Natsuyuki Rendezvous Ep. 8: The thin red line

Hm, not quite annotations this time. Rather, I have a few loosely-related ideas to present.

• Atsushi prefers katakana to hiragana because he wants to emulate the ornateness apparently typical of Western script. I’m not really sure I see his point, but okay. Well, I mean, calligraphy has a certain art to it, does it not? I’m not sure why, then, he couldn’t pretend to do the same with hiragana. Atsushi also claims that katakana reflects his mood, but I’m not entirely sure what that means. In general, katakana is used for foreign words or onomatopoeia. Perhaps this ties into Atsushi’s reasoning in some way.

• The desire to be ornate or “decorative,” as Atsushi puts it, makes sense though. We know that the guy loves flower arrangements. He also seems to have a liking for fairy tales. “Decorative” writing should be right up his alley, then! But I think it’s more than Atsushi simply being a male character that bucks the norms of masculinity. Rather, he seems to have an obsession with death. Duh, you’re probably thinking. After all, he had a terminal disease and was seemingly confined to his hospital bed in his last few days. So what do flower-arranging, fairy tales and fancy scripting have to do with death?

We’ve previously discussed how in order to even arrange flowers, you have to first mortally wound them. Flower arrangements are thus like Atsushi in the sense they will eventually die. Of course, everyone will eventually die, but arranged flowers will die sooner rather later. This was certainly true of Atsushi.

What about fairy tales then? Fairy tales often begin with the phrase “Once upon a time….” These stories, then, are necessarily confined to the past. I think for someone like Atsushi, it would be difficult for him to dream of the future. In fact, his best days were probably in his youth. Therefore, it wouldn’t be out of the question that the guy would often entertain himself through fairy tales, re-appropriating his hopes and dreams in the world of the fantastic.

Finally, we come to the ornateness of language: why does Atsushi like his writing to be “decorative?” Y’know, it pains me to reference it, but I will have to remind you of Kamisama no Memo-chou, a mediocre anime that featured a midget detective girl and her ability to uncover “the lost words of the dead.” The last part of what I’ve just said is what interests me. The written word is transfixed upon a piece of paper; it can be seen as inert (this is certainly debatable, but I don’t think the discussion would really be relevant to our topic). Like the written word, Atsushi must have believed he would become just another footprint in people’s memories. So how does this all tie together?

All of this seems to speak to the idea of arrested development. Atsushi necessarily suffered from arrested development because he had to die at such a young age. As a result, he grow as a person; it was impossible. The only thing he could do to alleviate that trauma was by idealizing the past. As such, he arranged flowers, i.e. he made the best of something that was clearly going to die. He entertained himself with sketches of fairy tales because they offered a window to a world of possibilities whereas he was often confined to a hospital bed. Finally, the ornateness of words just fits. Atsushi didn’t really have a lot of time to spend on the mortal plane. He thus had to make the best of anything he left behind, including his words. In that sense, Atsushi was idealizing himself.

• Last week, an anonymous commentator compared Rokka to a plotted plant, i.e. her inability to grow beyond her environment. The metaphor makes sense since Rokka seems to tie herself to a flower shop despite the fact that it doesn’t seem to be making her very much money. A few episodes ago, dreamworld Rokka told a story of how Atsushi was torn over the fact that he could not get one of his plants to grow for a class assignment. His classmates, on the other hand, succeeded where he could not. Imagine, then, the same idea applied to Rokka. Y’know, you get married to a woman (or a man, depending on your orientation) and you hope to grow old with her together — maybe even have a few kids. Due to his condition, however, Atsushi couldn’t realize this dream. So Atsushi sees himself as having failed twice: once, to help a plant grow, and the second time with Rokka.

There’s no reason, however, for Rokka to be in a state of arrested development. After all, he’s not suffering from a terminal disease. She’s only trapped within her world because she won’t let go of Atsushi. So while that potted plant might represent Rokka in Atsushi’s eyes, it may represent Atsushi in Rokka’s eyes. It is one of her many mementos of her dead husband. In stealing the potted plant, Atsushi steals away a part of himself from Rokka, but of course, he’s only aiming to — I think — free her if we are to believe what the OP seems to have been suggesting this entire time. This idea is only reinforced when dreamworld Rokka cries, “Because a part of him really does want the princess to be free.”

