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?