Natsuyuki Rendezvous Ep. 4: Abjection

On their date, why does Rokka repeatedly insist that she and Hazuki pay a visit to the haunted house attraction? After racking my brain for a couple hours over this very question, I finally have a suggestion. By going through the haunted house, Hazuki completes his transformation into the abject, which then allows for Rokka’s trauma to bubble to the surface. Wait wait wait, hold on a minute — the abject? Trauma? What am I talking about?

Let’s first revisit the idea that the flower shop and the flowers within represent Rokka’s dead husband. Although Atsushi has long since passed away, Rokka (perhaps inadvertently) keeps a part of him alive by continuing to maintain his shop.

In a way, Hazuki also serves as a representation for Atsushi. If anything, he more closely resembles Rokka’s dead husband than the flower shop or the flowers themselves. Like Atsushi, Hazuki nurses Rokka when she’s sick. He even takes Rokka to the amusement park where she and Atsushi once visited on a date. If Rokka misses her husband, and Hazuki is closest thing to Atsushi, why does she nevertheless reject him?

Throughout the episode, we see how Hazuki and Rokka seemingly stumble upon all of the same locations that Rokka once visited with Atsushi, but there are subtle differences. Whereas Hazuki is gung-ho about seeing each and every attraction — except for the haunted house –, Atsushi disliked going on any of the rides. Whereas Atsushi was placid in nature, Hazuki is tenacious and aggressive. So although Hazuki and Atsushi are very much alike, they are also different.

Nevertheless, this sense of deja vu haunts Rokka throughout their date. Even though she is currently with Hazuki, she can’t help but see the specter of her dead husband at every turn. Somehow, she is drawn back to the haunted house where all of a sudden, Rokka is confronted with Hazuki as the abject.

The easiest way for me to describe the abject is by perhaps pointing to a corpse. When you look at a person’s face, you see ‘a person,’ but behind that face is just an amalgamation of blood, flesh and bones. ‘The person’ is a part of our symbolic reality. The same thing happens when we look at a corpse, but a cognitive dissonance emerges. The face of a corpse maintains the illusion of the symbolic reality where a person was once alive, but nevertheless, we recognize that the corpse is very much a thing that is dead.

As I’ve noted above, Hazuki resembles Rokka’s dead husband in a lot of respects, but he’s also different from Atsushi in subtle ways. I would now suggest that those subtle ways leave Rokka feeling uncomfortable although she might not necessarily be conscious of this dissonace. More importantly, he seemingly serves as a catalyst for her memories of Atsushi. In a way, then, you can see Hazuki as a walking, talking corpse — or a zombie — of Rokka’s dead husband. In other words, he’s similar enough to Atsushi that he and Rokka might even go on a date, but different enough that he can only ever remind her of Atsushi’s mortality. How traumatic must it be, then, to constantly see your dead husband when you look at your date?

But the trauma doesn’t fully erupt and disrupt the symbolic reality until the couple goes through the haunted house. If you buy the premise that the flower shop and the flowers within represent Atsushi in some abstract way, I would then suggest that the haunted house is a more cynical representation of her dead husband. Both are dwellings for ghosts and spirits, but Rokka isn’t aware of her dead husband’s presence in the flower shop. In the haunted house, you see rows and rows of creepy-looking dolls. Whereas the flowers in the shop represent Atsushi in some abstract, ideal fashion, i.e. sublime beauty, the dolls represent the macabre. Although the dolls seem to be literal representations of human beings, we are nevertheless repelled by them. After all, the dolls inhabit that uncanny valley where human representations begin to seem unfamiliar to us.

Essentially, I think that Hazuki approaches this uncanny valley throughout their date. He clearly resembles Rokka’s dead husband, but not to the point where he literally becomes Atsushi. When they eventually visit the haunted house, the reminder of death and Hazuki’s reluctance to enter the attraction — much alike Atsushi’s reluctance in the past — transforms Hazuki into the abject. Rokka knows that Atsushi is physically dead, but he is very much alive within her subconscious. She tends to his shop and flowers to maintain his existence. As a result, she can’t accept Hazuki, who upon entering the haunted house, begins to exhibit the effects of the uncanny valley. He is not unique enough by himself to win Rokka’s heart, but neither is he an exact enough copy of Atsushi to replace him in any adequate fashion; he is a corpse — an abject. As a result, their date falls apart as soon as they leave the haunted house.

