What They Say:
Hazuki may be near-sighted, but he knows true beauty when he sees it. The delicate form of flower shop owner Rokka draws him in like a bee to honey. Hoping to cultivate a relationship between them, Hazuki takes a part-time job at her shop only to discover two huge thorns preventing the nurturing of any romance. The first, the fact that Rokka is still grieving for her late husband Shimao, would be enough to snip most men’s ardor short, but it’s the second that really threatens to make Hazuki’s forlorn hopes wilt. While Shimao is most definitely deceased, he hasn’t yet departed, and his spirit is still living in Rokka’s apartment!
Only Hazuki can see him, which leads to a very strange romantic triangle indeed. Are Hazuki’s chances with Rokka as dead as the man who still lives in her house? Or can he somehow make love blossom even though there’s an interloper pushing up the daisies between them? One way or another, the ground’s going to be rocky and someone or something’s likely to get nipped in the bud!
Contains episodes 1-11.
The audio presentation for this release is a straightforward stereo mix where we only get the original Japanese language track encoded using the DTS-HD MA lossless codec. The series revolves around dialogue in general with little beyond that, but there are times where the dialogue is nicely handled as it deals with placement related to how Shimao floats about. That gives it some nice touches from time to time, but the bulk of the show is your standard center channel based work that gives off a full feeling. The opening and closing songs give us a little bit more warmth and use out of the left and right channels though, which is nice. As a whole, the series handles its audio mix well with it being very dialogue driven that comes through cleanly and clearly during playback.
Originally airing in 2012, the transfer for this TV series is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 in 1080p using the AVC codec. The eleven episode show is on just one disc, which works well enough as there’s only one language track and little in the way of extras. Animated by Dogakobo, the show has a look that was very appealing when I first saw it in simulcast form because of the pop and vibrancy with all the flowers and the green of the leaves. That carries through well here and the show as a whole has a great color palette to it in the real world and a good one in the otherworld that it’s easy to just sit back and enjoy the experiences. Colors are largely solid throughout with just a few areas of minor noise in some of the blue sky backgrounds, line noise is pretty immaterial here and the show simply has the kind of pop it needs to stand out and look alive and vibrantin an engaging way.
The packaging for this release mirrors the previous DVD release as we get the great shot inside the front of the flower shop where Rokka is in the center as Hazuki is kneeling to her right working and Shimao is floating up a bit to her left. This sets the dynamic clear about what’s going on, the supernatural aspect of it that you might not catch right away and the appealing background with all the earthy colors of the shop and the plants within. The back cover has a pretty dense summary of the premise in a small font and a decent selection of small shots from the show as well so you can get a feel for things well enough between the two. The borders bring us a lot of appealing flowers while the bottom has the standard production credits and a solid technical grid. No show related inserts are included nor is there a reversible cover.
The menu design for this release is certainly a mood setter in just being something that’s a little mellow and relaxed rather than something creepy or oppressive, which it could be. The bulk of it is given over to the artwork piece on the right that has an illustration of Rokka tending to the flowers, which means a lot of color – though no greens. The soft beige background works well enough with all the empty space since part of it is filled up with the simple but effective logo. The left side has the navigation strip, which doubles as the pop-up strip, has the episode going down from the top by number with the word episode next to it. It also uses some of what we see on the other part of the menu with a line of flowers coming down it in illustrated form, so it’s colorful but subdued. This looks good when used during playback as the pop-up menu as it adds a little extra life and appeal to the menu design.
The only extras included here are the clean versions of the opening and closing sequences.
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Based on the josei manga series by Haruka Kawach which ran for three years in Feel Young magazine, Natsuyuki is a new eleven episode series from studio Dogakobo that we saw back when it was simulcast on a weekly basis. Josei series are few and far between overall but they tend to have strong, cult followings that can sometimes break out into something a bit more mainstream as well, such as Princess Jellyfish. Natsuyuki Rendezvous caught my eye early on for its character designs but also the fact that it takes place around a flower shop, leading to some very appealing promotional artwork that sold itself well enough for me to want to see what it’s all going to be about.
The series revolves around a primary pair of characters along with an intriguing third. The show starts off well enough, introducing us to Rokka, a young woman who owns a flower shop that does good business and certainly is an attractive, but not overdone, place. She doesn’t have a lot of help there, but she’s ably assisted by Hazuki, a young man who is definitely good at his job but has a slightly dour look to him at times that feels a little off. He comes across as a decent guy, but there’s something really intriguing about him. While his eyesight is not what it should be, he also has an extra special perception. When Rokka invites him over to her place to get together for some shopping, he’s surprised and hurt that she has a half dressed man there with her. While he’s interested in her, he’s not about to really compete for her if she’s playing like this.