• So what are we to make of dreamworld Rokka anyway? Is she a prisoner of Atsushi’s fantasy? Is she confined to the neverending story in his sketchbook, i.e. a dreamscape turned nightmare. The episode suggests that Rokka has no power over her size and perhaps her appearance as well. But what is this dreamworld Rokka? Certainly, it cannot be a manifestation of Rokka herself. Rather, would it be some aspect of Atsushi’s personality instead? When Hazuki pets her head, is he instead bonding with the dead husband on some subconscious level? If that’s the case, wouldn’t that be interesting?

• Dreamworld Rokka warns Hazuki that he can be trapped here forever if he loses himself to his memories. This understandably freaks Hazuki out. I think the threat is interesting though. Atsushi is necessarily transfixed on the past because he had no future and still doesn’t. Rokka is transfixed on the past even though she doesn’t have to be. Rather, she just can’t get over the trauma of losing her husband. What’s Hazuki’s excuse then? He has none. He has no reason whatsoever to lose himself to the past like the other two. He has no reason either to settle for second place.

So why did he see a crying Rokka, the same Rokka that he saw at the amusement park? This is not something that Atsushi should have any knowledge of since he couldn’t follow his wife and Hazuki on their date. As such, the crying Rokka is not a part of Atsushi’s dreamworld at all. Rather, it is a yet another part of Hazuki’s memories, but perhaps one that spurs him on. This is probably why he responds differently this time and yells, “So what? This has nothing to do with whether I throw in the towel or not.” He then dives feet first (though he goes in head first) into the abyss and away from the painful memory. Y’know, when we obsess over the past, we tend to pity ourselves, i.e. “Poor me; she rejected me at the amusement park.” On that note, maybe Hazuki is done self-pitying himself.

Hazuki is no longer content with just standing around, and this seems to echo the idea that he has to emerge from the dead husband’s shadows. I think I’ve speculated before that the problem between Hazuki and Rokka — besides the latter’s passivity, of course — was how the former approached the uncanny valley. He was similar enough to Atsushi to pique Rokka’s interest, but different enough in ways that he became an abjection. In saying to himself, “I’ll do what I can, and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work… since I’d hate to follow in the ghost’s footsteps,” Hazuki seems to hint at the idea that he’ll distinguish himself from Atsushi. Another problem I had with Hazuki was that he seemed to be more obsessed with competing against Atsushi than really winning Rokka’s love on his own terms. In saying, “…if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work…,” Hazuki is perhaps moving beyond that silly rivalry and just going after Rokka for its own sake.

• The episode makes a big deal out of dreamworld Rokka shrinking, but it should also be noted that Hazuki is now bigger than the flower pot, i.e. the same pot that towered over him in the previous episode — the same pot he pushed against futilely. What should we make of this?

• Some ideas to think about… Hazuki suddenly sees Rokka and Atsushi walking side-by-side atop a red line, i.e. the red string of fate. In other words, the two are necessarily tied to each other. We see this manifest in the real world as well. Atsushi is on some “pilgrimage;” he said last week that he hopes to clean up his own mess, so we can speculate that he aims to put that potted plant down somewhere. We just don’t know where. It is, however, probably a place he cherished in his childhood. Maybe it’s even a place that he and Rokka once talked about visiting. Either way, he is on a metaphorical journey into the past. This is, I think, interesting because Atsushi has already died. In that sense, he has completed the same “pilgrimage” that a lot of us are on, i.e. to our eventual deaths (oh, it’s not so bad!).

What we see now in the anime, however, is a reversal of that “pilgrimage.” Regardless of where Atsushi ends up, he will have come back to life from being a ghost, travel to some location in his past, then presumably die. In the the OP, we see a young child digging into the ground with a familiar-looking plant by his side. Imagine, then, that Atsushi returns to a place he once visited as a kid. In doing so, he also returns to a time in his youth. Let’s say he puts the potted plant into the ground, thereby freeing Rokka from her ties to him, which will finally untangle him from any earthly ties. The only difference this time is that he will have de-aged. But in that case, the potted plant takes on a whole new meaning. It may no longer present Rokka in Atsushi’s eyes. Perhaps it is now him, i.e he’s freeing himself by putting the plant back into Mother Earth. In effect, he de-ages and returns to the womb (of nature). In another sense, he gives himself a second burial.

