Natsuyuki Rendezvous was a bittersweet romance anime back in Summer 2012. Produced by Doga Kobo, it was probably under most viewers’ radar. After all, that same season had Sword Art Online among many other high profile shows. Also, Natsuyuki counts as josei (yup that’s me) which usually has a smaller viewership crowd compared to shoujo (Hakuoki was also Summer 2012), shounen and even seinen. But if you’re in the mood for some bittersweet adult romance (albeit with its slower pacing than shoujo romance), watch Natsuyuki. It’s a love triangle revolving around 2 different love stories connected by 2 guys falling for the same girl, one after another. Not the most intriguing plot except, one of the guy’s dead.
So why did I pick Natsuyuki up? Because if anything else, it’s noitamina and I have been a fan of the types of stories that get shown in this time slot. Also, if you’re always watching shounen and shoujo while not being of that age group, you’d want something occasionally more fitting to balance things out a little. Plus, josei and seinen storylines are more… real. Well, as real as stories involving ghosts can go anyway. But mainly, because Natsuyuki stars Fukuyama Jun (a perennial favourite here in Koekara), Nakamura Yuuichi and Oohara Sayaka, of whom the last 2 seiyuus play Gray & Erza respectively in Fairy Tail.
I remember watching the first episode and thinking, ‘I have to go buy the manga for this’ (I did). Based on the manga by Kawashi Haruka, the anime version is directed and scripted by Matsuo Kou, who honestly, isn’t famous for directing any genre apart from shounen mecha. But, the art is beautiful what with flowers everywhere (bear in mind this is before HD broadcasting), the music is gentle and beautiful (Muramatsu Ken, famous for his work in Kurenai) and leads nicely between the OP by Matsushita Yuuya and ED by aimee; this is one of very few shows I actually sat through both OP and ED for.
The Love Triangle – Shimao Atsushi – Shimao Rokka – Hazuki Ryousuke
Shimao Atsushi (Fukuyama Jun) and Shimao Rokka (Oohara Sayaka)
are were a married couple. Arguably, they married young because of Atsushi’s sickly constitution. They had a genuine love for each other as such stories often go. Atsushi died a while after their marriage and in her grief and loss, Rokka cried out for Atsushi to not leave her alone. And so Atsushi did as he was told. He never fully passed on and instead, spends his days floating about in the floral shop they owned together, watching Rokka everyday, for years. Problem is, no one can see a spirit right?
Hazuki Ryousuke (Nakamura Yuuichi) is a young university student who walks past the Shimao flower shop every day. He’s had a crush on Rokka for the longest time and buys a small potted plant whenever he can, just so he gets to interact with her. Hazuki-kun eventually works part time at the floral shop and asks Rokka out. Thing is, Hazuki can see Atsushi, which is a welcome relief for the bored-to-death (literally) Atsushi but a massive pain-in-the-neck for Hazuki.
The storyline’s impressionable because first, it’s about a younger man liking an older woman – uncommon in real life (although it has become even more commonplace nowadays), even more uncommon in anime. Second, Hazuki’s technically not a 3rd party since Atsushi’s dead. That’s where things get interesting because Hazuki can help Atsushi connect with his wife so they can both move on, even though Hazuki wants to make a move on Rokka. That puts a spin to love rivalry; what’s the right thing to do? Help Atsushi or be selfish and help himself?
What ensues is where you have to invest time to find out in Natsuyuki. Although this is a manga adaptation, the pacing is slow so be warned, watch this if you’re in a slow mood yourself. I saw the first 2 episodes and left it for 2 whole seasons, picking it up again in Winter 2012 all in one go and I recommend you do the same. Spend a rainy afternoon/evening in and watch all 11 episodes (approx. 3.5hrs). Also bear in mind that there are 2 love stories here. Plenty of viewers have criticised Natsuyuki’s excessive usage of flashbacks but honestly, how else can a story about a past romance be told? So expect those flashbacks and appreciate it for it’s a love once had now lost.
There’s a hint of shyness in Rokka as she’s never really dated anyone else or been with anyone else apart from Atsushi. The story delves into her sense of guilt of forgoing the love of her life and allowing herself to be happy with someone else, including her sense of responsibility to her in-laws and the floral shop she and Atsushi planned to run together, not her and some other stranger. So there’s plenty of inward looking and self-realisation which Oohara does wonderfully (there’s quite a variation in the way she silently sobs) and made me take notice of her other than as Erza. Longtime collaborators Jun-jun and Nakamura showcase their good chemistry as they banter in a very deadpan (pun intended) manner, especially when Atsushi takes over Hazuki’s body and refuses to return it. Kudos especially to Nakamura for voicing 2 male interests and for capturing Jun-jun’s nuances as Atsushi-possessed Hazuki.
There are lots of feels in Natsuyuki and the best way to appreciate this type of show is to let yourself enjoy those feels~ the catch is, you might end up tearing up. Not the sobbing type (AnoHana) or tears won’t stop type (Sakurasou), just the quiet, one/two tears streaming down type. This show is gentle from the get-go. And don’t worry, it’s a happy ending. My only gripe is that the pacing in the first half could be a little faster but when things do pick up in episodes 7 – 9, I wished that they drew things out a bit more instead. I really enjoyed Natsuyuki, so much so that 1.5 years on, I can remember it enough to write a whole review for it. It’s simple and memorable and that’s all a good josei anime needs.
MAL score: 7.36 out of 10 (by 13,647 users)