi’s hands, instilling panic in Hazuki who thinks they just might attempt suicide.

Well Atsushi, I’m really glad that you stopped being a jerk. From here, everything goes as it should. Hazuki returns to Rokka (boy is he glad to be back), and they raise their own family at the flower shop. As for Atsushi, he finally rests in peace after they die of old age and their daughter takes over the shop. The simple fact that they all choose to do the right thing and come together in the end makes this a great fairy tale (let’s just assume they all went to Heaven, ok?).

Looking back on the whole series, it really threw me in for a surprise. For example, I didn’t expect the body-switching thing to last that long, but it turned out to be a major element to the story and used in a great way. I’ll have a lot of good things to say about it for my review without being too spoilerish (I hope!).

Natsuyuki Rendezvous Episodes 9 & 10

Episode 9

Episode 10

I might not like Atsushi’s actions, but I can’t deny what an AWESOME plot twist this is. Things aren’t going the way I expected at all. In a nutshell, Rokka finally realizes that Atsushi has been there all along (thanks to the goofy way he runs) and that she has fallen in love with him all over again. I know Rokka cries a lot, but this time it’s so…touching, I guess. Like all the feelings she kept bottled up inside had finally burst out. No, I don’t think Atsushi should be interfering but…I’m still enjoying the range of emotions running wild in these characters. It makes the slow build-up feel worth it.

Hazuki didn’t exactly return the way I thought he would, either. I thought that by jumping through the hole into a bright light meant he was getting his body back, but nope! Atsushi has been controlling the story the whole time, even taking on the appearance of Rokka. *shock!* When he makes the decision to keep Hazuki’s body, he…kills him in the story book. Now the poor guy is floating around the real world as a ghost, just like Atsushi once was. He sees what Atsushi has done to his hair and how close he is acting with Rokka now. Imagine that, seeing someone else controlling your body. What a cruel and freaky awakening.

I’m glad that Rokka at least has enough conscience to not forget about Hazuki. The episode ends when she asks about his whereabouts. Although I can see why she’d be tempted to hold onto Atsushi, I can’t imagine her being alright with just throwing Hazuki under the bus like that for the rest of her days. Maybe she’ll be grateful for seeing Atsushi one more time and talk him into bringing Hazuki back. The end (next episode) can’t really be this tragic for him, can it? o_o

Natsuyuki Rendezvous Episode 8

Episode 8

Rokka manages to get in contact with Atsushi, asking with great restraint that he bring the plant back. When he ignores her, she decides to go out and search for him. At this point, I can’t help but feel the most sympathy for her. From her perspective, she’s getting left behind, important things were stolen from her, and now she has to go through the trouble of finding him. I’m still not sure what Atsushi is really up to. Does he think he can just go off and live as Hazuki somewhere else? But the focus of this episode is actually on Hazuki who finally makes a breakthrough.

At least, I think he’s coming back to the real world.

Natsuyuki Rendezvous Episode 7

Episode 7

This anime has turned from comical to very depressing lately… Atsushi is still struggling with his new form and the fact that Rokka is falling in love with Hazuki. He spends the whole day with her, calling her Rokka-chan, going to the beach, and then sleeping together, but he acts more mopey than even Hazuki was. Towards the end, he writes a letter to Rokka that he’ll catch up with her later, but she recognizes his handwriting… Dun dun duuun.

Upon returning to the shop, Rokka hallucinates her husband waiting for her at the counter, with flowers arranged on the floor in his special way. She definitely feels his presence by now. It seems that she was about to think: what if Hazuki is really him? because now she’s having trouble telling them apart. Meanwhile, Atsushi looks like he’s about to leave town. Just where does he think he’s going? And Hazuki isn’t making much progress in the water world.

To be honest, I had mixed feelings about Atsushi in this episode. Although I still sympathize with his pain, he’s also becoming increasingly selfish. I mean, sleeping with her and then leaving her behind? No, that’s not very considerate of Rokka’s feelings. Not to mention he robbed some very special moments of the relationship from Hazuki. It’s going to be so confusing for him when he returns. xD

Natsuyuki Rendezvous Episode 6

Episode 6

It’s ironic that Atsushi is helping Rokka to fall in love with “Hazuki,” but I doubt that he has any intention to return his body soon. I mean, he’s enjoying himself way too much now… Continuing where we left off, Rokka makes the odd request to wash his back. Atsushi suggests that they might as well take a shower together, which turns the whole thing off. Before leaving her house, he tells her to stop using “her dead husband” as an excuse to play games. This affects Rokka throughout the rest of the episode, as she feels bad about her behavior while also entertaining the idea of taking Hazuki seriously.

I love how this anime explores Rokka’s emotions by dealing with all the tough questions. Just how do you move on from your loving, caring partner who died, let alone your first love? How do you get over the guilt of loving someone else? And with new relationships comes a great deal of uncertainty, as she hardly thinks of herself as the type to attract a younger man anyway. I know I’ve been accrediting Atsushi for giving the most interest to the series, but I don’t mean to undermine Rokka’s character. All the weight she must carry makes her a very interesting, complex, and unique character. I can’t imagine being in her shoes, nor do I want to be, but that’s part of what makes her a compelling character to me as well.