Rokka is, however, tied to Atsushi through the red string of fate. In fact, she is using her own memories to locate him, i.e. she’s transfixed by the past yet again. She even uses the train to follow Atsushi. Trains have all sorts of metaphorical significance. They are on-rails, so you can interpret it as a physical representation of the red string of fate. Trains also revisit the same locations everyday, every month, every year till kingdom come… well, not necessarily, but you know what I mean. Is Rokka making the same mistakes by following Atsushi? Will Hazuki show up somehow and cut that red string of fate? At one point, we see two red strings of fate. Maybe Hazuki can just convince Rokka to follow a different (but parallel?) path instead.

• Another idea to ponder: the hole at the bottom of flower pots allows for water to drain out. Hazuki has been floating in a body of water for quite some time now before jumping into the drainage hole. Will he end up emerging (sprouting?) from the ground just as Atsushi is burying himself?

• On a slightly-unrelated note, the dream sequences this week remind me why I am always enamored by the possibilities of animation despite my apparent negativity towards anime in general. Imagine trying to do these scenes in live action. Without a big budget, it would be hard right? Had this show been a live drama instead, it would’ve totally been corny. Animation thus allows for us to capture the unreal without approaching that uncanny valley simply because it is upfront about its lacking of realness. Well, if that previous sentence made no sense to you, no matter.

We don’t have very many episodes left to go.

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15 thoughts on “Natsuyuki Rendezvous Ep. 8: The thin red line

  1. tokyojupiter

    Is Rokka really tied to Atsushi though? It seemed to me that Hazuki and Rokka are more linked, it’s just Rokka is too distracted by the ghost to notice that she is connected to Hazuki.

    I really do enjoy these posts of yours. Though with each passing episode I am reminded why I dislike watching anime on a weekly basis (I prefer watching in a marathon) since the wait for the next episode is rough.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Rokka keeps his flower shop open even when it’s not doing all too well. She doesn’t just merely keep his stuff around; she has kept his office/room exactly the same after all these years. I mean, yes, I agree that she has some chemistry with Hazuki, but to a certain extent, I don’t think she’s gotten over Atsushi.

      Reply
      1. tokyojupiter

        Oh, I was referring specifically to your bullet point about the “red string of fate.” Rokka is walking and on the line, and so is Hazuki, but Atsushi is floating beside her. Maybe I’m splitting hairs but that’s why I interpreted it that Rokka and Hazuki have a better connection since they’re physically connected whereas Atsushi isn’t (anymore).

        Reply
        1. E Minor Post author

          I see it more as Rokka and Atsushi as a pairing are a step ahead of Rokka and Hazuki as a pairing, i.e. Hazuki settling for second place which ties into an incident earlier in the series. More importantly, if he continues to pursue Rokka down this same line, he’d just be repeating what she and Atsushi have already been though. The parallel red line might then suggest that he should convince her to join him in forging a different fate. Of course, this is all speculation.

        2. tokyojupiter

          That theory doesn’t sound too far-fetched. And isn’t speculation part & parcel of anime blogging anyway; if I didn’t want to read it, I would’ve stopped commenting already.

        3. E Minor Post author

          And isn’t speculation part & parcel of anime blogging anyway; if I didn’t want to read it, I would’ve stopped commenting already.

          It’s just a habit born from years of people charging me with the heinous crime of making stuff up because, y’know, an anime blog is supposed to be a bastion of facts and objectivity.

  2. Andmeuths

    Anime blogs a BASTION of OBJECTIVITY? Please excuse me while I roll around laughing. (=

    Anyway, Rendezvous is an interesting show – it takes a plot one might more commonly expect to see in a non-anime East Asian Drama, More properly speaking, it’s plot isn’t exactly mainstream, but I think anime needs more shows like this. Hopefully, if the backlash against the Otaku Pandering trends in anime in recent history goes beyond mere parody, satire and deconstruction into something more substantial, we will see more Animes in the vein of a Chihayafuru, Apollon or Rendezvous.

