Where the lost linger.
Natsuyuki Rendezvous is one of my favorite manga. It’s hard to describe why it is–there’s complicated and raw, yet subtle emotion in this title. And it draws that out of me as well. Manga doesn’t often gracefully deal with the idea of loss. Or finding love once again in a realistic way that is just as painful and scary as it is hopeful. Your take on the manga will be colored by your own experiences–it’s a great story for adults with more than a few scars.
Hazuki is a 22 year old young man who experienced love at first sight. He occasionally visits the woman’s flower shop to buy small potted plants and steal some glimpses. When the shop posts an opening for a part-time position, Hazuki jumps at the opportunity and he now works close to the woman, Rokka. While running some work-related errands, Rokka innocently invites Hazuki to her apartment above the shop. Initially a bit miffed at her nonchalance at inviting a man upstairs (mostly wondering if he even registers as one), Hazuki gets a big surprise.
There’s a half-naked man there and she doesn’t even acknowledge his presence. Thinking it’s a clear rejection, Hazuki abruptly leaves. His hopes dashed, Hazuki meets the man once again while smoking alone outside on the shop’s balcony. Here comes the next shock–no one else can see the man. He’s a ghost. While the ghost himself is also confused, he is more concerned about why Hazuki is sniffing around Rokka’s place. Turns out, he’s Rokka’s dead husband, Shimao. And Shimao doesn’t like Hazuki being there.
Actually, Hazuki isn’t normally that mean-spirited. He’s surprisingly undisturbed and tolerant of the unusual, pushy ghost of his crush’s dead husband. Everyone brings “emotional baggage” into a relationship, but few have it manifest like this! His devotion and resolve is actually rather touching and isn’t wavered by Shimao’s attempts to dissuade him.
So just why is there a dead husband hanging around? Shimao died of sickness 3 years ago and drawn by Rokka’s anguish, he stayed and now haunts the shop. He can’t communicate with or touch her–he just watches. Day after day. Like the manga &, touch is an important theme. Specifically, the lack of it: the distance between individuals is painful, practically palpable, and insurmountable … or is it?
Shimao claims that he just wants Rokka to be happy. So why is he so unwelcoming to others she invites into her life? Can Hazuki overcome this ghost’s interference? Will Shimao back down or become dangerous? What does Rokka want? Does she even know herself?
Finding a manga that deals so well with the idea of loss and moving beyond that loss is a rare treat. Rokka is a young woman trying to piece together a new life and future after being denied her old life and her old dreams. If she was in a typical TV drama or manga, she’d wallow and practically die from sorrow until her new shining white knight saves her. This isn’t the case. Left behind, she realistically has little choice; she picks herself up, wounded, and carries on. She’s not tough as nails nor overly emotional and delicate–she’s just human. She’s too frightened, self-deprecating, and guilt-ridden to reach out to Hazuki, but can’t completely deny that she really wants to.
But what happens when the lost still linger not only in our hearts but also in our lives? Is it possible to move forward? Natsuyuki Rendezvous is currently serialized in Feel Young, so we’ll have to wait to find out.