Title: Natsuyuki Rendezvous
TV Series; 11 Episodes
While watching Natsuyuki Rendezvous I can’t help but remember my close encounters with love. I can see Pearl running through the hallways like a whirlwind rushing to class. I only hope to catch her attention for a second just to exchange ‘Hi’s. Stephanie is crying at a train station because of an argument we just had. All I can do is watched through the foggy glass of the train doors. Jayce is sending me a text telling me that she’s willing to go on a second date.
Hope, failure and success, are the three memories I feel love leaves us with.
I don’t know if I am just naive or young, maybe both, but the story hit all these notes within its short one cour run. The emotional journey that Hazuki, Shimao and Rokka undertake is a roller coaster, twisting and curving as their fates become intertwined with one another. As the car comes back into the station, my notion of love wasn’t changed, but reinforced by those serpentine tracks.
Sometimes a story doesn’t needs to tell something new. The premise of the series isn’t exciting on paper. Hazuki is a young man that happens to fall in love with the owner of a small flower shop, Rokka. He eventually begins to work there as a means to get close to her. As he tries to muster the courage to confess, he meets the spirit of her dead husband, Shimao, who is bent on stopping him.
The prospect of a ghost in love is charted territory. The same stands for love triangles and unrequited feelings. But the universality of these themes and their ability to evoke relatable experiences within the audience is what makes them important. These are the hooks that pulled me in and made me much more receptive to the characters and the events that unfolded.
It isn’t what the story is telling, but how it’s being told. Fantastic writing is the foundation for an engrossing tale. The seamless dialogue flowed from one scene to the next. Monologues weren’t overbearing and acted as signposts in the direction the plot was moving. The pacing was slow but it gave the ideas of the series enough breathing room to simmer, resonate, and turn it into something memorable.
The series focuses on the lives of three characters: Hazuki, Rokka and Shimao. There aren’t many others that play a substantial supporting role but considering the brevity of this series, they would serve as distractions. By limiting the size of the cast, Natsuyuki Rendezvous is able to build complex characters that are very believable.
Hazuki is a young man who doesn’t seem to have much going for him. His only driving force in life seems to be his feelings for Rokka. As the show progresses we find a man that is deeply in touch with his emotions, with an astonishing lucidity when it comes to understanding others.
Rokka on the other hand seems to be a secure and independent middle aged woman that runs her own flower shop. Soon enough her insecurities about her past and her inability to come to terms with her husbands death come to bear. She always seems to be at odds with catching up to the present as her memories threaten to hold her back.
Shimao comes off as a selfish ghost that can’t let go of his wife. Every action he takes solidifies this idea of him. But he is just an individual that is struggling between letting go of a world that is constantly trying to pull him back. As with all ghost’s he wants closure, but at the cost of ruining the lives of those that still have it.
Each character has their own personal dilemmas to overcome of the course of the story. They not only deal with the ramifications of their actions but are clearly conscious of the reasoning behind them as well. Careful attention to cause and effect is a powerful tool for developing strong characters that learn, grow and ultimately evolve.
To be quite frank the art production in the first half of the series isn’t amazing. The bright palette and attention to foreground detail does redeem it slightly, but it is otherwise only serviceable. The second half of the series takes a stark upturn in creativity. The introduction of the storybook world of Shimao creates an interesting collage effect that contrasts the sketches of his realm with the solid colors of the real world. Little details in both settings are highlighted by the differences and give life and vibrancy to each.
The opening theme “See You” by Yuya Matsushita is simple, accented by a piano melody. Matsushita has a strong vocal performance that drives this song. “Anata ni Deawanakereba” by Aimer, is a fitting closing theme that evokes an atmosphere of melancholy. It’s one of my favorite songs in recent memory. I could feel the heartbreak in her voice. Her delivery combined with the fantastic lyrics served as a proper punctuation to each episode.
The excellent audio production continues with the great voice acting. Yuuichi Nakamura (Hazuki), Sayaka Ohara (Rokka) and Jun Fukuyama (Shimao) all give great performances that actualizes the well written script. Nakamura is a clear standout as his acting gives a sense of progression as Hazuki develops as a character.
Natsuyuki Rendezvous doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel but gives a story that is easy to relate to. The elements of its tale evoke the summer and all its brightness and warmth. It proves that well written characters and dialogue are sometimes all it takes for a show to succeed. For fans of the Josei or romance, this one rendezvous you don’t want to miss.