    Indeed, your point about how the anime medium is particularly suited for executing a plot such as Rendezvous, with it’s dense metaphoric symbolism and extended “dream” sequences visually speaking raises an interesting point in it’s own: is the anime medium being underutilized, and being overly dominated by a certain “wish fulfillment” phenomena of which Harem Hill is chock full of examples of? When it can do far, far more, as Rendezvous demonstrates.

    I’d suggest that many non Japanese watch anime precisely because some animes reflect plots more mature, interesting and fascinating than what we see in some other, more conventional mediums of pop culture. Which might be why non-Japanese anime commentators have a generally negative attitude to anything that even has a wiff of Otaku Pandering – Guilty, unless otherwise proven Innocent, so to speak.

    Still, one hopes that Rendezvous DOES sell well, even if this might be a naive hope.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      is the anime medium being underutilized, and being overly dominated by a certain “wish fulfillment” phenomena of which Harem Hill is chock full of examples of?

      Eh, I don’t like to dictate how a genre is supposed to look. That would be like me telling artists what to paint (criticism is another thing altogether). On the other hand, most shows are visually very similar and Natsuyuki Rendezvous isn’t all that different. I just don’t want to overstate the show’s uniqueness, because I think we can push the boundaries even further. Beyond the dream sequences and the silly hats, Natsuyuki Rendezvous still has a similar visual style to most other shows; basically, it’s no Kaiba or Tekkonkinkreet.

      I’d suggest that many non Japanese watch anime precisely because some animes reflect plots more mature, interesting and fascinating than what we see in some other, more conventional mediums of pop culture.

      That’s what people will tell you, but we are not always upfront about our true feelings. It sounds much better to say that one likes anime because it’s mature versus “I like anime because it really does pander to me.” I mean, c’mon, if people want to sit here and tell me that SAO is more “mature” than Adventure Time, I will laugh. The brutal murders of beta players and two years worth of glopping semen does not make something mature.

      Still, one hopes that Rendezvous DOES sell well, even if this might be a naive hope.

      Naturally. But it is unfortunate on another level that animation has all these barriers of entry. Other mediums can afford to take risks because it isn’t expensive to pick up a paintbrush. It isn’t even that cost-prohibitive to pick up a digital camera. I suppose this is where manga would come in and save the day, but it’s too bad I dislike the act of reading manga (not from any objective standpoint; I just hate it).

      Reply
  3. alsozara

    As always your analysis is extremely helpful and is really fleshing out the show for me. Very much agreed with your final point about animation. Shows like this one offer a pleasant reminder for why we’re in this.

    Re your point about Natsuyuki being no Kaiba or Tekkonkinkreet, while I loved both of those, I find Natsuyuki more aesthetically pleasing. Is it an issue that it doesn’t push boundaries further if what it does suits the subject material?

    Back on the topic of Natsuyuki itself, I don’t like the idea of Atsushi freeing Rokka. That seems to be taking her own faculties away from her. What’s more, I’m having trouble seeing what the solution to all this is going to be. The reality is that Rokka will probably always love Atsushi, it’s not as simple as just “moving on”. She certainly has to mentally separate Hazuki from Atsushi, and not treat him as a replacement. I can’t help but feel that the show’s biggest issue is how little driving force Rokka herself has had, and while we’ve had serious hints that this is going to be rectified, I’m still a little worried that it won’t be. Especially since we’re three episodes from the end and she still hasn’t started having more of an input.

    What’s more, I’m not sure I like where Hazuki’s development is going. His problem never struck me as being too inactive or wallowing in self-pity. He’s been extremely active so far, it’s one of the few things about his character I have found extremely appealing and quite admirable, and is it wrong for him to be sympathising with Atsushi? He looked like he was on the verge of thinking about letting Atsushi have his body so that he and Rokka could be together. This was described as the “unthinkable”. I find this a little perplexing too, since it seems like a natural thought to have. If Hazuki really was only out for Rokka’s happiness, shouldn’t this be a consideration?

