This episode played with my emotions much like love does, swinging me back and forth between highs and lows. Yet as taxing to the psyche as it may sound, beneath my ruggedly handsome exterior I’m actually a romantic at heart. I can easily relate to the characters’ joys and sorrows, and I do not mind when my feelings are tossed about like a small boat in rough seas. Yet a mere two episodes in, Natsuyuki Rendezvous’ developing love story has captivated me to an extent no other shows in recent memory have been able to reach. What makes this series so special? As a josei romance, it’s been refreshing to watch a love story built around adult feelings and adult issues, but more notably, what’s unique is that the affair at the center of the show has been portrayed from the point-of-view of every person involved. It’s this multi-faceted look at the romance that tugs our heartstrings in a myriad of directions, and it’s the main reason why I savored every second of this episode.
In the premiere, the only person’s thoughts heard were Hazuki’s, so I fully expected this series would continue with this narrative style as it is a common modus operandi for many love stories. It’s simply easier for a writer to keep people guessing about the path the romance will take when only one side of the coin is known and the other party’s feelings remain shrouded in mystery. However, as Natsuyuki Rendezvous is an unconventional romance, so too should its presentation. The introduction of both Rokka’s and Shimao’s point-of-views has effectively shifted the focus of the story from a simple question of whether Rokka reciprocates Hazuki’s feelings to the more complex issues that that people often experience when attempting to build a relationship.
In Rokka’s case, giving a voice to her feelings transformed her character almost instantly. No longer was she merely the distant object of Hazuki’s affections – she was now more of a real person than ever before. Before, I had thought of her as a prim and proper, beautiful and elegant woman who was only dedicated to her flower shop and was no longer interested in love, something she herself even admitted as much in a conversation with Akko (Miyake Marie) in the first episode. Yet now that we have a peek inside her head, we find she surprisingly has a playful and flirtatious side too, and even a bit of a daring side that is prone to becoming swept away by the powerful currents of attraction, libido, and circumstance. I loved finding out she also worries about same little things we do when it comes to love, and that she notices and appreciates the little things as well. Her personality was no longer confined to being expressed only in her visible behavior, and as a result I began to really understand what drew Hazuki into falling for her. More importantly, by showing us her point-off-view, Rokka’s emotions became our emotions.
Since we now have a window into Shimao’s thoughts, the same can be said of his emotions as well. Despite the fact that he’s a ghost, his feelings are just as real as ours, which means they speak to us the same way Rokka’s emotions do. After hearing his internal monologues, I’ve found that I share many of the same experiences as him; whether it’s the pain of watching someone else take your place beside the one you love, or the feeling of helplessness and powerlessness to care and comfort her when she’s feeling down, I’ve been down that road. There’s also Shimao’s desire for her unconditional happiness conflicting with his own desire to be the only love for her – a feeling I’m sure many of us know all too well. In addition to hearing his thoughts, his flashbacks to the times he was still alive and married to Rakko have been quite revealing of the couple’s personalities, and I’m looking forward to more stories recounting their past together. Peering into Shimao’s mind was an unexpected twist, but it has added an interesting dimension to this love story, and it’s one that not only speaks volumes about who he is and but also what his past with Rokka was like.
Hazuki, on the other hand, might be better off leaving his thoughts inside his head rather than letting them bubble up to the surface. Although he’s probably the character whose thoughts we’ve heard the most, his personality is one which still remains largely an enigma. Other than her cute forehead, we still don’t really know exactly what he loves about Rokka. I do respect and admire how straightforward and flirtatious he can be, even when confronted with Shimao’s visage and stymied at every advance, as those are qualities which have led him in the position where he is now, but at the same time, his inclination to act before thinking is what has also landed him in the mess he’s in with her. Saying a forced “but I love you!” will never get him any brownie points. Hopefully he’ll be able to redeem himself by taking care of her, but it looks like he might have a long ways to go yet with Shimao back on Rokka’s mind.
Two episodes into Natsuyuki Rendezvous, this unconventional romance has shown to contain very conventional and very adult feelings at its core, as seen from the point-of-view of all the involved characters. Although it may be a niche series overlooked by the mainstream audience, this series is quietly painting a portrait of love that has the makings of a modern day masterpiece.
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