(Recommended, once again, by 100PostsPerDay.)
Remember my post on Sekine-kun no Koi? I found that story fairly interesting, if not for its constant need to block the story’s progression with needless hurdles. Natsuyuki Rendezvous is by the same mangaka, and boy, does it show.
See that long-haired fellow in the white rag up in that picture? That’s the male lead of this show. It may be a tad hard to see with the size of the image, but his eyes are exactly like Sekine’s. At one point in this series, his hair is cut very short and he gets a pair of glasses. He undoubtedly looks a lot like Sekine, then. See the short-haired girl in the middle? That’s the female lead. Putting aside her backstory, she runs a small shop in a semi-rural setting and has an optimistic, yet docile nature, like the female lead in Sekine-kun. And because the mangaka cannot possibly do anything more with the characters to put the stamp on her trademark style, she also has this anime employ a large number of needless hurdles to delay the eventual realization that could take no more than six episodes, rather than eleven.
Yet another one for the “trainwreck” list.
The grace, the maturity, the uniqueness; everything was there to make Natsuyuki Rendezvous more than a shallow attempt at the “Spirits left behind due to vague regrets” plotline. Characters were forward(!), honest (to a degree), and willing to get where they needed to go. Initially, things were moving at a comfortably quick pace, something that is warmly accepted by someone who tires of seeing episodic progressions of “Saying first name” → “Touching each other’s hands” → “Going on an awkward date” → “Kiss on the cheek” → “Saying ‘I love you'” → “Actually acknowledging a romantic relationship” → “The End!” And while the inclusion of the ghost of the female lead’s husband leads to the inevitable “I’m not actually over her, you can’t have her” stereotypes, the fact that he could do nothing but watch was something I was comfortable with. Then, it was shown that he could do something, and that’s when my brain went into defense mode.
So, what exactly is it about love triangles that piss people off? Is it the fact that people are wholeheartedly set on a specific ship and don’t want to be denied that reality for even a moment? The fact that sometimes those within love triangles clearly do not deserve happiness and the person holding all the cards becomes more stupid than normal? Here’s my fact: love triangles encourage complacency. Think of it this way: when two people are in love, they want to grow closer. If only those two are involved, the rate at which they grow closer is consistent. Throw one other person in there and that rate is cut in half. Throw another in there and cut it by another half. It’s easier to grow two plants (Characters) with a limited water supply (Audience’s attention span) than more so. Once that consistency is cut, one is left with what is, based on the end result, filler and/or wasted time.
This isn’t to say love triangles are a burden on narratives and have no place whatsoever. It’s a slippery slope of managing the course in a way that improves the storyline. Natsuyuki Rendezvous does not incorporate it well, to put it lightly. What progress was made in the first four episodes eventual skids to a halt once the ghost husband starts breaking the boundaries of what spirits should be able to do. With this, the story also gets… really convoluted. Ghost husband takes over male lead’s body and male lead gets transported into a number of different fantasy worlds because he needs to “play a role” in order to survive. Uh… huh…. It carries on like this as ghost husband, who doesn’t reveal himself to his wife, carries on as if he were male lead and does fuck all for the next two-and-a-half episodes. I get it, he wants to hang out with his wife, but you could quickly reveal yourself to be ghost husband by providing info only you and her would know. Not to mention, you could actually be able to talk with her normally. Don’t really see how hiding yourself does you any good.
The gist of what I’m saying is that this anime had a good run for four episodes, then kills itself by running around in small circles and does nothing to really present itself as meaningful. Combined with the subplot about the male lead running around in fairytale land, it’s simply too bizarre and too nonsensical to be taken seriously. Also, nothing really happens. I really, really cannot stress enough how much nothing happens for four or five episodes, up until the finale. Damn love triangles delaying things. In a final nail to the head, the final few minutes is the kind of ending I hate in almost every context.
What a lovely anime to behold, however. While I’m not 100% keen on the designs specifically made to appeal to women, animation and vibrancy are at a very high level. Small movements, attention to detail, emphasis on facial cues; Natsuyuki Rendezvous is a visual treat for 2012. Even if it lacked any sense, the fairytale scenes are pretty creative in their design. If not for the fact that I’ve read Sekine-kun and recognize the mangaka’s style, therefore knowing that she’s basically ripping off herself, I’d definitely compliment the different styles of character design—though my one complaint is that everyone looks far too fair-skinned to be thirty and over.
It went from a six, to perhaps a seven, back to a six, then finally to a five. Frankly, it’s lucky I don’t rate it any lower, seeing as four episodes in the eleven-episode series are basically the equivalent of looking at a wall in value. That’s more than a third of itself. Its first third, however, saves it from being an altogether wasted experience, as there was enough genuine interaction and romantic shenanigans to be charming. If only—how awful it is to say this so often—it managed to finish the way it started.
Personal Score: C-
Critical Score: C
The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.