Natsuyuki Rendezvous Ep. 5: Thumbelina

Since nobody reads or comments on these posts anyway, I’ll just do some annotative remarks.

• The first thing we see are dandelion seeds floating in the void. Dandelions usually signify the granting of wishes. Perhaps in the anime, the seeds represent Hazuki granting Atsushi’s wish.

• The void soon gives way to a dream-like, idyllic setting. When Hazuki regains consciousness, he finds himself gazing at the wide open sea. In fairy tales, bodies of water often serve as a gateway between worlds: “The idea of bodies of water as otherworldly gateways is common in medieval French and Celtic literature – the fairy Melusine meets her human husband by a fountain in a forest – a gateway between their two worlds.”

• So where is Hazuki now? I’ll give my thoughts on that later.

• Hazuki finds his way to a creek and gazes at a reflection of himself in the water. For whatever reason, I’m reminded of the myth of Narcissus. If you’ll recall, Narcissus was a prideful hunter who became transfixed by his own reflection in a pool of water. He became so obsessed with himself that he died. I wonder if we can use this story to provide us any further insight into Hazuki’s psyche. Has he been too proud?

Hazuki often tells the audience that he simply wants Rokka to be happy, but I’ve written over and over that I find his behavior off-putting. After all, he only stepped up his game, so to speak, when Atsushi entered the picture. It seemed as though Hazuki couldn’t stand to lose Rokka to a ghost. Is this an example of destructive pride? Is Hazuki’s inability to separate his relationship with Rokka from the competition with Atsushi the reason he is now currently stuck in this dreamworld? Just some food for thought…

• Hazuki eventually encounters a mini-Rokka riding atop a lily pad. Rokka’s appearance reminds Hazuki of the fairy tale “Thumbelina.” It’s been argued that “Thumbelina” conveys the idea that “appearances can be deceptive.” Can we apply this idea to Natsuyuki Rendezvous?

• In “Thumbelina,” the titular character also finds herself riding atop a lily pad. It has been suggested that the lily pad functions as an island, which in turn represents a marginal space. In other words, Thumbelina exists between two words. You can certainly look at Hazuki’s current situation in the same light. Trading places with Atsushi doesn’t necessarily mean that Hazuki will be confined to the underworld. After all, Atsushi wasn’t. In effect, Hazuki is neither in the real world nor the underworld. He thus exists in a liminal space between life and death; he exists in a dreamworld. More on this later.

• The anime returns to the real world where Atsushi-as-Hazuki buys a bouquet of tulips from Rokka, then immediately gives it back to her as a gift. Tulips are often seen as a symbol of perfect love. In that sense, then, the scene can be read as an attempt from Atsushi to re-establish that connection of love between him and his wife. Of course, the connection is imperfect: he has to buy the tulips from her. This reflects the fact that she doesn’t recognize Atsushi as Atsushi at all, so she’s not really giving him perfect love. Having said that, it’s not as though we ever see money being exchanged.

• Shortly thereafter, Atsushi begins to cry and his eyes turn pink. What managed to irritate his eyes? Well, I don’t think this question is all that important to address. Rather, what does this part of the scene signify? I’m always speculating, but if we consider the idea that our eyes are the windows to our souls, then is there perhaps some incompatibility with Atsushi’s soul being in Hazuki’s body? Or does this moment simply reinforce the idea that Rokka can’t recognize Atsushi because his eyes are unclear?

• When we return to Hazuki and mini-Rokka, the latter speaks of a prince. In the fairy tale, Thumbelina is on a journey to find her companion. This might tie into something more significant later down the line.

• Atsushi ends up ruining Hazuki’s contacts and has to buy himself a pair of glasses. We could see this as an additional barrier between his soul and the rest of the world. But in another way, Atsushi is starting to learn what it’s like to be Hazuki. It has been said that an enemy is just a person whose story we have not heard. Certainly, Hazuki and Atsushi have butted heads in the past, but like the premise in Kokoro Connect, trading places can help them to understand one another.

