Posted 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

Posted on with categories: Natsuyuki Rendezvous

And here we have the ending of one of the top shows of 2012. I mean, back during the Spring season I already was very impressed with Sakamichi no Apollon, but that series had its flaws: it at times tried a little too hard, and as a result the characters forced themselves a bit too much into romance and drama. This series however was just perfect. It made brilliant use of its length and its story was simple, yet so effective. My favorite shows usually are complex series with huge storylines, but this was done so well that it completely won me over.

The ending here was no different. Screw trying too hard, this was just perfect: Atsushi got his time to say goodbye to Rokka properly, pissed off Hazuki one final time with his threat to kill her, and afterwards Rokka and Hazuki officially become a couple. Atsushi really shook up both of them in his attempt to leave a lasting impression, and I love how well the animators captured their emotions at just that moment. Hazuki’s utter surprise and Rokka’s hopelessly sad face were incredibly genuine.

And after that, this series picked a very interesting epilogue. Usually we skip forward to a few years later. This time however, we turn to the point where Hazuki dies, living his life happily. We got to see his daugthter with Rokka all grown up, which really is not something you see often. In fact, I can’t remember any other epilogue that did that. Beyond that, we never see Hazuki or Rokka in the epilogue other than in pictures. Again, a wonderful idea.

At this point I can’t say whether Natsuyuki Rendezvous will be my top pick for 2012. I can however say with quite a bit of certainty that it’s in the top 2 of the year. Its exact placement depentds on how Space Brothers fares in its third quarter, and whether it keeps up the pace it created. Space Brothers has slightly better characters, but on the other hand its pacing and animation just aren’t as good as this series. Nevertheless, these two shows stand miles above anything else this year.
Rating: 6/8 (Awesome)

Posted on 6 September 2012 with categories: Natsuyuki Rendezvous

Natsuyuki Rendezvous! That was amazing! This is what a penultimate episode should be. It’s finally time to see where all that build-up went.

I love the twist in this episode. For a long time we just saw Hazuki interacting with various versions of Rokka acting as various fairy tale figures. Only for it to turn out that that indeed was the subconsciousness of Atsushi, resulting in Hazuki really trading places with him and becoming a helpless ghost himself.

The moment in which he found out what all happened was wonderful. His reaction was priceless. I really admire how the creators pretty much pulled him away from all action for so long. Right now a ton of stuff has happened outside of his knowledge (including that new look of his, but also the change in feelings from Rokka), and it’s awesome to think how he’s going to react and adapt to all that.

And as for that final episode, Rokka’s final like is just the perfect lead up to that. This is where she addresses her worries for Hazuki, and very likely it will become clear that Atsushi has done something with him. It’s going to be a perfect climax for all three of them together. All at a place in which nobody can bother them and which has a huge value for both Rokka and Atsushi. The ending I’m looking forward to the most this season definitely belongs to Natsuyuki Rendezvous.
Rating: 6.5/8 (Amazing)

Posted on 31 August 2012 with categories: Natsuyuki Rendezvous

Natsuyuki Rendezvous, I applaud you! That was magnificent!

Now this is really how you do a dramatic climax. There was so much emotion in it, yet it was wonderfully restrained. The acting here was just brilliant. Everything in this episode was just leading up to that one moment in which Rokka would realize that for some reason Atsushi is back in Hazuki’s body, and they did so brilliantly.

The way they built it up also was amazing. Whilst Rokka was catching up to Atsushi (which is believable considering his mind has no affinity with being fast in any way), this episode kept showing flashbacks of the most memorable moments that the two of them shared together, which this series very nicely saved specifically for just this moment (now that I mention it: we never saw the flashback of the actual moment in which Atsushi died, right? That’s a wonderful touch right there for this series).

Beyond that I also really want to applaud the dialogue for this episode: that was some really well written stuff, miles away from the usual cliches. It felt fresh and captured the characters perfectly in how it described them. It also flowed so well with the actual animation. This episode didn’t feel like “okay, and now we have a bit of exposition”, but all the scenes flowed into each other, and did so incredibly smoothly. Dogakobo, where have you been hiding this talent for all this time?
Rating: 7/8 (Fantastic)

Posted on 23 August 2012 with categories: Natsuyuki Rendezvous

When it was revealed that Atsushi could move objects, I did find myself thinking “now what?” Well, the creators answered that question brilliantly, and at this point it has become clear that the main plot of this show is all about that body takeover, and the conclusion of this series will very likely also be the point where this will get resolved, and no sooner. This episode was meant to build up for that, and what brilliant build-up it was!

