Have you ever fallen so madly in love with someone that you applied for a part-time job at the shop they work at? No, me neither, but that's exactly the kind of crazy thing the protagonist of this summer season noitaminA series, Natsuyuki Rendezvous, decides to do.
After obsessing with the woman who runs a nearby flower shop, and buying a plant every weekday just so that he can see her, I suppose working at the joint is probably a more sensible way for Ryuusuke Hazuki to get his fix of Rokka, the woman in question. As if being too shy and retiring to air his feelings to Rokka isn't bad enough, bumping into what seems to be her boyfriend is the final straw for any hopes Hazuki had of realising his dream.
However, all is not quite as it seems in this scenario, as Hazuki discovers when he steps out onto the veranda for a cigarette during a leaving party for the shop worker he's effectively replacing. Put simply, Rokka is married... but her husband has passed away, and the "boyfriend" Hazuki keeps on bumping into is in fact the ghost of said husband. Although our ethereal friend seems determined that he wants to see Rokka happy, and indeed he told his wife to move on and find someone else after his death, he certainly seems to be hanging around a lot and also seems determined to put the boot into any plans Hazuki might have...
While I've already jokingly subtitled this series as "What if Randall and Hopkirk ran a flower shop?" (look it up if you don't know what I'm on about), I do rather like its premise if nothing else. It's probably a good job too, as there isn't a whole lot else to like about this opening episode of Natsuyuki Rendezvous. Aside from a far from satisfying animation style that just plain looks bad for the most part, we're thrown in at the deep end here without being given the opportunity to learn much about, or more importantly feel anything for, the show's characters - none of them feel like believable, human individuals at this (admittedly early) point in time, and as a result it's impossible to be caught up in any of the initial emotion that this instalment tries to wring out of its scenario.
By no means is this a disaster for Natsuyuki Rendezvous, as it needed to set up its premise quickly and the "real" story begins henceforth, but for a romantic comedy-cum-drama, paying such scant attention to its most important asset - its characters - is a bit of a worrying start that it can surely only improve upon.