Melancholic adult romance meets supernatural? Sounds like a decent plot for a film…But for an anime? With a riveting twist of hybrid genre, Natsuyuki Rendezvous (2012) revolves around a young man named Hazuki who decides to work at a flower shop after falling for the owner, Rokka. But to his surprise, Hazuki can see the spirit of Rokka’s dead husband, Shimao. Unfortunately for Hazuki, Shimao is determined to protect Rokka from every guy there is in her life.
Directed by Ko Matsuo, Natsuyuki Rendezvous is undeniably a pleasant series that will pull your heartstrings in different directions whilst immersing you into its problematic world of love and emotionally-complex characters.
In this age of anime, it’s not often that we see a josei series that executes everything from storytelling to music to art so remarkably well. Natsuyuki’s direction is simple, yet so gracefully done and this perfectly reflects the maturity and sheer somberness of the story.
Nowadays, many romance anime encompass a slice of life plot aimed at young teenage girls who are lured by the kind of plot that involves a good-looking male/s who falls for the ordinary girl or an ordinary guy who falls for the tsundere. Natsuyuki diverts from those cliche directions and decides to market itself at a different audience who prefers something more mature and soulful with substance.
Although this is to be commended, Natsuyuki’s story isn’t completely original. There are supernatural elements and plotlines that we may have witnessed in Hollywood dramas and films such as Supernatural, Charmed and The Lovely Bones. However, the audience is given an insightful look into Rokka’s life as we see her mutely coping with loneliness, depression and the passing of her husband. These scenes are tenderly portrayed with rawness and honesty, and because of this, we give points to Natsuyuki for its delicate yet ambitious direction in storytelling.
To be quite frank, despite much of the narration derived from Hazuki’s point of view, it is very difficult to connect with a lacklustre character who has no personality or drive in life. As a result, we naturally draw our attention to Rokka’s side of story and to see her attempting to move on is much more worthy of emotionally investing our time in watching the series than watching a lifeless young adult chasing after his boss.
For such an intricate plot that deals with time and emotions, you’d think it would be impossible to develop a storyline with eleven episodes. But Natsuyuki surprisingly delivers this mission with a perfectly stabilised story that flows effortlessly with no hint of rush or urgency. It somehow manages to throw in several odd twists throughout the story as well and this keeps the audience enticed and continuously guessing the supposed direction of the series’ ending.
Who knew the story could develop from something as Hazuki being haunted by Rokka’s husband and it soon becomes a heightened, serious drama where Shimao decides to possess Hazuki’s body to be with Rokka?
The love triangle between Rokka, Hazuki and Shimao is soap-opera at its finest. Since the story is told in a perfectly not-so-overly-exaggerated manner, the audience becomes immersed in this intimate world of theirs and passionately gets caught up in the drama of who Rokka should be with, and who we should feel sympathetic for.
Unfortunately and quite ironically, the level of immersion is disjointed when Hazuki drunkly agrees to let Shimao borrow his body and Hazuki’s spirit becomes trapped in the alternate dream world. While we are interested in this alternate world, we rather see more of the drama between Rokka and Shimao. But Rokka slowly comes to realise the truth, and she begins to question where the Hazuki she fell in love with is. All of this drama soon leads up to the intense, heartracing climax where Rokka is forced to choose between Hazuki and Shimao.
Natsuyuki is one of those rare gems that drops by once in a while. Its simplified yet powerfully in-depth material tells the wider audience of anime viewing that romance anime doesn’t have to be basic, cliche and publicly over-hyped. A wonderful josei series that will definitely leave you satisfied and teary-eyed in the end.