Natsuyuki Rendezvous – 01
OP: 「SEE YOU」by 松下優也 (Matsushita Yuuya)
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Taking the time slot of Tsuritama is a series which takes noitaminA back to the genre that brought it acclaim in the first place: a josei romance. Of course, Natsuyuki Rendezvous isn’t your average romance in the vein of Honey and Clover or Nodame Cantabile by any means – not when there’s a ghost involved.
The setup for studio Dogakobo and director Matsuo Kou’s (Rozen Maiden, Yozakura Quartet) romance might be a little well tread already, but it brings out the romantic in me nonetheless. After all, there’s something old-fashioned, innocent, and most of all, charming in the way the somber Hazuki Ryuusuke (Nakamura Yuuichi) passes by a flower shop owned by the cheerful Shimao Rokka (Ohara Sayaka) every evening to purchase a small planter from her, knowing he’ll be able to catch her outside as she closes up her shop. It’s a setup that wouldn’t look out of place even one hundred or two hundred years ago, and in an age when so much of our courtship no longer occurs face to face but through electronic means, I love the simplicity and timelessness of what Hazuki is doing, even though he is barely able to talk to her. Although my faith in such romantic gestures is rewarded somewhat when he takes a part-time job in her shop in order to get closer to her, the actual courtship itself isn’t so old-fashioned or innocent as we might have been led to believe. Standing (or maybe floating is a more apt description) in the way of his advances is the ghost of her late husband, Shimao Atsushi (Fukuyama Jun), who seems to have died of a disease which afflicted him even before he married Rokka and appears unable to move on. Having Atsushi play the role of Hazuki’s invisible rival in love creates the possibility for the story to develop in many unique directions, and it’s a role that gives this show the colorful twist it needs to stand out in a field of rosy romances.
Since right now Hazuki is the only one who can see Atsushi, it’ll be interesting to see how their rivalry will play out while Rokka and Shimao Miho (Touma Yumi), Atsushi’s sister who is helping out at the flower shop from time to time, are clueless to Atsushi’s presence. It doesn’t appear that Hazuki will be letting either of them know that he can speak to Atsushi anytime soon, but if he does tell them, the implications should make for a captivating watch. Other aspects to look forward to are themes of attachment for both Rokka and Atsushi that can be explored much further, the small reminders of all the little ways that people are affected after they lose a loved one, and whether the two men will eventually work together to bring happiness to the one they love. The pacing in this premiere episode sets a great precedence for the series, and I hope that it will give Natsuyuki Rendezvous enough time over its 11 episode run to touch on the complex and dark issues that sets it apart from other romances I’ve seen (which admittedly isn’t very many).
As is befitting for a series set in flower shop, Dogakobo’s animation and artwork is clean and colorful, and the muted watercolor shading helps give Natsuyuki Rendezvous that all-important josei vibe and connects it, at least aesthetically, with its famous noitaminA brethren like the aforementioned Honey and Clover and Nodame Cantabile. The music is sparse and understated, but its piano flourishes were enough to break the tension that pervaded much of this premiere episode. The opening theme, 「SEE YOU」 by Matsushita Yuuya (who also performed the first Durarara! ED 「Trust Me」), is a perfect match for the show and is destined for endless looping on my music playlist along with Aimer’s ending theme as well. Above all, the characters so far are likeable, if not particularly memorable just yet, and the seiyuu have performed as if their roles were tailor made for them to show the breadth of their dramatic range.
Natsuyuki Rendezvous is shaping up to be an honest depiction of a romance without the trappings of modern life and featuring an unconventional twist on the standard love triangle. This is a love story with a lot of potential, and so far it looks like it will live up to the reputation of the noitaminA josei romances that came before it.
ED: 「あなたに出会わなければ～夏雪冬花～)」 (Anata ni Deawanakereba ~Natsuyuki Fuyuhana~) by エメ (Aimer)
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