• In a flashback scene, Atsushi bitterly admits, “…I became an expert at giving up.” Can we take his words at face value? Could he have fought harder to survive? The words are a tad ironic anyway when you consider his reluctance to give up his wife. Then again, as I have suggested in previous posts, what if Rokka’s the one who refuses to give up and move on from Atsushi?

• Shortly after the flashback, we hear Rokka thinking to herself, “It’s dangerous to bury things you can’t change and dejected feelings in the dark. The tough seeds you thought you buried will sprout when you’ve forgotten about them.” This would seem to lend credence to the idea that Rokka refuses to let go of her dead husband. After all, she keeps his old clothes and, apparently, one of his old sketchbooks. The idea of burying something deep in the dark only for it to sprout brings to mind some Lacanian psychoanalysis.

First, we must understand the concept of The Real, which is not just everyday life. Rather, it is a world that resists symbolization. It cannot be represented by our language and culture. It has been suggested that we are born into The Real. We are eventually taught language and the culture of the society we reside in, which then allows us to generate our symbolic order. The Real is thus traumatic because it has the power to disrupt the symbolic order.

Let’s say that Rokka suffers from a great trauma as a result of Atsushi’s death, but she has been unable to vocalize that pain in any meaningful way. Instead, she buries it deep within her — deep into the “dark” or, in other words, The Real, i.e. the subconscious realm beyond language and culture. Over time, that pain grew within her until it sprouted from The Real and intruded upon her symbolic order. I would suggest then that Atsushi represents this intrusion. Again, I’m not saying that Atsushi doesn’t really exist, but I nevertheless feel that he’s a representation of Rokka’s inability to cope with the trauma of losing her husband.

• Atsushi cuts Hazuki’s hair, which only reminds me of Rokka’s short hair. I suggested before that Rokka may have cut her hair as a way to turn suitors away. Think of it like pruning the petals of a flower to make it less pretty. In a similar fashion, Atsushi seems to have hoped that cutting Hazuki’s hair would turn Rokka away, but his plan backfires.

• When we return to Hazuki and mini-Rokka, they find themselves lost on a sandy beach. Mini-Rokka then literally peels back a page of their world, and they find themselves in another part of the dreamworld. She then tells Hazuki a story about Atsushi’s youth. Again, it feels as though trading places will serve to help the two men understand each other’s feelings. Perhaps Hazuki will start to understand why Atsushi is unwilling to let Hazuki win Rokka over.

• This part of the dreamworld heavily suggests that Hazuki currently resides in one of Atsushi’s sketchbook or, at the very least, a liminal space of Atsushi’s that has taken on an aspect of his memories. After all, his observational dairies can be seen as representative of his memories.

• If we buy into the idea that Hazuki is currently wandering within Atsushi’s memories, then what does the fairy tale suggest? We suddenly see Hazuki change forms, morphing into a toad, a beetle, and finally, a mole. These were all potential suitors for Thumbelina in the fairy tale, but she managed to escape each and every one of them to find her true love.

• In the story, a toad abducted Thumbelina and tried to force the poor girl to marry its son. Toads have often symbolized death and poison in fairy tales. We can thus imagine that these three animals might reflect a facet of Atsushi’s guilt. Atsushi suffered from a terminal disease, yet he married Rokka anyway. Does he feel guilty for “stealing” Rokka, forcing her to waste her life on a dying cause like him?

• When Hazuki turns into a bettle, Rokka remarks, “Do you intend to abandon me?” Perhaps Atsushi feels guilty for abandoning Rokka.

• When Hazuki finally turns into a mole, Rokka asks, “Are you going to propose to me?” In the fairy tale, Thumbelina is unhappy with the prospects of marrying the mole because moles live underground and she, as a child born from a tulip, loves and cherishes the sunlight. If she marries the mole, she’ll be trapped underground. Maybe Atsushi sees his marriage to Rokka as her trap. Rokka is a flower just like her male love interests, and like any flower, she needs light. Even after Atsushi’s death, however, she seems trapped by her marriage. She’s tied to a dead person, i.e. underground like Thumbelina and the mole. After all, she did just confess to Hazuki in the previous episode that she isn’t ready to move on.