The trick here is that the other man, Atsushi, is actually Rokka’s dead husband that only Hazuki can see. While Hazuki has an interest in her, she’s still focused just on her feelings for her husband. Hazuki doesn’t have a clue about this for awhile though and it just regretting taking the part time job here based solely on his attraction to Rokka. When he does learn of the truth about Atsushi, there’s a disbelief about it he has deal with before finally accepting it. It could be done for laughs or great humor, but there’s a laid back kind of approach to it, especially since Hazuki is the first person that has ever seen Atsushi. So Atsushi takes to hanging out with him since he sees the potential that’s going on as well. This leads to some amusing visuals, especially when Atsushi’s feet are the only thing visible, just hanging in the air above Hazuki, but it also has a sad feeling to it as Hazuki learns more about the Shimao family past, which in turn draws him more towards Rokka.
The series is one that works a pretty good angle here overall as it focuses on the idea of loss, how it can slow you down in the present with your future and impact other relationships. The early part of the series focuses a lot on the way that Hazuki has to deal with Atsushi floating about and trying to get in the way of things so as to throw off Hazuki. Which he does, from time to time, which makes for some very amusing moments for the viewer and often confusing moments for Rokka. But we also see though pieces of events just how intent Hazuki is on getting closer to Rokka since he has a lot to deal with. He does get a little help from Rokka’s sister in law, Atsushi’s younger sister who helps out in the shop from time to time, as she nudges Hazuki in the right direction on how to try and make progress with Rokka.
Rokka herself is in a difficult place and we get the exploration of how she’s committed much of her life to Atsushi since there’s time spent with how his life went with his illness and just the kinds of things she’s done to carry on his memory, from the shop itself in a lot of ways to keeping his effects and room in ideal shape. She’s at that phase of starting to let go though as Hazuki’s persistence is definitely making inroads with her, but the biggest complication comes into play when, in a moment of drunkenness, Hazuki agrees to Atsushi’s request to let him use his body to try and find closure in his life. That leads to where the series, in its simulcast form for me, didn’t work as well. The main arc does work as we see how Atsushi changes Hazuki’s appearance a touch to feel more like himself, and he manages to get weirdly close to Rokka as she senses something different and familiar about him, and the two of them have a real up and down experience over this since Atsushi is truly intent on never giving up on her or on the body he’s now acquired.
The less interesting arc is what happens to Hazuki himself through all of this. When he gives up control of his body to Atsushi, he ends up in a dream-like world with a variation on Rokka in her younger days there. This does have some interesting material to it as we see how far back Hazuki’s interest in her goes and the lengths he went to in order to get to know her more. But with it being a dream world of sorts with its own agenda that’s revealed towards the end as his own existence is obviously threatened, it really hampers Hazuki’s story overall. Understanding him a bit more helps, but a lot of it just feels like it’s spinning its wheels overall rather than really telling an engaging story. It does manage the dreamlike quality well, but as we see more of the truths of this world, the less meaning a lot of it has.
Natsuyuki Rendezvous has its moments where you can’t be sure of where it’s going to go, but largely it is somewhat predictable in terms of its ending. What it does really well throughout though is the journey itself. Giving us a story about adults in complicated stages of life and relationships, lingering love that was lost and the oppressive feeling of a spirit hanging around that’s going to go to any length to get what he wants, well, it all comes together in a pretty good way. There’s no “great” character here as everyone is flawed in some way and struggling with existence (or lack of existence in Atsushi’s case), but I love that it’s a story that really does deal with loss, trying to get past barriers that have been built and the intensity of love that can span across death. While some aspects are less than ideal for me in how it’s presented, the show as a whole is a really good one that’s beautifully animated and has a good sense of pacing as it reveals itself.
Japanese DTS-HD MA 2.0 Language, English Subtitles, Clean Opening, Clean Closing
Content Grade: B+
Audio Grade: B
Video Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Menu Grade: B
Extras Grade: B-
Released By: Sentai Filmworks
Release Date: November 4th, 2014
Running Time: 275 Minutes
Video Encoding: 1080p AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 Widescreen
Sony KDL70R550A 70″ LED 1080P HDTV, Sony PlayStation3 Blu-ray player via HDMI set to 1080p, Onkyo TX-SR605 Receiver and Panasonic SB-TP20S Multi-Channel Speaker System With 100-Watt Subwoofer.