First Impressions: Natsuyuki Rendezvous

A noitaminA show about a ghost lingering around amongst the living and being a nuisance to their love lives because someone cannot let them go? Where have I seen that before?

It may be hard to believe that noitaminA used to be all about extending the target audience of its anime beyond the traditional young male demographic. Throughout the last decade, the timeslot built up a steady repertoire of quality slice-of-life drama, josei romance, thrillers and unconventional comedy shows. Though when the timeslot started being filled with more traditional and lacklustre shows like Guilty Crown, No. 6 or Fractale, many viewers started to feel that noitaminA had lost its magic. Last season’s holy duality of Kids on the Slope and Tsuritama put the timeslot back on the tracks and now it follows up on this victory with the miraculous return of an old favourite, and an ambitious new adaptation, which oozes the “noitaminA spirit from its every pore.

Natsuyuki Rendezvous, or Summer Snow Rendezvous, seems to have been conceived as the very incarnation of the timeslot’s original creed. Ryusuke Hazuki is an unmotivated, melancholic slacker in his twenties whose sole goal in life is to buy a flower from the local floral shop every day. Just like another Yuuichi Nakamura-voiced slacker gracing your screen this season, Ryusuke only goes out of his way to do this because he has a crush on the girl involved. When the shop reveals to be looking for a part-timer, Ryusuke is the first to apply. However, getting closer to the manager, Rakka, seems to be even harder than when he was just a passer-by, especially when Ryusuke finds out that Rakka’s deceased husband still follows her around, both as a lingering memory and an actual ghost.

Jun Fukyama and Yuuichi Nakamura are great together, especially with the voice acting being recorded before animating.

What follows is an enthralling second half in which Ryusuke and the ghost fire off one cynical jab after another at each other. Just like Ichiko and Momiji of Bimbou-gami ga!, these two are perfect foils to each other, but that is where the comparisons end. The humour in Natsuyuki Rendezvous is limited to some witticisms, which are more the result of the show’s excellent writing than they are of a deliberate attempt at being funny.  This becomes especially evident when it turns out that Rakka seems to remember her husband quite a bit differently than how Ryusuke perceives him.

Just where exactly Natsuyuki Rendezvous is going is not exactly clear to me just yet, but the character dynamics are gold and the subtly executed premise of a ghost having to observe another man getting closer to his wife – pardon the NTR vibes — while developing some sort of awkward friendly rivalry with said man has definitely caught my interest. This first episode was a bit slow and the potential for overwrought melodrama is definitely there, but Natsuyuki Rendezvous gets the benefit of my doubt.

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