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With its second episode Natsuyuki Rendezvous continues to explore the many faces of love.
The younger man and older woman romance scenario is no stranger to any of us in, from or living in the occidental world as I'm sure we have encountered it in many different media. Be it comedies such as American Pie where it is fantasized, any TV drama (American or otherwise) where it almost the norm to see it happen at one point or if it's the European and South American views which have portrayed it as a much more pure love for a woman who herself is shocked (most notably in Gabriel Garcia Marquez's short story Maria dos Prazeres) the romance always maintains the same emotional speedbumps for the parties involved. Now this is the first time I have encountered such a romantic setting in anime or manga, so I'm glad that it was carried out in a familiar and sensible way.
Unlike Hazuki, Rokka is not taking this romance seriously and is merely viewing it as a physical attraction to possibly distract for her inability to move on just yet. This was clearly demonstrated by her description of Hazuki being that of a fickle young man and later on after her date when she was thinking about whether she would end up having sex with him. This shows that she isn't considering Hazuki for a long-term relationship but she cannot deny the physical attraction and believes that the two can be separated, all the while Hazuki is much more serious than she believes him to be. Quite a common situation for a setting like this one, whereby older women consider their younger lovers to be just short-term physical distractions and that there is no future with them but of course this isn't the entire picture since these feelings are brought about from another feeling often explored in media representations of a such a love: self-consciousness. Had Rokka not been self-conscious about her age and the fact that a guy 8 years her junior is in love with her, the romance would come easy but of course it makes her feel less serious about this possible love affair and adds another excuse for her not moving on from her dead husband until she is truly ready.
The selfish romance which we saw in the first episode is revisited, with full focus on Atsushi as he stops Hazuki from progressing further with Rokka even when she is the one who closes her eyes and waits for him to make a move. Unlike last episode, where Atsushu's love for Rokka is clearly very selfish (scaring off any guy who might see him etc.) this episode his selfish nature is shown as jealousy and frustration; jealousy that another guy will be taking his beloved wife away from him and frustration at his inability to touch his wife even though he sees her everyday.
The biggest frustration for Atsushi comes from having to watch Hazuki day in day out as he becomes closer with Rokka, so his attempts to distract Hazuki can be seen as something more than just stopping any man from getting close to his wife; it's closer to him acknowledging Hazuki as an actual threat, seeing as how in the first episode all he did was talk to Hazuki but now he would go as far to lie on top of Rokka to stop them from kissing or having sex. Nevertheless, we got to see just how powerless Atsushi is, which is how he understandably feels and probably why he does things such as make silly faces to stop a romance from happening right underneath his nose because quite simply that is all he can do and all he will ever be able to do.
With everything that happened, Atsushi's helplessness reached its peak when he had to rely on Hazuki to help out a sick Rokka and at which point he felt at his weakest. Coinciding with this was Hazuki's realisation that Rokka is not ready for a boyfriend/love, an ending that left two mean heartbroken over their respective inability to love our heroine the way they want to.
Overall, this was a very interesting and nice episode which explored the many sides to love and the various struggles and bi-product feelings that come with the emotion, which ended up displaying love as the root of much happiness and pain. This portrayal of love is definitely one to my liking and unlike the frustrating romances in Sakamichi no Apollon, the romance in this series is best described as heartbreaking because all parties involved want what hey can't have (in a completely mature way).