Natsuyuki Rendezvous – It’s Complicated
August 25, 2012 Leave a comment
Natsuyuki Rendezvous as the title may suggest is complicated, or rather the relationships between our main cast are complicated, strange and occasionally surreal. While the obvious culprit for the complicated nature of this series may at first appear to be Shimao, it is arguably a combination of him, Ryuusuke and Rokka that produce such a surreal but beautiful romance. Although having said that the major problems and misunderstandings that crop up in Natsuyuki Rendezvous are largely related to Shimao’s constant and consistent attempts to thwart Ryuusuke’s advances towards Rokka. As a series Natusyuki Rendezvous manages to maintain a wonderfully mature story about loss and acceptance, while also adding in elements of fantasy and fairy-tale.
The central relationship of Rokka and Ryuusuke is rather complex, and while they are clearly attracted to each other, it is largely the complicated feelings that Rokka has towards Ryuusuke and her dead husband Shimao that stop this relationship from going any further. There are glimpses early on which suggest that Rokka views Ryuusuke in a romantic way, demonstrating that while she still mourns, she is also attracted to Ryuusuke. However, such thoughts and feelings are not instantaneous, with Rokka seemingly oblivious to the idea that there may be other men out in the world. She instead contents herself with running the flower shop, although it can also be argued that she has retreated into the cocoon that she created with Shimao. She is hiding away from the world, and by keeping busy with the flower shop Rokka does not need to think about the past or the future. Her horizons and world have therefore shrunk to within a few square meters of her, something that demonstrates her love and commitment to Shimao, while also suggesting that she cannot, or will not move on.
Her meeting with Ryuusuks and his current employment change all this, and while Rokka gives the impression of being oblivious to his gender, we see a subtle but important change in her as the series progresses. For his part Ryuusuke still underestimates, or maybe doesn’t understand the importance that Rokka places on the memory of Shimao. This is largely due to his being able to see Shimao’s ghost and viewing him as a nuisance that is attempting to cling on to Rokka despite being dead. Rokka cannot forget her husband, and Ryuusuke makes little attempt to find out why, something that causes an immense amount of friction between the two. He loves Rokka and wants her to love him back, but makes no attempt to understand her as a person, making the assumption that what is in the past no longer matters. But, he is also the only person in the series capable of allowing Rokka to move on with her life, but in order to do this they must both accept that Shimao is dead, while not forgetting him.
However, in attempting to and thoroughly failing to properly understand Rokka, Ryuusuke allows Shimao to take over his body. To Shimao this is a chance to get back together with his wife and perhaps start over again, but in his joy at being able to touch her once again Shimao has forgotten that it is Ryuusuke not he who is touching her. While Ryuusuke is short sighted in his approach to Rokka it is arguably Shimao who has the least understanding of the world and the current situation. His one wish is to make Rokka happy, but as a ghost he is incapable of interacting with her, let alone capable of making her happy. He views Ryuusuke as a nuisance and a thief who is trying to take his wife away, but at no point does Shimao ever think about the implications of having a ghost trying to make someone happy. Far from helping Rokka his constant attempts to sabotage Ryuusuke’s advances could potentially backfire and make her unhappy instead. He is a childish and at times petty individual, someone who is unwilling to accept that he may be wrong. Unlike the mature nature of Rokka and Ryuusuke who are working together and at times keeping each other company, Shimao only wants to push everyone else away.
His wish is therefore selfish and incredibly damaging to Rokka, and as Ryuusuke suggests could leave her lonely for life rather than coming to terms with what has happened and being able to move on from there. Such an attitude is arguably partly because of his long-standing illness (assuming cancer due to being bald in flashbacks which suggest chemotherapy) that has forced him to spend much of his life in a hospital bed. Shimao has therefore not have time to mature, and while he may have got older as time went on, he has never really left the state of child-like innocence. Although there are other elements such as his knowledge of his impending death and the very matter-of-fact way with which he tries to get Rokka to divorce and subsequently forget about him. His wish to make Rokka happy is therefore not wrong, and as we see the story and relationships progress it is evident that what Rokka needs is a certain amount of stability that does not inherently revolve around her memories of Shimao. It is not necessarily the case that she has to marry again either, and the relationship that she has with Ryuusuke, while also a little tricky at times, helps to provide a break for her.
