Posted by psgels on 13 September 2012 with categories: Anime Reviews, Natsuyuki Rendezvous



The Noitamina timeslot started back in 2005, as an attempt to air series aimed at an older audience than usual. It was a wide success and spawned many awesome series. Then, in 2011 something happened: Fractale aired. It was alongside Hourou Musuko of course, but Fractale is the best symbol for the timeslot as it headed into a completely different direction, making shows about teenagers like what every other anime was doing. There were exceptions like Usagi Drop and Un-Go, but the general new shift in style was definitely noticeable. Until the Summer of 2012, that is. The past three months, we got to see Noitamina return back to its roots. And it was awesome.

Setting aside Moyashimon, Natsuyuki Rendezvous pretty much delivered one of the two best shows of the year, leaving every other series miles behind. It’s just so well made. The production company may be Dogakobo, these guys manage to deliver the best animation they’ve ever done. The characters are drawn incredibly expressive and they come wonderfully to life. And that can be added to the fact that this series is directed by Kou Matsuo, whose series often have this interesting habit of recording the voices before the animation is made. The result is fantastic acting with voice actors who instead of focusing on matching the flaps, can focus on interacting with each other. This show has brilliant characterizations overall.

And realyl, the story knows what it is. It’s deceptively simple from the outside, with very little unneccessary twists. It knows exactly what kind of story it wants to tell and has paced this out perfectly with hardly any moment wasted or rushed turing its 11-episode run. Instead of random twists, it thrives on letting the characters just interact with each other and create their own tension. It has nailed their background and gradual development, and it really succeeded in creating an awesome romance based on the three main characters who feel real and down to earth.

The thing also is, that I can’t think of any real criticism for it. Perhaps there are times at which one of the characters, Hazuki, becomes a bit too forceful, but really: we’re givern plenty of explanation for him to act that way and his acting is really consistent thoughout the series. Heck, if there is anything such as perfection, then this series comes closest to it this year. It’s a must-watch if you’re into realistic drama. It’s not for everyone obviously: if you want action, then don’t bother. However, I do believe that this is the kind of series that can attract people who normally aren’t into romance, but are interested into the genre.

Storytelling: 9/10 – Goldilocks pacing: neither too fast nor too slow. Really manages to let its characters tell its story.
Characters: 10/10 – Fantastic voice acting, amazing chemistry, wonderful drama.
Production-Values: 9/10 – Very expressive and detailed animation throughout the entire series.
Setting: 8.5/10 – Down to earth and very believable, with a great idea to base its romance on that it uses really well.

Suggestions:
Aoi Hana
Sakamichi no Apollon
Hourou Musuko

35 Responses

  1. Avatar TheUltimateReaper says:

    And so, we reach the end. Really nothing to complain about here. Certainly some of the top tier quality. It still isn’t my personal favorite of this year, but that’s only because I don’t watch anime for this sort of story. It hurts too much. There were many fantastic moments, that were very moving. I loved this series, and it really moved my heart. I wasn’t expecting the ending or epilogue it’s nice to know what happened afterward. What surprised me is that Atsushi stayed behind so long.

    • Avatar wicked says:

      Yeah, When I first read it, Atsushi stuck around was the biggest surprise. It’s implied that if the room was clean out, he’d move on as well. I personally could not understand how he could stick around to see Hazuki and Rokka be lovey-dovey and have children. Hazuki dying before Rokka was a surprise for me too. I mean I realize women generally lived longer, but Hazuki did have a bit of an age difference with Rokka

    • Avatar Scruffy says:

      It seems that Hazuki and Rokka both allowed him to stay. They set aside his room and closed it up, almost like a shrine to him. I can imagine through the years that he would still interact with Hazuki. Still it would have been a very lonely existence for him.

  2. Avatar Dop says:

    This show was pretty much exactly the kind of “anime for grown-ups” that probably wouldn’t have a home if not for the Noitamina slot, and the kind of show the slot was originally for, in my opinion.
    I loved it. It’s one of those precious gems I can pull out from time to time, and another round of ammunition when I have to argue that anime isn’t all about schoolgirls, tentacles, and big robots.

    • Avatar TheUltimateReaper says:

      It is quite gem, though I’ve always disliked this age/genre sort of thing. A story is a story, it should be meant for anyone who would want to absorb it.

