Natsuyuki Rendezvous: Letting Death Get in the Way
Grieving is never easy. The loss of someone close is life-altering. Though Natsuyuki Rendezvous is a romantic comedy, the subject matter is life after loss. It uses the guise of a ghost to demonstrate how the loss of a loved one shapes our lives, our decisions, and even our future relationships.
Natsuyuki Rendezvous is an anime running this summer in the noitaminA slot. In it, a shy man named Hazuki Ryuusuke falls in love with a quiet flower shop owner, Shimao Rokka. Ryuusuke soon comes to work at the flower shop, and eventually finds the courage to pursue a relationship outside of work with Rokka. Unfortunately, this is when he meets Rokka’s husband, Atsushi; the twist being that Atsushi is dead, and only Ryuusuke can see his ghost.
Now, I know what you might be thinking. This sounds an awful lot like a film made in 1990 about a loved one who couldn’t let go. Yes, Ghost Dad is a modern classic, perhaps one of Bill Cosby’s finest works. Wait, no… were you thinking of Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore’s blockbuster Ghost? I guess I can see the parallels there as well. The key difference is the presentation. Firstly, no anime has the budget for Whoopi Goldberg. Beyond that, Ghost is about the attachment the deceased have to the living world. In Ghost, the dead reach out for justice amongst the living. (Ghost Dad was similarly scripted, even if the presentation was quite different in other ways.) Rendezvous is about the attachment the living have to the dead.
After their passing, loved ones do not cease to exist. They live on in those who loved them. In pictures. In gifts. At home. Important people are not easily forgotten. So it is when Ryuusuke visits Rokka’s home and comes face-to-face with Atsushi’s ghost.
It’s no mistake that Atsushi does not appear until Ryuusuke enters the home. After all, that is where memories are the strongest. This is where the little hints would lay and the memories would stir. It’s also likely the first time a widow would be exposed as such.
Someone’s mourning, even years after the death of a loved one, tends to define their being. Think about the word “widow”; it is meant to define a woman as having lost her husband. As one seeks to move on from loss, such a moniker becomes a burden. Rokka is not ashamed of being a widow. Ryuusuke does not know sooner because Rokka does not allow herself to be defined that way. It’s only when Ryuusuke gets close to her that he sees the signs and contacts Atsushi’s ghost.
Atsushi is not a mere stand-in for Rokka’s feelings. His ghost also illustrates the difficulties we face when approaching the grieving. It is difficult to gauge the appropriateness of words and actions when they might trigger difficult memories. This is why Atsushi is always in the way. Ryuusuke must learn to properly interact with Rokka, and he must help Rokka move on. Until then, Atsushi will constantly be between them or looming over their heads.