Natsuyuki Rendezvous and voices from the past
July 27, 2012 6 Comments
There is a beautifully understated nature about Natsuyuki Rendezvous, with the romance and the characters interacting in a dramatic, yet also highly controlled way. Whereas in other anime we may have fights, yelling and people running away, the fights in this series have a tightly controlled feel to them. Nevertheless there is a deep well of emotions just beneath the surface that are constantly struggling to escape, but are constantly held back. The lives of our main characters are both immensely complex, but also very simple, with their own memories, emotions and feelings playing tricks on them and holding them back. What we are presented with is a simplistic plot, one about forgiveness and learning to move on without forgetting. the complexity comes from what these emotions and feelings add to their relationships, and how simple comments, or misunderstandings can create divisions and complicate matters more than they otherwise should.
Rokka is someone who does not understand what she should be doing, and in many respects doesn’t understand her own feelings. She is torn between the love she once had, and the love she now feels, believing that her growing feelings for Ryuusuke are in some way a betrayal of her late husband. Ryuusuke’s sudden confession and her apparent acceptance of it suggests that she does indeed acknowledge his existence and his feelings, however there is a detached element to all of this. One of the central elements of Natsuyuki Rendezvous is that of acceptance, but also understanding about your life and where it is in the present. To Rokka, the present appears to be simple, with the flower shop to look after, a life without complications. However, she is weighed down by her past and her inability to either forgive or in a way forget her husband.
During a flashback scene we see her husband Atsushi in hospital, his general condition, along with the information that he had radiation therapy suggests that he had cancer. Atsushi as a character wished for Rokka to move on and enjoy her life, he doesn’t want her to be weighed down by the past and by him. In a way we can see an element of fatalism in Atsushi, and by producing a divorce certificate we see his desire for Rokka to be free of regret and sadness. Atsushi clearly did not understand Rokka’s feelings and how much he and their current life meant to her, his desire to free her shows his good nature, but also his naivety. However, it is clear that he loved Rokka and wanted to protect her from grief, something that has manifested itself in his personality as a ghost.
As a ghost Atsushi is ultimately incredibly protective or Rokka, getting in between her and Ryuusuke at every opportunity. There is a playful childishness about him, something that is endearing, but also incredibly immature, with Atsushi almost sabotaging any hope that Rokka has of a future that is not spent alone. The grief that Rokka felt when Atsushi passes away seems to call to him, and give him the ability to manifest as a ghost, in a very real way what we was attempting to stop has happened. By producing the divorce certificate and telling Rokka to throw of his everything away and forget about him we see Atsushi attempting to absolve Rokka of all guilt and to push her away. He never wanted her to mourn and to stay single, yet the irony is that by attempting this he only made Rokka cling onto the last vestiges of his existence even harder.
Much like her necklace, Rokka is trapped in a birdcage; she is stuck in the past, kept there by her memories of Atsushi and the flower shop that they started together. The confusion that she feels towards Ryuusuke’s advances come from an inability to forget Atsushi, along with an innocence about her character. She is attracted to him, and yet cannot understand why, fearing that she is just getting swept up in the emotions of finding someone after so long. Rokka denigrates herself in a way by questioning why Ryuusuke, someone eight years younger than she is has not attempted to go out with a woman his own age. Furthermore, her attraction towards Ryuusuke has an animalistic element about it, as if she is chasing him, something that frightens and bemuses her. But at the same time there is a teenage innocence about Rokka, as if she is falling in love for the first time, her actions, while understated also give us an entirely different impression of the usually calm and collected woman that we are beginning to know.
It is a very ‘adult’ (for want of a better word) courtship between Rokka and Ryuusuke, with almost mundane things such as going out to eat taking the place of the fiery, angst filled romances of high school and teenage years. She is drawn to him, but at the same time doesn’t quite know what to do, wondering if she will ever have sex with him, and perhaps have a future with him. Yet at the same time, the ghost of her husband hangs over her, a fact that neither she nor Ryuusuke can get away from. The trouble that Atsushi causes, and the worries that both Rokka and Ryuusuke have are compounded by the knowledge that none of them can truly let go of the past. Atsushi in particular is the cause of many misunderstandings between Rokka and Ryuusuke in his attempt to forever protect her from the outside world. His feelings of love and duty become a hindrance and are potentially far more painful and damaging than anything else. By wanting to drive Ryuusuke away in vain hope of protecting Rokka, Atsushi is alienating her from the outside world.