    • Avatar wicked says:

      Ah it’s bee a while since There’s been a good Schoolgirl Tentacle robot anime. Wait, What’s wrong with Robots and School girls. Also it’s not like Western animation isnt dominated by robot and people dressed in tights for a good while.

  3. Avatar sushi55 says:

    Odd, with all the praising you were giving this series I half-expected you to make this an all time top 20 of yours…oh well.
    Awesome series nevertheless :)

  4. Avatar webkid94 says:

    Definitely agree with your last sentence: I do appreciate romance, just as long as the cast isn’t under the age of 18, but in today’s anime world it’s filled with teenage romance, bad acting and other negatives: Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood is a good example, a great show but really like I care about Winry. She’s useless and that “equivalent exchange” confession was so damn corny, though I expected that much of BONES. I can name a ton of other series, but while I am frustrated with many romance anime I do honestly like the genre and find Natsuyuki to be one of the best I’ve seen so far.

  5. Avatar Sudachi says:

    Awesome series! I also really appreciated the pacing and that they just let the story tell itself without getting caught up in unnecessary plot twists or gimmicks. Between Spring & Summer 2012, Noitamina has had a nice little return to form. Thanks for covering this!

  6. Avatar Alec says:

    Easily one of my top 3 romance animes:
    Aoi Hana, Honey and Clover, & Natsuyuki Rendevous

  7. Avatar Stars says:

    If Psgels hadn’t pointed out the pre-recording of voices I would never have known, and I can’t really tell the difference except that the characters feel so alive. Usually I find its the soundtrack that does what the voice actors did here. So much emotion was put into their characters I wouldn’t mind closing my eyes and just listening while watching this series.

  8. Avatar AidanAK47 says:

    Guess it’s time for me to be the wet towel. I don’t share the enthusiasm that most here seem to have. This show may have done nothing particularly wrong but It also didn’t do anything particularly special.

    The plot followed the expected pattern. There wasn’t any surprising twists thrown in. At times there were big twists coming out of nowhere like the one in the last episode just put in to put up the drama for no reason. There were also numerous flashbacks which served no purpose other that to inform us of what we already know. I never felt Rokka had any special feelings for Hazuki until the husband took over the reins so the end choice came across as odd when she suddenly decided that Hazuki was the one she wanted. Then there were these actions which just seem contrived. Hazuki badmouthing Rokka’s husband while he was right on top of her for crying out loud! I also deem it unfair for someone her to consider this one of the best romance anime when it only had three characters. Yes, this show only has three characters. Admittedly that’s all it needs but still, it only has three characters. Don’t talk about the side characters, mentioning them is pointless because they are not present for most of the show and aren’t even good characters. Hell even the main three aren’t great characters. Rokka just felt like bland shoujo lead number 25.
    I know most won’t agree with this and I will admit this show wasn’t exactly my kind of show.

    • Avatar spelledwithaph says:

      I completely agree with your comment about the love between Rokka and Hazuki. Up until Atsushi took over that it seemed that Rokka started to fall in love. Until then she was still dismissive of him, constantly reminding him of her husband.

      Hazuki in my view always seemed like a creeper more than Atsushi did. Atsushi had a reason to explain the way he was. He had dated and married her, fell in love with her, and loved her after his untimely death. Hazuki on the other hand had was completely in love with Rokka right of the bat and in the course of the episodes, showed he was willing to do anything to make her love him. Although some might see this as a plus, his love seems crazier and creeper when you add that her dead husband’s ghost was his rival. His relationship with Rokka seemed completely one sided until Atsushi took over. Rokka then at that point seemed to really open up to this “new” Atsushi. In the end it felt like the love between Rokka and Hazuki did not feel very real or profound, but the love between her and Atsushi did.

  9. Avatar Tony says:

    Everyone else seems very pleased with this series, so I want to give a dissenting opinion. I thought that everything else was excellent, but that the story line was ultimately very weak.

    I thought it was very promising at the beginning, with Atsushi’s presence being an intriguing representation of Rokka’s psychological dilemma, and I was anticipating a fantasy story which could be understood on the level of psychodrama.