By taking over Ryuusuke’s body Shimao is attempting to push him away and claim Rokka as his own, exhibiting a very clingy and territorial nature, one that is selfish, and also potentially damaging. At the same time he exhibits a petty side in his constant attempts to make Ryuusuke look bad in Rokka’s eyes. What is fascinating is how this plan consistently backfires on Shimao, and his constant attempts to sabotage any budding romance between the two only serves to deepen their relationship further. In particular, while eating Rokka’s cooking she starts to reminisce about when Shimao was a live, going on to suggest that she is happy that Shimao’s crockery were finally being used by someone. Additionally Rokka’s thought patterns have changed subtly, and while at the beginning of the series she would never have allowed Ryuusuke in, it now seems like she has accepted him. All the while Shimao continuously shows his petty side by looking down at Ryuusuke and suggesting that is a poor person with no prospects and no friends.
The territorial nature of Shimao comes across when he suggests it should be up to him who can make Rokka happy, thus completely bypassing and ignoring her own free will. It should be, and is up to Rokka who she loves, something that is evident in the way she continues to honour Shimao’s memory. Her relationship with and increasingly romantic feelings towards Ryuusuke can therefore be seen as a natural occurrence, with his presence slowly demonstrating to Rokka that she does not need to mourn forever. It is not that Ryuusuke is forcing her to love him, although he has been quite forceful at times (and been pushed away by Rokka on numerous occasions), it is Rokka who is noticing him. Of course Shimao does recognise this and appears to start to accept that regardless of what he wants, he can never go back to being her husband.
Shimao eventually accepts that he can never go back to being her husband, and that, despite being in a physical body it is not him that Rokka sees but Ryuusuke. He has understood from the very beginning perhaps that it would be someone else who makes Rokka happy, and although he has largely refused to acknowledge this we finally see a hint of recognition that she now loves Ryuusuke. However, it can be argued that in his attempts to get Rokka back Shimao has brought them together, and has forced Rokka to think about her current situation and her own feelings. For Rokka’s part, by confessing to Shimao (in Ryuusuke’s body) that she loves him, she has finally allowed herself to move forward. But, she has not, and perhaps will not forget about Shimao, and arguably she should not have to forget about it. It is the acceptance that while she loves Shimao, she now loves Ryuusuke that allows her to move forward, along with forcing Shimao to finally acknowledge that he never had a chance at getting back together with her.
It is clear that there has been no definite resolution to these complicated relationships, however, as the series has progressed it has become ever clearer that things cannot remain the same for long. Rokka, while finally realising that she loves Ryuusuke has yet to fully come to terms with what this means for her, and for her shop. Furthermore, she still retains the memories and feelings of Shimao, who has become an indelible part of her, something that she cannot quite except or acknowledge. Shimao has accepted that he is but a ghost who has been getting in the way of Rokka’s new relationship. At the same time he has finally realised that he can still make Rokka happy despite being a ghost and appears to have tidy away his mess and make things easier for Ryuusuke. All the while Ryuusuke has been stuck in the fantasy world of Shimao’s mind, coming to terms with how Rokka was viewed when she was younger.
What is so fascinating here is that Ryuusuke admits that he was willing to take on the burdens of Rokka and Shimao, allowing them to deal with their pain and sadness. Ryuusuke is therefore the anchor in the series, the character that everyone else revolves around and relies upon. He may come across as petty and a little gruff at times, but it is his straightforward approach that has allowed Rokka to acknowledge what was holding her back and started to move forward instead. Unfortunately, with all these elements going on, along with the strange fairytale world, the central relationships in Natsuyuki Rendezvous are anything but simple and remain as if not more complicated than they originally were. It will be fascinating to see how Rokka and Ryuusuke are able to work together now that Shimao has decided it is better for her to move on from him. And perhaps the fairytale in Shimao’s sketchbook may be completed by the end of the series.