• Hazuki and Rokka finally come across a fallen swallow. The swallow in “Thumbelina” represents hope. Thumbelina nurses the swallow back to good health, and it then helps her escape her marriage to the mole. In a way, Thumbelina helps herself by resurrecting the hope that she may one day find her true prince. Can we then use this metaphor to understand the anime?

I’ve written over and over that neither of the two men should be the deciding factor in how Rokka ultimately chooses to live her life. She has to help herself move on from Atsushi. On that same token, I don’t think Hazuki can win her over. Rather, the best course of action for him is to come to terms with the fact that Atsushi was once a big part of Rokka’s life, and that he can’t simply hope to replace Rokka’s dead husband.

• “So where are we?”

“An unfinished scene.”

Why an unfinished scene? If this is Atsushi’s liminal space, it probably suggests that he doesn’t know what will happen next. His memories are limited after all.

• That was a whole lot of words. Anyway, I feel that the story will be strained at this point as the anime draws out the drama. Since it’s only the fifth episode, I can’t help but think Rokka will continue to fixate on her old memories of her husband. Nevertheless, I’m keen to find out what happens next.

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12 thoughts on “Natsuyuki Rendezvous Ep. 5: Thumbelina

  1. Mira

    This just dawned on me while reading this post. Wasn’t Atsushi drawing something in the opening? Perhaps ‘An unfinished scene’ refers to that? He was probably doing something for Rokka but failed to finish it.

    The series reminds me a lot of the Japanese film SekaChuu so that’s how I ended up with that speculation.

    Reply
  2. Tapioca

    Considering I’m unfamiliar to the story of Thumbelina, this episode hides from my blind eyes, more symbolism that may help piece together our complex characters here. Rokka would have a more difficult time moving on if Atsushi only further helped convince her with his actions and words, that he and Hazuki are very alike. Rokka needs to separate both men in order to truly fall for Hazuki, but I find that all the harder to do when he’s possessed by the very man she’s trying to forget about.
    Rokka not rejecting Hazuki after he’s already displayed such strange behavior…is she just forgiving him for his assumed drunkenness, or has he unconsciously been reminding her of Atsushi? His direct behavior, mannerism and eating habits all remind Rokka of who she should be forgetting about, but thats becoming impossible, especially whenafter Rokka mentions the “buried seed” sprouting. What my point probably is, can Rokka ever look at Hazuki without being reminded of her husband after this? Or can the real Hazuki become like the swallow, and turn into the hope Rokka needs to help her move past her old love, and accept a new?

    While I’m a generally lazy commenter, please keep up the A+ posts, they make my day reading them before off to a long day at work :D

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Rokka needs to separate both men in order to truly fall for Hazuki, but I find that all the harder to do when he’s possessed by the very man she’s trying to forget about.

      I have no idea where the story will go from here. Having said that, maybe Rokka will realize that she’s a different person now. She’s no longer the young girl who fell in love with Atsushi. As a result, she might not fall in love with Atsushi again. This is all just speculation though.

      Rokka not rejecting Hazuki after he’s already displayed such strange behavior…is she just forgiving him for his assumed drunkenness,

      I dunno, I guess he hasn’t done anything to make feel truly threatened. Different strokes for different cultures and all that jazz. Maybe getting drunk off one’s bum doesn’t carry a huge stigma in Japan or something.

      Reply
  3. Justin

    Well I just caught up to the show, so I’m reading now. Too bad it seems you’ll be doing annotations of Natsuyuki, unless this is just a one time thing.

    “Anyway, I feel that the story will be strained at this point as the anime draws out the drama. Since it’s only the fifth episode, I can’t help but think Rokka will continue to fixate on her old memories of her husband.”

    The question I have for now is whether she’s going to be taking out her old memories on the Atsushi-as-Hazuki or whether the real Hazuki will come back and be involved for that. Because at this point, we have Hazuki stuck somewhere where he shouldn’t be yet has little idea of what the situation is with Rokka in RL. Kind of simple point to bring up I know, but I do wonder if that will be addressed in Ep 6 or will Hazuki be stuck in his state for a while longer.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Too bad it seems you’ll be doing annotations of Natsuyuki, unless this is just a one time thing.