    This never emerged. Rokka’s psychological state seems to meander and vacillate without any clear connection to the ghostly occurrences. The whole fantasy component seemed completely arbitrary to me, with rules made up as the story went along, instead of some overall idea holding the fantasy events together. Atsushi talks as if there are general rules governing when a ghost can “borrow” a live human being’s body, but these rules are never explained, and Hazuki being trapped in Atsushi’s picture book (and then released for no clear reason) is obviously not a situation which could occur in all possible situations involving a ghost borrowing a human body.

    The last episode was the worst. The lack of clear direction in Rokka’s psychological state reaches a height when one moment she is worrying about getting Hazuki’s body back home so that he won’t be confused when he comes back to it, and the next moment she is apparently willing to let Atsushi kill her on the spot so that she can join him on the other side. I can’t help feeling this was added to the story just to generate a bit of artificial suspense in a story which on the whole was much too predictable. The “many years later” epilogue also seems arbitrarily tacked on.

    In short, there is little to the fantasy elements in the story once the initial situation has been set up. It doesn’t go anywhere, and it doesn’t provide us with any deeper understanding of the characters. The flashbacks do, but they would have been just as effective without the ghost story.

    • Avatar Tony says:

      Afterthought: The ghost story here left me with the same feeling as the one in “Ano Hi Mita Hana”. The ghost in that series, too, started out being a suggestive representative of the psychological states of live people. The rules governing the ghost’s existence seemed similarly arbitrary, however, and the resolution ended up being rather unsatisfying. If we compare either of these ghost stories to the well-crafted ghost story in “Tokyo Magnitude 8”, I think it’s clear that both reflect inferior writing (which was presumably already present in the manga on which “Natsuyuki” was based).

    • Avatar wicked says:

      You took that moment a little different then I did. She’s not only willing to die to join Atushi, she’s willing to do it so Hazuki can be free of this mess. It’s a moment of guilt and regret. People may disagree with me, but Rokka probably doesnt love Hazuki as much as Hazuki love her. If all thing stands equal, she’d probably pick Atushi.

      As far as rules goes, it’s a tool and vehicle, not something that needed to be spelled out, not really of any concern to the story focus, in fact doing so might shift the focus and the balance. The fantasy element give Hazuki a perspective into Atushi, who he is, who he thinks Rokka is, and what he thinks Rokka ultimately deserves, and doing it in a different way. Hazuki said it himself that Atushi is now also part of him after his return.

      • Avatar Tony says:

        Nevertheless, the result of her agreeing to that would be that Hazuki would return to his body to find that it had just committed a murder. Not very thoughtful on Rokka’s part, in my opinion.

        We will have to agree to disagree about the writing of fantasy. Fantasy, in my opinion, is most effective when it creates a world with coherent rules, and carefully fits its story line into the playing out of those rules. Without this kind of structure, one gets stories which do whatever the author happens to think of next, a common fault of many anime story lines.

        • Avatar wicked says:

          Right here’s where why doe magic have to make sense argument comes in. I’m pretty lenient on logic in romance and fantasy, because it simply doesnt have to make sense all the time. It’s whether or not the author takes it for granted that matters.

          Take some classics for example, we never really know if the apparition in Hamlet is his own paranoia and insanity or an actually apparition, but never the less it motivates much of his actions. How exactly did a true love(love at first sight)’s kiss cure Snowwhite’s poison? Didnt really matter in the context. Even something as contemporary as Harry Potter, has a number of magics that just seems a bit too convenient.

        • Avatar wicked says:

          I dont think she agreed to it, I think she actually brought it up. Though not sure if she wanted Atsushi to kill her with Hazuki’s body, kind of just went with the moment there

  10. Avatar omo says:

    I’m going to dissent too. I thought the show would’ve been great if it ended like, at episode 8 or something. The entire second half dragged on way too much and it basically ruined the series. It’s unclear if anyone understood what Hatsuki’s dream sequences are suppose to mean besides a very convoluted self-discovery trip that did not really engage the emotional aspects of the viewer, as most of us were either too busy hating Atsushi or doing whatever Psgels is doing.

    The other problem, as other dissenters pointed out, is that this show didn’t really do anything really special. All the key emotional drama and flashbacks could’ve been done without the body-swapping aspects of the story, and in that sense it felt like a waste. It distracted the attention of the viewers to a degree, and I feel it was more harmful rather than helpful as far as character development goes.

