Natsuyuki Rendezvous: What’s Left of the Pure Love Boom?

Hazuki x Flowers is the true end. Feel free to quote me on this.

Back in 2004, Sekai Chuushin De Ai Wo Sakebu (published by Viz Media as Socrates in Love) captured the hearts of many Japanese women (and men). Around the same time, the South Korean drama Winter Sonata also gained a massive following with its main audience consisting mostly of older women.

This phenomenon has been dubbed as the Jun’ai Boom, or the Pure Love boom– referring to the pure and enduring love depicted in them. Even after eight years, I personally believe that this trend has persisted in Japanese media in various ways.

I’m the type who usually steer clear of romance in anime and I so can’t say I’ve seen the ‘pure love boom’ affect the animated medium. Anime is still doing what anime does best. But it stories like Natsuyuki Rendezvous are rare.

But what does Natsuyuki Rendezvous have to do with the pure love boom? If you ask me, it’s one of those shows that would’ve perfectly fit the bill in the early 2000’s but it’s 2012 now and I suppose it was a wise choice to adapt it to anime, a medium that isn’t saturated by sad love stories of sad people but with stories of highschool hijinks and harem antics. Perhaps we’re going to see a pure love boom in anime?

Atsushi represents everything the jun’ai trend has stood for. He is in the form of a ‘ghost’, neither dead or alive– stuck in between. And then we have Rokka, the widowed florist– another character who hasn’t completely transitioned from past to present. If anything, Hazuki is the present– but he is not necessarily the future. If everyone is placed in a state of uncertainty, we are compelled to see them move from one stage to another.

Natsuyuki shares a number similarities with SekaChuu as well. From lingering memories, a preserved photo and a person waiting in the present as well. Atsushi is the Aki of Natsuyuki Rendezvous, but by giving him a voice and a consciousness in the present we see someone who is almost childlike with his attachment to his (technically) ex-wife. It feels as if just like Aki– they represent something more innocent. Episode 3 slightly skews this perspective though. We see Atsushi enraged and it’s a frightening spectacle. It’s a nicely done subversion of a character we usually associate with gentleness.

Hazuki’s actions are reasonable, but he’s almost too self-centered at the moment. I’m glad he asked himself if he could make Rokka happy, at least there’s progress in his character. I laughed when invited Rokka to the amusement park, DAT QUALITY WRITING.

In the end I believe that like Saku finally moving on– everything will have to depend on Rokka and her decisions. Regardless of whether she ends up with Hazuki or not, she will have to let go of Atsushi and none of her actions have suggested that since she still feels like someone simply in the middle of this. There are a lot of episodes left, so it should be good to see her struggling like Hazuki and Atsushi.

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  1. “Perhaps we’re going to see a pure love boom in anime?”
    Hah, you wish! I’m betting all my money on otaku shows with serious overtones (Madoka Magica, Fate/zero, Steins;Gate), otaku melodrama shows in general (Ano Hana, Hanasaku Iroha) and pandering shows going to the point where every female being always has red cheeks (BokuTomo, OreImo). Most unambitious and overly generic harem anime or the likes don’t do well as far as sales are concerned in this day and age.

    I’m still a little bit suspicious about this one: I just can’t imagine how they are going to fill in 8 more episodes. They better stay away from some nonsense twists. I especially disliked the idea of turning Shimao into a poltergeist. It does help a lot with the tension and somehow puts him on more equal ground with Hazuki, but that’s not good writing.

    • Oh well, so much for wishful thinking! orz

      I’m a bit iffy on the writing, it’s been 4 episodes but I’m not compelled by the human drama and I’m seeing little progress. It isn’t necessarily a bad show, but there’s little that’s keeping me interested as of the moment.

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