Clearly something happened between Atsushi and Rokka that involves mountains. The first half focused on this from Rokka’s perspective as she tried to puzzle what on earth was going on, and what I really loved was how well her acting was when she called up Hazuki. Talk about restraint! It said so much with so little dialogue!

The second half of the episode then moved over to Hazuki as he realized that there was a slight danger that he didn’t anticipate to the body swapping: not being able to return, with as the highlight that part that had the best track of the soundtrack of this series (the one with the bass-like guitar and piano: a simple yet wonderful combination).
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 16 August 2012 with categories: Natsuyuki Rendezvous

After compiling the preview for the next season, at this point I’m about 90% sure of this: my favorite series of 2012 will be either Uchuu Kyoudai or Natsuyuki Rendezvous. Both series stand far above the other series this year in terms of characterization and acting. This episode of Natsuyuki Rendezvous only reaffirmed this.

It went on even longer with the body takeover: this episode still didn’t resolve it, but instead it was entirely dedicated to Atsuhi coming ot terms with his own death, and Rokka moving on. This episode didn’t pull the soap opera card by hammering on that Rokka was falling in love with him again, but rather it was about how he realized that she had fallen in love with someone else. Something that both of them couldn’t imagine for years.

Even at the end of the episode when Rokka realized the hints of Atsushi, this again wasn’t with a soap opera in mind, but again with the themes of goodbye. I love how the creators used that small potted plant thingy as the way for him to leave Rokka, in order to “correct his own mistakes”. I have no clue what that means, the way in which it symbolizes his character-development was really well done.

What’s more: this series really was made for Noitamina. 11 episodes is the perfect length for this story, and that makes it also very easy to pick up and just watch for those with little time. And really: this series wastes no minute of its airtime: every scene feels like it contributes subtly to the cast.
Rating: 6,5/8 (Amazing)

Posted on 9 August 2012 with categories: Natsuyuki Rendezvous

So, this is the direction the story went with. Taking over the body really turned out to be a huge plot point for this series, rather than a random gimmick. This entire episode was building up to the big twist at the end, after which there still was no sign of Hazuki getting his body back. Instead, Rokka ended up confesing her feelings while his body still was occupied. Now that’s going to be awkward.

This really was a slow episode, especially after the bath scene. I really like that it focused on Rokka sorting out her feelings, and how this episode took its time for that to let everything just play out. It’s likely that she had feelings for Hazuki before the whole body switching went on, but Atsushi definitely contributed to them afterwards. What I’d like to know is: would she also have confessed this way if the switch didn’t happen? How would things have progressed if Hazuki never got into that drunk mood?

What’s also interesting for Atsushi here is the use of the story of Thumbelina, in terms of symbolism I mean. For those who don’t know about the general story (I couldn’t remember either until I read up on it), it’s the story of a tiny girl who escapes all sorts of shady marriages and friendships (symbolized by various animals). She then meets a swallow and heads off to a far away land to meet her tiny flower fairy prince, after which she transforms and receives a pair of wings and a new name. Atsushi actually put Hazuki, right at the moment where she meets that swallow. Despite what he might say or do, he actually supports Rokka moving on. And yet this episode came and complicated things again by using that confession, getting his feelings all jumbled up again. The wait is for what the creators intend to be the “far away land” of the story of thumbelina. That will be the key here.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 3 August 2012 with categories: Natsuyuki Rendezvous

Last week we left off with Hazuki finally giving off his body to that ghost in a drunk mood. This episode carries that further, and it’s definitely different from usual anime, in which such a possession only lasts a few minutes: at the end of this episode there still was no sign of him being content with leaving Hazuki’s body. In fact, things only seem to have just started yet.

