More and more the experience of watching Natsuyuki Rendezvous is dominated by the strong emotions in inspires in me – which is just as well, because after this week I have less idea what’s really going on than ever.
I can’t help but feel that the key moment of the episode came when Mer-Rokka asked Hazuki, “Who’s really the main character?” That question seems to be at the center of everything, and while I opined a couple of weeks ago that Atsushi was really the main character despite the fact that he’s dead, I’m really not sure. And it doesn’t help that the identities of these three people are so hopelessly entangled that’s it’s impossible to tell where one soul begins, and the other ends. It’s certainly a novel approach to a romantic triangle and a ghost story.
I also opined, if you remember, that one reason Natsuyuki Rendezvous seemed to be having trouble finding an audience was that it makes things very difficult for the viewer. Well this episode certainly doesn’t change that – it’s a confusing tangle, both emotionally and plot-wise – and while I think it’s in a good way I can’t honestly say I’m sure. All I am sure of is that this series provokes very strong feelings in me, and Atsushi most of all. There are times when he really irritates me to the point where I almost hate him, but then an overwhelming sense of sympathy washes over me when I realize what he’s going through.
In a sense, the entire scenario of this show is one long torture sequence for Atsushi. Let’s set aside all the things that happened before we were allowed to peek through the window into these three characters’ lives – the childhood in and out of hospitals, the lifelong illness, the regrets of so much left unfinished. To have been forced to be a passive observation to Rokka’s life was bad enough, but ironically the body-switching development (which, let’s face it, is swimming in irony) is even worse in some ways. To hold the hand of the woman he loves, to be kissed by her and told he’s loved by her, even to make love with her – and yet to know that it wasn’t he that was in her heart when all this was happening. To experience all that physically again, only to realize that it was the process of Rokka falling in love with someone other than him – and for the first time in her life. My goodness, that’s an emotional brutality you don’t often see in anime or anywhere else.
I’m angry at Atsushi for his selfishness – for stealing Hazuki’s first time with Rokka, especially. But if anyone ever had an excuse for selfishness, he’s the one. The problem for me comes in where we go from here. Just what is the reality that these three poor souls are trapped in, and what is the ultimate resolution? Does Rokka eventually find out what’s really happening – and how does that effect her feelings for Hazuki, if so? She’s certainly getting an inkling that something’s amiss – starting with “Hazuki” knowing about her oyster story, then his speaking of himself derisively in the third-person, the “telegram-like” note he left her after their lovemaking, and most importantly the way he arranged the flowers in the shop.
That was obviously a moment pregnant with plot implications, though I won’t pretend to have a handle on just what they are. Why did Rokka see Atsushi’s true form just for a moment when she opened the shop door, and why did she reference “President Octopus” from his student project? And what does Atsushi have planned – his exit seemed to have the look of finality to it. Is it an indication that he’s going to give Hazuki his body back, or does he intend to hang onto it and take him far away from her? What were the last words he left behind in the hospital wastebasket, and the significance of the small potted plant he took with him – is it the one he was given as a child by his classmates? After all this time, is that even possible? Clearly, he intends to remove the traces of his existence from Rokka’s life – though to what end, I think it’s fair to say we don’t really know.
The question of Hazuki’s role in all this – the one who seemed nominally to be the main character – is another great variable. There’s an implication that he’s trapped in a story left unfinished because of “The Prince’s” death, and can only be released when the Prince finishes the tale. But what is his role in finishing the story? Hazuki has already expressed a willingness to carry the burden of both Rokka and Atsushi, but we – and he – don’t know what that really means in practical terms. If Atushi and Rokka are struggling to move on, each in their own way, Hazuki’s struggle would seemingly be to grow up – and his courtship of Rokka a major step in doing so. But of late he’s been a passive participant in his own story, and I don’t see any way things can really move forward until that changes. Perhaps it’s simply a question of Hazuki stepping forward and accepting the role of the main character in his own life – because that’s something only he can do – and understanding that he cannot carry Atsushi with him. Only Rokka can allow the ghosts of the past to rest, and entrust her future to the living.