Towards the end, Rokka confesses that she also loves Hazuki. It makes the wrong person blush, but hey…maybe Atsushi is really starting to get comfortable in Hazuki’s shoes. Since this has been a competition between them, it only makes sense for Atsushi to keep this going. Even if he isn’t who Rokka thinks he is, he still gets to be with her. Who wants to be a ghost, anyway? But then again, I think the desired goal of this story will be for Atsushi to move on just as Rokka is finally starting to. I’m really curious to see how this will work, because again, it seems all too tempting for Atsushi to start a second life with her and forget the poor boy… Meanwhile, Hazuki is drowning in a red sea somewhere…

Natsuyuki Rendezvous Episode 5

Episode 5

Living as Hazuki has its challenges at first, like not knowing where he lives and having no money. On top of that, he has very poor eyesight, so Atsushi goes out of his way to replace his contact lenses with glasses. I can finally relate to him on one thing…contacts are horrible! Personality-wise, Hazuki appears to be much more emotional, which is often mistaken for drunkenness. He acts confused with himself, calls Rokka’s name over and over, cries, hugs, and sleeps at the shop. Plus, he gets a whole new, geeky look! Now I can’t wait to see Hazuki’s reaction when he comes back and looks in the mirror…

Speaking of the real Hazuki, where is he? Well, apparently he’s in a storybook filled with sketches of nature, accompanied by a younger looking Rokka who is searching for her “prince.” At first she is a tiny girl like Thumbelina, and with the turn of a page, she’s suddenly back to normal size with pink fairy wings. Since Atsushi was an artist, this world is thought to be an unfinished story of his.

I really like this episode because of the mix of slice-of-life and fantastical elements. Spirit possession is a very fun concept to play with here. Without the ghost, I can’t imagine this anime being nearly as interesting. I wonder how long Atsushi is going to keep this going…or perhaps Hazuki will find a way to break free. xD

Natsuyuki Rendezvous Episode 4

Episode 4

Squee! Hazuki and Rokka go on a date to an amusement park! Now, I don’t usually care for anime episodes with this theme because they tend to force comedy and fan service down our throats, but fortunately, we’re not dealing with teenage characters here. I find enjoyment in that this is (mostly) an ordinary date. Plus, it’s pretty cute to see an inexperienced, young adult trying to impress an older woman. It’s hard for Hazuki, considering that Rokka has already been there with her husband, and that she’s seeing flashbacks of him everywhere…

Hazuki tries his best to be enthusiastic and initiate going on rides, taking pictures, and etc, unlike Rokka’s husband who could only wait for her at exits.  This is definitely the most outgoing side of Hazuki we’ve seen yet, though he eventually takes it a bit too far… I mean, putting her fingers in his mouth and asking to have sex? Yeah, this poor kid doesn’t know how to treat a lady. But again, their age gap is what I find most interesting about them, as it shows a clear contrast of their experiences/maturity. He will say and do stupid things because he is in the pinnacle of infatuation, while she has already been there done that. Just one question though… Why doesn’t she find his behavior the least bit creepy?! I would have run off a long time ago…

The date doesn’t quite work out the way Hazuki had planned. To him, they aren’t any closer than the first moment they got there. So what does he do? Gets drunk, of course! And while he’s drunk, Atsushi gets his “consent” to take over his body! I wonder how long he will be using it and where his actions will lead to. I thought that Rokka might recognize his mannerisms, but he just looks crazy drunk to her right now. Oh well… xD

And I really want to ride inside that cute, little house…

Natsuyuki Rendezvous Episode 3

Episode 3

This episode is actually kind of…depressing. So much crying, whining, and puppy eyes. Atsushi desperately tries to make Hazuki leave, which only makes him more determined to stay. Rokka is sick with a cold throughout most of the episode, forcing Hazuki to take care of her while she starts comparing him to her husband in a dreamy, feverish state. Nothing terribly interesting about that part, since so many romance shows rely on the common cold to move the relationship along… But every move Hazuki makes towards Rokka now deals a serious blow to Atsushi.

There are some new interesting developments though–Atsushi can cause earthquakes and move objects! And I assume that he can also take over someone’s mind and control their body for a short period of time. Since Hazuki has agreed to help him “rest in peace,” he might eventually have to let Atsushi do that… Now that I’d like to see! And will Rokka ever find out that her husband’s been there the entire time? I wonder if this will end up like the movie Ghost where she sees him walk away into the light… xD

Natsuyuki Rendezvous Episode 2

Episode 2

Good question… What is more painful, being the one who’s left behind or the one who’s gone? Well, if you’re stuck on Earth as a ghost, then probably the latter. You can be with your loved ones, but you can’t interact with them or protect them. Meanwhile, they can still move on with their lives and find happiness again. That’s what’s starting to happen to poor Atsushi… I know a lot of people find him annoying as heck, but I can’t help but enjoy his humor and sympathize at the same time. I love the flashbacks of when he was still living and hope to see more of those.

I’m surprised by how fast the romance is moving between Hazuki and Rokka. I wasn’t even sure if she was interested in him, but apparently she’s getting excited. They go on another little date, she kisses him, he follows her home…and they almost kiss again (on the floor, mind you), but Atsushi wins that round. What drives the show is the inner conflict of each character and how they go through different moods. Should Rokka remain faithful to Atsushi or get a new love? Should Atsushi finally let her go? How should Hazuki deal with her grief? And probably more to come.

Perhaps the most interesting conflict (well, sort of a conflict) to me is the eight year age gap between Hazuki and Rokka. I mean, it’s pretty unusual and refreshing for an anime to focus on a 22-year old man and a 30-year old woman. The only other anime I can remember featuring a prominent age gap is Ristorante Paradiso, where there was almost a difference of 40 years. Okay, I could list others, but they were all relationships involving high school students or younger. *sigh* Anyway, this age gap is perfect and really makes the romance aspect of it interesting due to their different levels of experience. By the end of the show, I’m just hoping that they’ll make the right choices and that Atsushi can finally rest in peace. That’s…probably what will happen.