The next step appears to be Hazuki’s symbolic death. In allowing Atsushi to borrow his body, Hazuki will probably become a ghost. But will this be enough? Although Atsushi-as-Hazuki will act like Rokka’s former husband, he will still look very much like Hazuki. Can a personality change take Atsushi-as-Hazuki out of the uncanny valley that Hazuki eventually found himself in?

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7 thoughts on “Natsuyuki Rendezvous Ep. 4: Abjection

  1. Taka

    The moment that especially interested me this episode was when Rokka remembered how Atsushi remained behind while she went on the house ride. Right as Hazuki pulls her away and the specter of Atsushi tells her “you two go on it” and she thinks “You don’t have to tell me. I was going to leave you there anyway…”, which to me is a rather cryptic remark to make. Is she thinking about her response back then or is she thinking about her current situation? It would lend some credence to the idea that she senses the uncanny valley between Hazuki and Atsushi. It’s moments like these (she’s had a few) that make me wonder if she really wants to move on. It’s a bitter sentiment but I don’t if bitter because she feels her memories are holding her back or because she doesn’t want to let go of them in the first place.

    Another moment that interested me was when Atsushi took over Hazuki’s body for a brief period there was a glowing golden figure that looked like Rokka’s when she was younger which lends some credence to the theory that Atsushi is a creation of her unconscious desire not to let him go.

    Reply
    1. seelosopher

      I found those parts puzzling, as well. The whole episode was, in fact, a little uncanny to me, but E Minor stretches that idea to another depth coming out of left field. Hazuki is just a guy who tries too hard; more akin to a contemporary android or a drag queen than a zombie.

      But the eeriness of this date came more from the interaction of the characters than the figurative ghosts that plagued them: things like the way Rokka eggs Hazuki on in a way that’s almost teasing, and Hazuki’s mindlessness with Rokka, the girl he supposedly loves so much. Some of their choices in attire for this excursion were also questionable, but I’m no fashion police.

      Reply
      1. E Minor Post author

        but E Minor stretches that idea to another depth coming out of left field.

        What do you mean here?

        Reply
        1. seelosopher

          That of Hazuki’s “transformation into the abject”, and specifically your following analysis:
          “In a way, then, you can see Hazuki as a walking, talking corpse — or a zombie — of Rokka’s dead husband.”
          Not that it doesn’t work, but it was a tough sell that took me all of your post to buy.

          You really may be onto something there, though, considering how the episode ends and how you tied your thesis back to this.

        2. E Minor Post author

          The most often used example of the abject is a corpse. I have a theory that Hazuki is an abject. In a way, he resembles Atsushi, but he’s also a constant reminder of Atsushi’s death and Rokka’s trauma. So in that sense, he seemed to me like a corpse, the thing that epitomizes the uncanny valley. It is this uncanny valley that turns Rokka away. Everything you’re saying about in your previous comment — Rokka’s teasing and Hazuki’s obliviousness — I believe ties into this idea. By being so oblivious, Hazuki doesn’t really distinguish himself in Rokka’s mind. I think she perhaps teases him to get at the real him, but he’s a clod through and through. As a result, he stays in that uncanny valley and the date breaks down. If my post didn’t get that across, then I probably didn’t write it very well.

      2. Taka

        It’s funny that you mention the whole thing felt uncanny to you because I initially had a little bit in my comment about how the affair just seemed somehow bleaker and drabber then her remembered date with Atsushi but it was actually the other way around. In the episode her date with Hazuki the colors were bright, the sun was shining, and it ostensibly was a nice summer or spring day (you even see other people at the park), but in her date with Atsushi the sky is overcast, it appears to be fall or winter, and there is no one else at the park. It’s funny that despite going on a nicer day the date with Hazuki is more uncomfortable. For a short time I wondered if there was a significance to the weather difference. Perhaps the gloomy day means the memory isn’t a happy one for her, or is no longer a happy one.

        I love the apparent complexity of Rokka’s emotions even though we are given rather little to work with.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          Unhappy memories might be the simplest answer at the moment. Plus, how often do you remember the riff raff in your memories? Even if you remember people being there, could you remember their faces? Their clothing? Probably not. As for the contrast with Hazuki, I’m not sure. Perhaps it implies that appearances are deceiving. It also makes it even more interesting that Rokka would repeatedly insist on visiting the haunted house, which is dark and gloomy, when the weather is so nice and sunny outside.

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