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Saturday, 5 of December of 2020

Natsuyuki Rendezvous – Episode 3

“I’m number one even if I can’t touch her!”

Rokka, Shimao, and HazukiI don’t post a lot about anime on here because I often don’t get to watch it in a timely manner during the American television season, and Japanese television has four television seasons each year (going with the calendar seasons) in which new series premiere and some show continue, which means there’s always so much new stuff to watch that it just gets out of hand.

But the summer affords a chance to catch up a bit, and while I haven’t had the chance to catch up on everything I’ve wanted to, I wanted to make a quick recommendation, especially for non-anime watchers, for the summer series Natsuyuki Rendezvous. It’s a romantic dramedy of sort, and it reminds me just a bit of one of my favorite movies: Truly Madly Deeply.

Natsuyuki Rendezvous is about an aimless young man, Hazuki, who begins to work at a floral shop because he has a crush on the owner, Rokka. The trouble is that Rokka’s deceased husband, Shimao,  the only man she’s ever loved, is haunting her, and only Hazuki can see him. Shimao is hell-bent on preventing Hazuki from making any romantic progress with Rokka, and thus is the series.

Yes, this sounds like it lead to a lot of comedy, and the series, thus far, is funny. But it’s not funny in an broad, slapstick-y way that the premise could lend itself to (or that any number of anime comedies tend to embrace). Instead, it’s a more understated, dark-ish humor. Hazuki and Shimao both exchange barbs between each other, with Hazuki needing to be subtle about it when he’s around Rokka or Miho, Rokka’s sister-in-law and Shimao’s sister.

But the darker humor comes in through Shimao’s physicality, or lack thereof. In the second episode, as things are starting to maybe heat up between Rokka and Hazuki, Shimao lays himself over Rokka, so that all Hazuki can see is him. It’s a dastardly way to distract Hazuki, and it’s very, very funny and creative use of the ghost idea.

At the same time though, the entire thing is just sort of sad. Shimao refuses to move on (he and Rokka were married when they were young, and he died due to cancer), and despite revelations that he wanted a divorce before he died, now he’s not willing to leave and is actively sabotaging any future chances for happiness for Rokka. And that’s where the darker aspect of the humor comes in. It induces laughter and heartbreak in equal measure.

And it achieves this because Shimao and Hazuki aren’t paragons of male behavior. Shimao goes from overconfident that he can scare off Hazuki to begging Hazuki to loan him a body and causing room and objects to shake as he fears he’s losing Rokka. However, the show still treats Hazuki from the perspective that he’s attempting to steal Rokka away from Shimao as opposed to just helping her move beyond her loss. At the end of this episode, he approaches Rokka with tickets to an amusement park that Rokka, Shimao, and Miho all went to shortly before Shimao died.

It’s an incredibly underhanded and, frankly, horrible thing to do. It’s like he’s not only trying to help Rokka move on, but he seems to now trying to actively replace Shimao, and that’s kind of icky. But I really love that the series is doing this. Neither man is completely likable, and you would like to see Rokka (who does feel underdeveloped and a bit passive, but I think this will change over time) at the very least move on past the memories of Shimao, but maybe just not with Hazuki.

So Natsuyuki Rendezvous is becoming, bit by bit, about the complicated nature of love and loss, mourning and happiness, and what all that means. It’s not addressing new concepts, but it addressing them in engaging and refreshing ways, and I think you should check it out. It’s a great remedy for the American summer doldrums.

You can watch the series on Crunchyroll. If you don’t sign up for a premium account (and if you’re just watching this, I wouldn’t recommend you do so), episode appear for free on a week-long delay on Thursday afternoons, meaning that the first two episodes are currently available for viewing.

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