    Isn’t Hazuki’s biggest problem that he seems to have been in it for some questionable motives, and can he bring Rokka happiness as he currently is? He needs to mature, and part of that should probably be getting some actual goals outside of his quest to get with Rokka.

    Of course, these are mere nitpicks of what has been an absolutely outstanding show, and it’s far from over yet.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      Re your point about Natsuyuki being no Kaiba or Tekkonkinkreet, while I loved both of those, I find Natsuyuki more aesthetically pleasing. Is it an issue that it doesn’t push boundaries further if what it does suits the subject material?

      The discussion wasn’t necessarily about which shows are more aesthetically pleasing, but it is certainly your prerogative to equate the aesthetically pleasing with being superior in quality. In any case, I am merely trying to say that we shouldn’t overstate Natsuyuki Rendezvous‘ uniqueness because it certainly pales in comparison to a lot of other anime out there.

      His problem never struck me as being too inactive or wallowing in self-pity.

      Really? Before Atsushi showed up, he didn’t do a damn thing to get Rokka’s attention. He did eventually become active, but it struck me that he was being active for all the wrong reasons. Then when Rokka turned him down, he seemed to turn to self-pity at that point. You have to be pretty down in the dumps to let a ghost take over your body!

      If Hazuki really was only out for Rokka’s happiness, shouldn’t this be a consideration?

      I’m not sure that’s healthy.

      Back on the topic of Natsuyuki itself, I don’t like the idea of Atsushi freeing Rokka. That seems to be taking her own faculties away from her.

      You know how I stand on this issue from the very start. I’ve always said I think Rokka should take matters into her own hands. By presenting the idea that Atsushi may free Rokka, I’m not necessarily endorsing the idea myself. On the other hand, the idea is just a possibility. Atsushi may just end up freeing himself for all I know. But even if he does have a hand in freeing Rokka from him, it’s not necessarily the case that he does it without her playing any significant role.

      Especially since we’re three episodes from the end and she still hasn’t started having more of an input.

      Well, you can also put a lot of the blame squarely on the two men in her life if this happens to be the case. They chose to leave her in the dark after all. There’s little she can do when she knows little to nothing. Perhaps now that she has some idea that Atsushi exists in some form, she’ll be more proactive.

      Isn’t Hazuki’s biggest problem that he seems to have been in it for some questionable motives, and can he bring Rokka happiness as he currently is? He needs to mature, and part of that should probably be getting some actual goals outside of his quest to get with Rokka.

      Well, I still see the ending as “I’ll do my best for Rokka and if it works out, it works out. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.” This seems to be a step up from the sort of self-flagellating devotion that lovers seem to find romantic.

      Reply
  4. Foxy Lady Ayame

    The katakana format, I take a guess, might denote how Atsushi a) is estranged from any activity his classmates and generally peers did, b) feels his life is a loan and imposes on others.

    Great analysis of Natsuyuki. You rekindled my feelings of interest in this series, I must admit.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      You rekindled my feelings of interest in this series, I must admit.

      That’s good because I don’t know very many people who watching this show.

      Reply
  5. seelosopher

    Oh, KamiMemo… Yet another show that should’ve called it a day right after debuting, and not mess things up with the rest of the series. But let’s take mini-Rokka’s advice and not dwell in the past.

    I loved the scene with the red strings in this episode, but what I understood from when the parallel line appeared was that Hazuki was considering jumping over to another path; taking on a different approach to the one he’s been up to. After all, he did mention he would like to walk beside Rokka and not be treading on the same steps as her and Atsushi, and I do believe he could have something to teach both of them in terms of not living in the past and instead embracing what may come, even if it isn’t what they consider ideal.

    This is what I hope Hazuki would embark on: his own path. At first I thought it might be Rokka who should leave everything behind, but now I’m on Hazuki’s side. He should jump onto the other line, even if it leads him away from Rokka.

    On another note, did you actually like Tekkonkinkreet? I’ve heard it getting some praise, but I thought it a self-fellating bore.

    Reply
    1. E Minor Post author

      It’s been a while so I can’t really comment on the story anymore, but I do remember really enjoying the animation itself.

      Reply

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