Atsushi is the closest thing that this series has to an antagonist, he is a character who clearly loves Rokka, but is also incredibly selfish. While Rokka was the one who called him back as a ghost, he is an immature and destructive force surrounding her. His constant attempts to interfere with Rokka and Ryuusuke demonstrate his inability to let go of the past in a similar fashion to Rokka. At the same time we see a character that knows that he is incapable of interacting with Rokka, but goes to great lengths to stop everyone else from getting near her. While it is true that Rokka cannot, and arguably should not forget about Atsushi, his constant interference with Ryuusuke is causing more harm than good. His belief that he is the only one capable of bringing her happiness demonstrates a selfish attitude that is harmful to Rokka. As Ryuusuke points out, regardless of what happens between him and Rokka, another man may come along in the future and Atsushi’s constant attempts to keep Rokka to himself threaten to isolate her from the wider world.
All the effort that we see Ryuusuke, and Rokka putting into looking for something new and different could be undone, with Rokka trapped in the past, incapable of moving on. At the same time we see Ryuusuke failing to recognise how much Atsushi meant and still means to Rokka, we therefore see the problematic nature of their relationship, along with the hurdles that Ryuusuke must overcome along with Rokka. To Ryuusuke, Atsushi is little more than an annoying ghost who consistently gets in his way, and because of his interference there has been almost no progress with Rokka. His mutterings and outbursts that are aimed at Atsushi are misunderstood thus causing more friction between our main characters. While it is true that Ryuusuke is annoyed at Atsushi, seeing him as merely a hindrance, he clearly cannot comprehend the importance that Rokka places on her past relationship with him along with the flower shop.
His attitude that she should just forget about her ‘annoying’ deceased husband shows us his immaturity, but at the same time his willingness to help Rokka heal her wounds. The feelings of our protagonists come to a head during the final moments, with Rokka catching a fever and collapsing. We see Atsushi still attempting to stop Ryuusuke from getting near Rokka even though he can help care for her. The sudden understanding that no matter how close he is to Rokka as a ghost he cannot help her in any way comes as a terrifying shock to Atsushi. As a ghost he might wish to keep her happy, but he is incapable of doing this, furthermore his selfish actions the night before in a very real way lead to Rokka catching a cold and fever. While Rokka is crying in her fevered sleep and apologising to Shimao we see both our male leads beginning to understand their current situation.
Rokka clearly cannot forget about Atsushi, and yet she still wishes to move on, but at the same time, her feelings of guilt come to a head during her fever. The implications therefore are that she feels guilty of even considering falling in love with another man, and that her confusion has brought to a head everything that was locked inside her until now. At the same time we are shown that she does appear to find Ryuusuke attractive, with specific actions and reactions demonstrating a loosening of the feelings that she has managed to keep locked up. However, there is also the implication of Rokka still chasing after Atsushi, looking for, and being reminded of certain important memories such as large bony hands. Her feelings and attitude towards Ryuusukle are therefore significantly more complex, blending together elements of uncertainty, sadness, regret, but also love and attraction.
The appearance of Ryuusuke has started to loosen their grip on Rokka however, but in doing so, everything that Rokka has kept locked away will gradually leak out. The romance in this series is therefore about these characters coming to terms with their own pasts and learning to accept the present as it is. It would be impossible for Rokka to forget about Atsushi, something that Ryuusuke appears to have fully accepted, along with realising what he did when attempting to force his feelings onto her in place of Atsushi. In order to move on then, it seems necessary for our characters to pull together the past and the present in order to create a future where they are not weighed down by what they perceive to be past sins and guilt.