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Impressions: Natsuyuki Rendezvous Episodes 7-11


What's it like, as a victim of the haze of over-intoxication, to sober up within a dream — to have to master lucidity within a consciousness at once your own and not your own — only to discover the shackles of such a sleep, the clench of your captor's keep? After agreeing (while drunk and depressed over something Rokka said) to let Atsushi "borrow" his body, Ryōsuke finds himself trapped in a blended fairytale — where Thumbelina adopts Rokka's visage and the scenery comes directly from drawings born from a mind and hand long since wheeled away under a sheet from a hospital room.

While Natsuyuki Rendezvous started with a supernatural situation, it just got surreal.  Actually, the plot got absurd(ist) starting in episode 5, but I had other points to make within word limits and NONE OF THAT MATTERS NOW. Well, some of it does. Ryōsuke’s prolonged captivity (the duration of better than half of this series) definitely proves Atsushi’s selfishness. But it also proves him the (anti-)hero as well. I’ll explain:


Ryōsuke (for whom I'm assuming we're all, as viewers, rooting) must struggle against a familiar yet foreign environment and reconcile his conscious aesthetic associations regarding Rokka with what is actually Atsushi's pedestalled version of her (Thumbelina) in the prison dreamscape in order to return to the real world and the real Rokka. This is still selfishness on Ryōsuke’s part, though throughout his internal internment, he does grow to base arguments for his release on earnest concern for Rokka's sake. All the while, however, Atsushi's selfishness is growing, and this is what foreshadows his downfall as suitor as well as the ultimate disappointment in terms of the end of the series.


For Atsushi, every moment spent in the physical realm brings up more attachments which must be dealt with before he can relinquish Ryōsuke’s body: his belongings which Rokka never got rid of as promised (because of her selfishness), the temptation of physical sensations which haven’t been felt for three years, and of course lingering emotions for Rokka. The latter is the hardest with which to deal, obviously, as that is what’s kept Atsushi literally hanging around for three years. But soon after Atsushi selfishly abducts his former belongings with Ryōsuke’s able body (inconsiderate for how their absence would make Rokka feel), Rokka has to go and interrupt the spirit from his own closure for her own sake.


Tempting Atsushi with her recognition of his very soul despite it being hosted by another body, Rokka seeks what every woman wants: a solid answer. What she ends up giving him is what he needs: closure. Is this selfishness? In a word, yes. Undoubtedly, you all laughed when I invoked “Shakespeare” in the previous Impressions post, but one cannot ignore the parallel of Rokka's "You still have a habit of putting tools in your pocket," where "tools" refers to a pair of scissors intended for a suicide ritual, to "I will kiss thy lips. Haply some poison yet doth hang on them," where the hapless female lover (Juliet) relinquishes her all to the void upon being deprived of her lover's prospect of life. It's just too perfect. Selfish how though? Rokka is considerate enough of Ryōsuke's getting lost in the woods after she's volunteered herself for sacrifice, but not so much his efforts and heartbreak despite her admitted love for him.


Remember how last post I said the determining factor to how this all ends would depend on who it was that would break the selfishness cycle? Well, yeah, (*spoilers*) it's Atsushi. While Ryōsuke does manage to free himself from the confines of Atsushi’s ensnarement, he does so only for his own sake and to ultimately find himself in Atsushi’s proverbial shoes — an indiscernible apparition subject to third-party envy regarding the goings-on of real life. Rokka's ready to throw in her mortal towel, because her regrets are swept up in her own selfish desire to be with the husband she was formally resigned to having lost forever ... future happiness be damned. It is only Atsushi's selflessness that brings Rokka and Ryōsuke together ... not by butting out, but by providing Ryōsuke with the opportunity of giving Atsushi the chance to say goodbye in Rokka's eyes. After Atsushi takes the high road by not killing his former wife, Rokka and Ryōsuke are free to love as lovers love — intimately, or so the series leads viewers to believe. Rokka now knows and appreciates the sacrifice Ryōsuke made, and he knows that she fell in love with the pre-posessed him. As a bonus, Atsushi receives the storybook happy ending, literally. He is depicted in a garden of flowers advancing towards Thumbelina Rokka.  And then the issue arises:


Natsuyuki Rendezvous hits at the heart for all the right reasons, with no contrivances except genuine human frailty. The faults of all the characters are what make them so identifiable and believable, the series so affective. So why then does the audience need to see Atsushi clinging on, in epilogue fashion, to be acknowledged by a "grandchild" twice removed from any relative influence of his genes? Even if Rokka's child was conceived while Atsushi was in Ryōsuke's body, the boy's age makes Atsushi's sustained haunting seem silly. So this intrusion serves no other purpose but to showcase the fact that Atsushi staying out of the way of Rokka and Ryōsuke's relationship frames the specter as the benevolent hero for merely relinquishing his obsession's destructiveness. Perhaps that is the true message, avoiding passion-based attachments? But wasn't the whole series built around pursuing such passions? It's a sloppy mess of an ending, and one that should've been left on the cutting room floor. Natsuyuki Rendezvous is a fantastic series, but one that runs roughly five (arguably four, with some visual editing) minutes too long.

Natsuyuki Rendezvous is now streaming on Crunchyroll.

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