Alright. So, Natsuyuki Rendezvous, of our romances thus far, seems like it’ll be the most… well, its a bit problematic so far. I did enjoy it, but I also see a lot of problems here already. And that we have a modern romance coming off as more problematic than an anime adapting centuries old romantic poems is a bit odd, even taking into account that we’ve been told that Utakoi is a loose adaptation.
Really, the entire issue right now in NatsuVous (I nominate this the best way to shorten the title) is that our leading lady, Rokka, is essentially being treated like an object by the allegedly lovestruck Hazuki. Now, this may be intentional, meant to place Hazuki where he still has a lot of growing to do, and thus it may also be a critique of the idea of falling in love from afar. Let’s face it – Hazuki doesn’t really know Rokka (he doesn’t even know her name!)… and it seems like a lot of folks don’t really know Rokka. For other characters so far, we had a part-timer who quit to get married and obviously doesn’t know anything about Rokka, and Rokka’s sister-in-law, who seems to know Rokka on at least a slightly deeper level than anyone else we’ve met so far. And this doesn’t seem to be an accident on Rokka’s part; the part-timer asks her about her love life, and Rokka insists she doesn’t have anything like that going on, and, in fact, seems to discount the idea that she ever has. Sure, it may be just that Rokka doesn’t think bringing up her dead husband in such a context is a great idea, but the implication that she hasn’t had any romantic involvement much, if at all, is a bit odd.
So, I think we can safely conclude that Rokka’s a pretty private person overall. Even considering that, though, her lack of active agency within the first episode was a bit disappointing, although there’s quite a bit of time for her to become less passive. I was actually surprised enough when I started watching and it was so heavily from Hazuki’s perspective that I double-checked that NatsuVous was a josei. This feels more like something seinen thus far (obviously not the tits and ass end of the seinen pool, though), given our occupation of Hazuki’s head.
Speaking of occupation of someone’s mind, is it just me, or are there a lot more anime wherein the protagonist narrates nowadays? It feels like this has become a much more common trope; certainly we often hear the thoughts of the lead, but the constant running commentary seems much more common than even just a few years ago.
Another thing that surprised me is that this is a J.C. Staff production. I was trying to think of which studio was producing while watching, and I honestly thought it possibly was one of Madhouse’s greener teams. When the background features a lot of flowers, there’s a sort of watercolor-ish feel to it, and that isn’t an approach I associate with J.C. Staff at all. But, hey, they did Aoi Hana’s anime adaptation a few years back, so maybe it shouldn’t’ve.
Despite his flaws, I do like Hazuki overall, even if I feel a bit guilty about that. I could relate to his routine of stopping by the flower shop to buy potted plants simply so he could see Rokka, and I was amused by the accumulation of the plants in his apartment. And his confession scene was weird and awkward and kind of cringe-inducing, but I enjoyed it because I could definitely see someone doing that. And although she did cry a little bit into her ramen, I also enjoyed how cool-headed Rokka was about the whole thing, a far cry from the blushing, stuttering crap we get in 95% of other romance anime (likely because they feature teenagers, blech).
Rokka indicates that she considers herself old, and doesn’t get why someone young like Hazuki would be interested in her. I am curious about what the actual age difference is here; I’m sure Rokka isn’t that old, but one does definitely get a sense of the maturity gap between herself and Hazuki. This is why I think we may be getting a critique of Hazuki’s affections rather than an affirmation that it is appropriate for a man to think of a woman as potential property. There was something else I wanted to mention as being indicative of this as well, but unfortunately it has slipped my mind.
So, although I think there’s a lot NatsuVous needs to work on, I did like it overall in this first episode. I could see myself souring rather fast, though, if it just goes the way of so much josei, which is to say, depressingly regressive.
Oh, yeah, and the ED has nice animation.