In life and love, there is sometimes no better advice than to seize the day – a timeless message that this series is painting in a most vivid and memorable way. Each character is finally beginning to learn the lesson that life is too short for lamentations, too short for clinging to the ghosts of the past, and too short to hesitate on the future.
One issue that has been central to the identity of show is the theme of first loves. Try as we may, first loves are always hard to forget. They weigh heavily our minds and in our hearts, and because of this, they can cloud and color our interactions with a new love. This series has alluded to this theme for quite some time now, but this episode in particular touches on it directly. We now have confirmation straight from Rokka’s lips that Shimao was her first love, and it makes her pain and reticence all the more understandable. This isn’t simply a case of her losing a spouse, but also her first love as well, and that makes it doubly painful. To complicate her situation even further, almost everything she knows about love and relationships was with Shimao. Starting a new love, a new relationship becomes that much harder when everything reminds Rokka of the only person she ever loved, the only love she ever knew, and I can’t exactly blame her for being so hesitant to move on.
This is why I was so surprised at her sudden confession at the end of the episode, and it makes me wonder if she actually loves Hazuki. Seeing Hazuki’s back, eating dinner with him, hearing him call her “Rokka-chan” – all these moments seem to have rekindled the love she had for her late husband. Has she only developed feelings for him recently because with Shimao possessing his body, many of his mannerisms remind her of Shimao? More importantly, it leads to some crucial and related questions, ones that are important to every relationship no matter its level of seriousness. Why do you love someone? What are the reasons that you love about them? I do realize that sometimes you just don’t know why you like someone or love someone – you just do. And maybe, the reasons for love are something that mere words will never suffice. However, right now it seems like Rokka’s love for Hazuki is a product of being reminded of Shimao through the mannerisms, and of reciprocating all the romantic flattery, attention, and affection that she has been starved of for far too many years. It’ll be interesting to see where the road goes with her confession, and I am confident that it will be resolved in a satisfying manner as this series so far has had a good track record of addressing similar serious issues in an understated yet mature manner.
Even though it hasn’t been explicitly stated, I’m willing to bet that the theme of a first love extends to Shimao as well. It helps explain his continuing intense attachment to Rokka, as she is his first and last love. But where he differs from her is that aside from saying to Hazuki early on that he wants to move on, I think we’re beginning to see more concrete signs that he intends to back up his words with action. I actually found him behaving quite maturely in this episode, although that may be merely because of the stark contrast from his behavior earlier. Basically, Shimao is stuck between a rock and a hard place. His feelings for Rokka, his desire to be intimate with her continually conflicts with the fact that by giving in to his feelings, he would be enabling and advancing Hazuki ‘s relationship with Rokka as well. Above all hangs the specter of his final goal: getting her to move on so that he can move on. In some ways, I am becoming more interested in his story than Rokka and Hazuki’s stories, and I think that speaks volumes about the quality of the writing in this show.
The one character who has resolved to seize the day from the very beginning is now somewhat ironically the only one who cannot do so right now. Starting with Thumbelina and now to The Little Mermaid, Hazuki’s time in a picture book world of these classic Hans Christian Andersen fairy tales has in my opinion brought a welcome change of pace to the show. The parallel storylines does take some getting used to, but the themes and issues Hazuki confronts are very similar to the ones that Rokka and Shimao are going through. He has to think about why he loves her, and like Shimao, he also has to think about his role in the relationship between the other two. His story has taken a backseat in this mini-arc however, but it remains an intriguing one nonetheless, especially considering the ways the fairy tales he finds himself in ties with Shimao’s drawings and now Rokka’s book choice.
There is much of this story that is left to be woven and many more lessons awaiting each of the characters. They can be hard and painful lessons for them to learn and for us to watch, but just as with previous episodes, the issues that come forth continue to make Natsuyuki Rendezvous one of the shows I look forward to the most each week.
- Sorry about the late post, I was out of town until late this weekend.
- The song that Shimao quoted is called Gondola no Uta, a famous Japanese song written in 1915. Here is a particularly beautiful performance by Ishikawa Sayuri.
- Full-length images: 05, 11, 21, 30, 31, 32.
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