      Shrug, it takes less effort. Natsuyuki Rendezvous gets the least amount of views of all the anime I write about this season.

      will Hazuki be stuck in his state for a while longer.

      I’m actually hoping that Hazuki stays in the dreamworld for at least a couple more episodes.

      Reply
  4. alsozara

    Just caught up on this. Thanks for the annotations, I know nothing about thumbelina so this was enormously helpful. Really enjoying this show. One thing that’s really stood out to me is the background music, it’s fantastically poignant and really makes a lot of the scenes.

    On the point of every character being a flower, since Rokka is being portrayed as Thumbelina, it’s probably safe to associate her with tulips, so I wonder if what Miho said about tulips applies to Rokka. “In picture books and kids’ drawings, tulips are drawn modestly, but in real life, they’re huge and have plenty of punch when in bloom, you know?” Connecting Atsushi to the reference of picture books, could this be suggesting that Atsushi is limiting Rokka, or that his perception of Rokka doesn’t capture her full person?

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Since writing the post, I’ve oscillated between two positions: the dreamworld represents Atsushi, or the dreamworld represents Rokka. I’m still fixated on this idea that Atsushi’s a representation of Rokka’s pain. We see Rokka looking at a sketchbook in this episode before putting it away, reinforcing the idea that she’s truly the one who won’t let go of her late husband’s memories. In the previous episode, right before Hazuki and Atsushi swapped places, we see a younger Rokka approach Hazuki. What if this is Rokka’s way of letting Hazuki in? Allowing him to be privy to her inner space?

      Thumbelina’s the story of a young girl on a search for her prince. It would make me think that Rokka’s the author of the fairy tale. I mean, if the three animals (toad, beetle, mole) represent Atsushi in some fashion, would it hint at some latent anger in Rokka for her late husband’s death? What about the swallow? Would Atsushi realize that she needs to help herself… or does Rokka know deep down that she has to help herself, but she just won’t admit it yet? With your quote in mind, is it Atsushi who is limiting Rokka, or Rokka who thinks of herself as being more helpless than she actually is? In that sense, the scene at the end is unfinished because Rokka is in arrested development, i.e. her refusal to move on from her late husband.

      Reply
      1. alsozara

        Hmmm, I honestly hadn’t considered the possibility that the dreamworld reflected Rokka rather than Atsushi till I read this post. I’m still leaning towards it being Atsushi though. The image of Rokka as Thumbelina seems more like his perception that her perception of herself, the “magical pixie girl”, of sorts, who swept in and changed his life. You could potentially also see the animals as how Atsushi views Hazuki as things stand. The false suitor, of sorts. The one thing that I really can’t make sense of is why we see a glowing Rokka head towards Hazuki as Atsushi takes his body. Is this just drunken delusion? I doubt it, so I’d say that fits in with your theory a lot better.

        It’s a fascinating series so far, I really hope it holds its momentum.

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          You could potentially also see the animals as how Atsushi views Hazuki as things stand.

          Not sure I’m seeing this.

        2. Taka

          Actually this was how I viewed the episode as I watched it. Being unfamiliar with the Thumbelina I thought the transformations were a jab at Hazuki’s inadequacies as a suitor, but I’m not so sure now.

          Pure speculation but I got a scary feeling that this will play out exactly with Rokka re-falling in love with Atsushi. I felt this would be incompatible for when Hazuki returned to his body but perhaps he will go through a dramatic change while in the dreamworld. Still though, if this is the route the story takes it would feel rather cheap. On the other hand if she doesn’t re-fall in love where does that leave Hazuki? I guess it could have a “everyone goes their separate ways” ending too. idk These body swap episodes are interesting for how it lets Atsushi and Hazuki get to know each other, but honestly I hope it doesn’t last long enough for any major change in Rokka’s feelings toward Hazuki/Atsushi.

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