Natsuyuki Rendezvous – 11 (END)
This series may have been a fairytale romance in more of the literal sense than metaphorical, but there’s no doubt that the ending was a storybook one through and through. Although Natsuyuki has been one of the most unpredictable and unconventional love stories in recent memory, it remains faithful and traditional where it matters: delivering a wonderful and satisfying conclusion for an audience that would love nothing more than for their one true pairing to become a reality.
To that end, the series returns to the theme of flowers and plants that has served it so well by crafting an ending to the story that can be appropriately summarized by Shimao’s expression: “When it’s time for flowers to bloom, they’ll bloom. When it’s time for spring to come, it’ll come.” It’s a simple phrase that holds a lot of meaning when it comes to matters of love, and it’s one that also holds quite a bit of personal meaning as well, being a phrase that a girl once told me one warm August evening. Above all, it harkens back to that timeless saying – if it is meant to be, it will be. Leaving love to the hands of fate and destiny can be a double-edged sword, dependent on which side of the coin you land on, but at the same time it also allows for us to let go and cease dwelling on what might have been. This is likely the reason why Shimao was so annoyed by his expression; he felt the weight of inevitability surrounding the relationship between Rokka and Hazuki ever since the beginning, but could not bite his tongue in order to let her go.
Shimao might have been the only one who felt that Hazuki and Rokka’s pairing was a foregone conclusion. Natsuyuki was for the longest time nearly impossible to predict which of its pairings, if any, would be realized. Even halfway through the final episode it was hard to divine whether the ending would be reminiscent of a Shakespearean tragedy or a Victorian-era romance. For weeks it felt that Shimao was leading this story down a dark path – we may not have known where the road would end up, but it surely didn’t look like a place that would be all sunshine and rainbows like the ones in his sketchbook world. He seldom showed any hesitation or remorse in the past when it came to being selfish in regards to Rokka, and it was hard to expect that even her sudden change of heart would do anything to change his course of action. Shimao had forgotten his own saying, and only after Rokka reminded him of his own words he was finally able to let go – although not before almost taking her with him back to the land of the dead.
It can be difficult to remember the last time the level of tension about the fate of a romance was so high late in the story, something Natsuyuki played to near perfection. Killing Rokka was a very real and distinct possibility as far as one could surmise, and it was exacerbated by how fickle and vulnerable she was up to that point. One moment it dawns on her that it is Hazuki whom she fell in love with and that Shimao was no longer the same man she married, the next moment she’s searching for an ending where her husband doesn’t suffer. It all makes it hard for me to think too highly of her, especially when she goes as far as suggesting they pull a Romeo and Juliet of sorts. Fortunately, I think both she and Shimao were saved by the words of wisdom she loved so much that even in her inebriated state they made an indelible mark on her. It may have come down to the wire for them to take Shimao’s saying to heart, but by doing so, the former lovers avoided a tragedy that no viewer wants to see.
As for the man who best represents the ‘flower’ and ‘spring’ in Shimao’s expression, Hazuki was at his best in this finale. He rose up to the occasion in a way that left no doubt that it was his turn to shine, that he was the one who cared about her happiness more than anyone else, and that he was the one destined to be with Rokka. Coming to the maiden’s rescue was something I would have never expected to be in this unconventional love story, but it was quite a welcome sight and came at the perfect moment as well. It’s a definite possibility that Hazuki firmly believed from the very beginning that Shimao’s time was over, which led to a confidence that at times appeared to cross the line into arrogance and insensitivity. Nonetheless, I found myself rooting for him every step of the way, and even more so after the time in the fairy tale world forced him to contemplate and reevaluate his emotions and those of Rokka and Shimao as well. The one at the end of this journey was the new and improved Hazuki, one who still possessed the smooth and confident charm that Rokka probably fell for, but also armed with the knowledge of her and Shimao’s past and the pain and suffering that filled so much of their hearts.
In seeing this theme of inevitability to its conclusion, Natsuyuki gave us the emotionally satisfying ending that many had hoped for. When it comes to love stories, I can probably speak for most people when I say that although I do appreciate and enjoy the journey leading up to the conclusion, a depressing or non-ideal ending can temper my enjoyment of the series as a whole. Fortunately, this was not the case for Natsuyuki. Almost everything about this finale wrapped up the loose threads and answered the remaining questions, save for the scene when Hazuki finds himself in Wonderland with Rokka playing the Queen of Hearts. It was simply a little too brief and jarring for any emotional or intellectual significance to develop, in my opinion. A look beyond the montage of photographs depicting Hazuki and Rokka’s marriage and their life together with their funny-faced daughter would have made a great addition as well. That said, the conclusion with both the grandson and Shimao opening a literal door and closing a metaphorical one was as good of an ending as any. Natsuyuki Rendezvous may have been an unconventional love story in a myriad of ways, but it knows that the surest way to win the audience’s heart and minds is that there is nothing more conventional than finishing with a storybook ending.