Why hello everyone and welcome to a not-so-special edition of Pluffei writing anime reviews! Hurr durr. Our comic plug-ins are experiencing technical difficulties so Jack and Jill Adventures will have to be put on hiatus until we get a proper coder or something. Beats me.
Well anyways, if you haven’t guessed from the title, today I’m reviewing Natsuyuki Rendezvous, or literally “A Summer Snow Rendezvous” in English. It’s a short josei manga series that was originally by Kawachi Haruka.
I’ve actually been noticing more and more anime directed for a female audience recently, but for the most part I’m always sorely disappointed with the poor execution in the translation into anime. So, I wasn’t entirely sure what to think of this series at first. However, now that the series is done and gone, I’ve surely formulated an opinion, right? Well, this is where we use my usual quote!
We’ll just have to see for ourselves, so without further ado, let’s dig in! Itadakimasu~
The introductory episodes of Natsuyuki were actually fantastic. It’s everything a girl wants. We have our young, naive and handsome protagonist, Hazuki Ryousuke, who visits a certain flower shop every single day in order to see his beloved “Tenchou” (shop manager), Shimao Rokka. Although Tenchou is older than Hazuki by quite a lot, the age gap doesn’t seem to bother Hazuki as he slowly and endearingly creeps his way into her life, by becoming a part-time worker at her flower shop and then suddenly confessing. Well, that escalated quickly, didn’t it?
But the execution of these first episodes were amazing. How Hazuki kinda does the forlorn unrequited love thing, then slowly evolves into a schoolgirl in love, and how he fangirls about almost everything Tenchou does, these were all aspects of him that made him a little less creepy-stalkerish and a little more endearing.
As for Tenchou, the anime actually touches a little on everything that, realistically, an older woman would be worried about when considering a younger lover: what he sees in an old lady like her; why not a cute younger girl; if it’s OK to be attracted to him because hot dang, she’s actually a widower. Oh yeah, and that was the kicker.
So, here we meet Shimao Atsushi, Tenchou’s dead husband. Except he’s still floatin’ around, bound to the building of the flower shop, and obviously, Hazuki is the only one who can see him. For me, here is where the show plateaus (so around episode 2, sadly). Hazuki gets provoked by Shimao’s ghost to being more aggressive than his character initially seems to be capable of, and sex almost happens. The episodes eventually settle on focusing more on Shimao and Tenchou’s past, as well as the invisible tug-o’-war between the two men for Tenchou’s heart.
Character-wise, Shimao is probably the most complex. When he was alive, he had a weak body and for a large portion of his life, he was bedridden in a hospital. Considering how he had no hair in some of the flashbacks, Shimao probably has some sort of cancer. As someone who was prone to death any day, he ended up developing a pretty twisted but pitiful personality. He would prepare divorce papers for Tenchou so she wasn’t bound to him after he died, and he would tell her to throw away all his belongings after he died. And yet, one can tell that he didn’t really want her to do any of that; it was almost as if he were testing her.
The most contradictory of Shimao’s wishes was his desire for Tenchou to be happy. It turns out, he was actually wanted his wife to be happy with him, and only him. When Hazuki comes into the picture, Shimao’s ghost does everything in his power to stop Hazuki’s advances on Tenchou. Because, y’know, if he couldn’t have Tenchou, then no one could. What a douchebag, right?
The turning point of the story (where everything goes downhill afterwards) is when Hazuki drunkenly accepts to lend his body to Shimao. Shimao proceeds to attempt to sabotage Hazuki’s life, by using up all his savings and giving his body a really bad haircut. All this is just childish pranks, until he gets to interact more with Tenchou.
Hazuki’s soul, on the other hand, is trapped in some fairy tale nightmare, waiting for Shimao to return his body, until he finally realizes the awful truth: Shimao doesn’t actually plan on doing so without taking Tenchou to the next world with him. Our twisted douchebag has just leveled up to just plain crazy.
And what is our heroine doing among all this chaos? She’s still trying to get over her dead husband, and wondering if she actually likes Hazuki or not. Because God forbid, she is clever enough to realize that her dead husband’s soul is in Hazuki’s body until the very very last minute possible. And when she does, she is suddenly crystal clear on the fact that she loves Hazuki.
Needless to say, since the happy end is necessary, Hazuki’s body is returned and Shimao eventually is able to move on. But somehow, everything is just all wrong. The happy end just happens, with minimal persuasion. Tenchou simply asks for Shimao to return the body, and after a some conversation, he decides he won’t take his wife to death with him after all; he returns the body and it’s all rainbows and unicorns.
The worst part is, Shimao brings up his darned sob story, and despite his awful personality, you actually feel sorry for him. Where is this trait coming from? He can’t just flip off his douchebag switch like that! As opposed to the heartwarming yet somewhat frustrating interactions between Hazuki, Tenchou and Shimao in the first third-or-so of the series, where everything was solid and founded, everything after the turning point was just total whimsy.
Everything ends up revolving around Shimao, except nothing he does is explained; rather, as Shimao so accurately puts it, because logic is for the living, so his actions can’t be reasoned. Unfortunately, whether or not the nonsense was the intent of the author, ultimately it doesn’t matter, because it doesn’t work. The character development that happens in the beginning just gets thrown out the window, and everyone suddenly get new personalities. It’s like Shimao’s lack of logic is a disease that spreads to everyone he interacts with.
I won’t bother with Art/Animation/Music today, since I can summarize those in the one sentence you’ll see in the Review Boxes. Otherwise, my final thoughts are, this show ended up really disappointing, especially since it had such a promising start. Although I can’t say anything for how well the manga would’ve done under my scrutiny, I can say that anime for a female audience still has a long long way to go.
Over and out, gochisousama deshita.
Director: Kou Matsuo
Character design: Junichiro Taniguchi
Music: Ken Muramatsu
Original creator: Haruka Kawachi
Original run: July 6, 2012 – September 14, 2012