In the meantime we have a wonderfully subtle portrayal of Atsushi in Hazuki’s body. It was emotional, but not melodramatic. It was sad, but not consistently sad: it actually balanced his feelings for finally being able to talk to Rokka again with his attempts of getting used to Hazuki’s new body, getting a better understanding of the guy in the process. I like how he tried to cut his own hair as a way of dealing with his frustrations, but he didn’t exactly end up ruining the guy’s image in front of Rokka. Of course she thinks he’s a horrible drunk right now, but he did nothing that would make her outright hate him, interestingly.

Hazuki meanwhile… didn’t really do anything. His part in this episode was mostly building up as he ran around in this dream world along with ythe younger Rokka, although she did provide a few hints about Atsushi when he was younger. The actual meat of that subplot will probably be revealed next week, although it is surprising to see this series beat around the bush a bit. But that’s something that I also find that this show does really well: it’s really well balanced, on top of its excellent voice-acting, script, music, characters, timing, etc.
Rating: 5.5/8 (Excellent)

Posted on 26 July 2012 with categories: Natsuyuki Rendezvous

This episode really shined in how well it balanced showing what went on in the minds of the characters. For Hazuki it has two ways to show his thoughts: his long inner monologues, and his fast inner quibs in the middle of conversations. Rokka has them too, but the difference is less extreme. In contrast, we didn’t get so see into the mind of Atsushi for most of the episode, though at the end it was perfectly clear what he had been thinking throughout most of the episode.

Most of this episode was about the date in the amusement park. And it felt very awkward, but that was entirely the intention of the creators: Hazuki really wanted to use this opportunity to make his move on Rokka, forcing his way through everything. It’s interesting how the only impression he has of the past amusement park is one photo that in no way showed what was going on in the rest of the trip. At the end, this was suppored to be the catalyst to the big moment at the end of the episode: him giving up his own body in a drunk mood. This depended a lot on the right emotional portrayal of the characters, and really: the creators nailed it.

After this, it’s all going to depend on where the creators take this next. There are a ton of ways they can to after the next episode. It all depends on the meaning that they’ll give of Atsushi’s short meeting with his wife.

Also, I think that right now we’re at a historical junction: 20 years from now, people can somewhat differentiate some of the series from before 2012 and after. From today, the big landmark of Tokyo is the Sky Tree, and not the Tokyo Tower anymore. The next terror that will land upon the city will choose to smash up the Sky Tower, and from now on, the Tokyo Tower will just be seen as its small brother.
Rating: (Excellent)

Posted on 20 July 2012 with categories: Natsuyuki Rendezvous

If it was just the voice acting in this series that was as great as it was, this series would already be amazing. But it’s not just that: the music is brilliant, and in fact got even better in this episode with its combinations of piano and string pieces. And on top of that the expressions are wonderfully drawn in this series: its ability to convey emotions also is completely unrivaled in this season. And the bizarre thing is: this is Dogakobo. What really surprises me is how they suddenly got themselves some awesome producers who could bring together some people who really know what they’re doing. What triggered that? I mean, these are the guys who are behind the many seasons of Koihime Musou. They only did one series once that didn’t involve blatant moe: Ryoko’s Case File, but that was nowhere as well executed as this series is.

I mean, there is also the way in which they got Ryo-Chimo to direct the OP, but what also surprises me is how tightly everything is produced: Kou Matsuou is involved everywhere: he directs, he writes the script, he even directed the ED. On top of that, every episode director so far also personally wrote the storyboard. I know that originally these roles were pulled apart in order to allow for more consistency in the anime production process, so that even with an average staff you could produce a great episode because the workload is divided, but it’s still good to see that the people who have the time and skill to do both at once are still there, because this in my opinion allows for a more creative control over each episode.

What the creators did in this episode brilliantly was show how hopeless Atsushi’s situation is. He’s pretty much forced to watch some random guy start hitting on what he still considers to be his girlfriend, and being sick for his entire life he really became a sympathetic character here after his charades last episodes. And really: Hazuki is one of the most flawed main characters out there, but in a completely different way from usual. This guy is cold and brash, not polite at all. Yet at the same time, he’s very sharp-witted which despite him being an asshole at times, makes him really great to watch. My one nitpick about this episode was that we got to see very little inside the head of Rokka herself. That was what made her so interesting in the first two episodes.
Rating: (Awesome)

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