    • Avatar wicked says:

      I dont know. How could Atsushi, a ghost unseen by his love for years, felt any more lonely and dishearten the moment Rokka confessed to Hazuki the body which Atsushi occupies, after he did all he could to distance her. Without that moment, would he have truly accepted anyone else but him can be with Rokka, he being a ghost that never left her side since his death

  11. Avatar spelledwithaph says:

    This show made me feel real sad for Atsushi, losing everything and more. I can’t believe he was still a ghost in the epilogue. In some sense what a crummy point of existence to continue watching your wife have a new relationship with a new man. Although it is implied, I’m not sure of Atsushi finally went to heaven. I’m half convinced that he is still on the human plane of existence floating around.

    This show also made me wonder about the after life. If you die and wait for your wife in heaven but wife falls in love again with another man, what happens when all of you meet? You are supposed to be with your loved ones for eternity in heaven, but if she has fallen in love with someone else are you just left by yourself to deal with it? There cannot be two Rokkas meaning that once again Atsushi will just be there by himself while Rokka and Hazuki are a couple in heaven forever. I guess in the end everything sucks for Atsushi.

  12. Avatar RABUJOI says:

    Our only complaint is that things get a little static and somewhat repetitive at times while trapped in the storybook world, and we had trouble sympathizing with Atsushi the longer he stayed in Hazuki’s body and reached milestones with Rokka.

    Part of why we may feel that way is that we didn’t expect Hazuki to spend a huge chunk of his screen time in this world, and kept expecting him to find an escape.

    Once we realized he’d be in there in the long run – until Atsushi decided to leave his body – we adjusted our expectations accordingly.

    We hope Noitamina airs more series that are about people other than high schoolers – lord knows there are enough of those elsewhere!

  13. Avatar Hogart says:

    For me it was good, but paradoxically cursed by its own goodness.

    The positives are quite nice, but ultimately it didn’t hit me very hard. It still worked, but I felt like I had to fill in too many emotional blanks myself. I think maybe it was *too* subtle to sell me on the characters’ love for each other, and so I had to convince myself based on the excellent vocal performances and detail-oriented animation.

    For me, at least, a story about “moving on” needs to be centered around the living characters when it’s more about their own hangups than their love for each other. Here I wasn’t sure why they weren’t moving on other than silly superstitions, so it felt like it was more about their hangups, much like AnoHana.

    Maybe that’s why AnoHana worked better on me. I was invested up to the finale, so didn’t mind it being in a glass case of emotion. Here the finale is ultimately what saved it from feeling mostly-hollow and not quite convincing.

  14. Avatar Firechick says:

    One random question: is recording the voices before the animation really that rare in Japan? Because recording voices before the animation is quite the standard feat here in America (and I read that My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic is one example of this).

  15. Avatar bladeblur says:

    Goldilocks? Really? :S

  16. Avatar starry says:

    I have to agree with the above posters. It had a fantastic beginning and end but the middle dragged on too much and it never hits any big highs. A decent show but scoring it 90+ is overrated.

  17. Avatar rufe says:

    I think it was a very mature work. It’s good to see Noitamina back in form. The acting was *out of this world* for this series and contributed a great deal to how real the emotions felt. Shimao was actually a very interesting character throughout for me. The ending was basically predictable, but it was an experience watching it unfold.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BxgmorK61YQ

    You don’t need huge drama to be great!

  18. Avatar kurotan says:

    Beautiful show!
    Its completely understandable that some people didn’t like it, its just not for everyone I guess. But I’ve gotta say I loved it. The realistic characters and the story ebbs and flows was simply mesmerizing. The voice acting was top-notch and so was the animation. After it ended I was just sad that I’m probably not to get to watch anything like this in the near future.

  19. Avatar kero says:

    Some beautiful voice acting, and some wonderful moments, I really liked the photo album of Rokka and Hazuki with their daughter.

    However.. the final episode really didn’t move me. If I remember correctly, I cried at the end of AnoHana, Cross Game also made me cry at the start and the end, Nodame (which I consider a romance story, that wasn’t a tearjerker type) also made me fall in love with the couple and wanting to see more of their lives.

    This was satisfactory I suppose, but I was expecting to feel more.

  20. Avatar sato says:

    Nobody else going to comment on the fact that Hazuki and Rokka died so friggin young?? Their daughter didn’t seem all that old, and Atsushi’s sister was older, I thought?

  21. Avatar scineram says:

    This was painful to watch after the first few episodes, and what an asshole Atsushi was.

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