Before you can arrange flowers, you must first mortally wound them. Or rather, we arrange them for having mortally wounded them in the first place. What a bitter irony then, isn’t it? In our search for beauty, we hurt. And to assuage that guilt, we do our best for the dying. But although flowers may survive in the water for quite some time, their death is inevitable — fait accompli. Eventually, the petals will fade and fall off. In the end, the stem will shrivel into a dried-out husk, a remnant of a former beauty.
In another way, I might have just described Atsushi. There’s a poignant scene near the end of the episode, where the dead husband recalls a distant moment with his former wife. Rokka first fell in love with Atsushi’s beautiful flower arrangements. She then fell in love with him. When he eventually handed her divorce papers, not wanting imprison her in a dying marriage, she tore them up without any hesitation. What kept her by his side? Like mortally-wounded flowers in water, Atsushi was going to die — his life only prolonged due to modern medicine. But perhaps at that point in time, Rokka had become his florist. He was a beautiful husband she was desperate to preserve.
Atsushi remembers Rokka telling him, “So this is what it means to arrange flowers like they’re still flowers.” The emphasis is mine. I believe that this is a telling quote. Tearing up the divorce papers appeared to have been a beautiful gesture of love — a declaration that their marriage will never die. But with him nearing death’s embrace, presumably bedridden and trapped within the confines of a hospital, the act does not and cannot change the fact that their marriage was dead or close to it. Like flowers, she simply “arranged it” so that it would appear as though they were still married.
When we think of flowers, we tend to think of them at their most ideal — at their peak bloom. A lot of flowers — not all, but a lot — quickly bloom, only to fade and give way to new buds. If you want to be poetic, you might compare it to passion. Passion “blooms” on you when you least expect it, but it quickly fades. You hope that it’ll give way to everlasting love, but who ever finds such an elusive thing? Unless I’m mistaken, the act of arranging flowers, then, seems to go directly against the way that things are — the way that things should be. By snipping the stem, you prevent new growth. You wish to preserve the flower in that very moment; you desire to make a physical memory out of it. In the universe of Natsuyuki Rendezvous, Atsushi is perhaps as real as anything. But he also represents a physical memory.
Of course, when I say “physical” here, I’m well aware of the fact that he is non-corporeal. Nevertheless, he is as “physical” as anything else in the sense that he effect change in the world around him — perhaps not with Rokka, whom he seems incapable of interacting directly with, but certainly with Hazuki. Even in the narrative sense, he functions as a device for recollections; many of his scenes involve an act of remembrance. When he sees Hazuki walking besides Rokka, he laments that his place — a memory — has been taken over by another.
And if Atsushi represents a physical memory, it’s very likely that a large part of his existence is due to Rokka herself. Atsushi recalls, “You told me not to leave then, so I decided not to go anywhere.” His decision, however, was dependent upon Rokka’s wishes. She’s the florist and her love life is now the flower. She can choose to move on or fight to preserve a memory — a memory of a dying husband. She seems to have chosen the latter. In scenes of the past, we see Rokka with longer hair. It’s likely that she cut it short after her husband passed away. Most people prefer longer hair on women. Is that, then, her act of defiance? Did Rokka snip her hair away like a florist might do to rose petals? Did she purposely or unknowingly make it more difficult for others to court her?
So what can you do when someone is fixated on the past? How do we jar them from their memories? Hazuki represents the new bud, the new passion, or the future. Early in the episode, Rokka even compares him to a flower in her store, but it’s important to keep in mind that this particular flower is still alive — a flower that is fickle and capricious. Another telling moment comes after a date. As they are walking through the woods, Rokka wonders if they’re going to have sex then blushes at the idea. Passionate sex can make her forget the memories that she’s unwilling to give up, and hell, sex was going to happen until Hazuki idiotically mentioned her dying husband. Nevertheless, passion drove Rokka to make the first move.
I’m going to step out of analysis mode for now and just talk about Hazuki. I still don’t like him. I think he’s either an asshole or a wimp — perhaps both. Atsushi tries to distract Hazuki by making funny faces. Strangely enough, this tactic works. It’s even funnier that Hazuki would have no problems whatsoever if he was blind (love is blind?). He says that anyone would lose the will to fight, but c’mon, nobody else can even see Atsushi. As far as Hazuki’s concerned, Atsushi might even just be all in his head. That’s not what I believe, but from Hazuki’s perspective, how does he even know that Atsushi’s real? How does Hazuki even know that he isn’t just inventing a reason, i.e. a rival, to give himself the necessary push that he needs in order to court Rokka?
The thing is… even if he does “win” Rokka, what then? Does he know how to love her? At one point, he says it himself that he doesn’t know how to make her happy. I wonder, then, if he isn’t just in love with the idea of being in love. In that sense, Rokka is just a target. That’s not to say that Hauzki can’t develop later on in the series — further down the road — into a person who can properly love another human being. At the moment, however, he is just plainly an asshole. Why else would he utter something as ridiculous and offensive as “I’m gonna make her forget all about her pathetic husband.” Because, to him, it’s mostly a competition.
So what do I take away from this episode? Atsushi, Rokka and Hazuki each represent the past, present and future respectively. I predict that Atsushi will become increasingly frustrated by the fact that he can’t help Rokka when she needs someone there to pick her up. Atsushi is real, but at the same time, he’s also just a memory — a memory that Rokka doesn’t want to forget. It is for that very reason that she feels guilty about potentially hooking up with Hazuki. As a result, she tries to come up with irrelevant excuses like the fact that Hazuki happens to be eight years younger than her. Finally, Hazuki is the new passion, but like the ever-changing, capricious future, he’s immature. Like a new bud, he’s not ready to be Rokka’s lover. I personally believe that, at the moment, he mostly sees her as a conquest. He’ll need to grow — to become the present, if you will — in order to stand besides her like Atsushi once did.