This series gives new meaning to the phrase “a storybook romance”. We’ve always known that Natsuyuki Rendezvous is an unconventional love story with supernatural elements aplenty, but for me, Hazuki’s sojourn into a picture book-esque world was wholly unexpected.
It’s clear that after his soul-swapping with Shimao, Hazuki has found himself in an other-worldly realm, but determining exactly where, what, or whose realm it is gets murky. At first, I thought it was a simple story of his soul now inhabiting the world where Shimao usually spends his time when he’s not a ghost floating around the flower shop. This world which his mind has created is modeled after a story he drew while hospitalized, and it exists because he was still too attached to Rokka and was unable to move on to the afterlife.
Yet I have a gut feeling that this place isn’t actually Shimao’s at all – it’s Rokka’s. The glowing spirit we saw floating down towards Hazuki in the previous episode had the same exact appearance as Rokka does in this realm, and her personality in it seems far too independent and knowledgeable for her to be merely a creation of Shimao’s imagination. I still don’t know what her purpose in the story is though, and it’s something that definitely bothers me a bit. Fairy Rokka’s stories and conversations with Hazuki did serve to shed additional light into Shimao’s backstory, which was a welcome development, but unfortunately the dialogue was too vague to easily comprehend what she’s trying to accomplish by telling them to Hazuki. I have a feeling that she’s trying to further her relationship with him by sharing Shimao’s past (which is something I doubt Shimao would have ever intended). However, there are her cryptic scenes towards the end about not being the manager Hazuki believes her to be and him taking on the appearance of several animals, which I’m not sure what to make of just yet. This could all just be problems stemming from the translated subtitles, but in any case we it looks like we’ll have to be content with waiting until the next episode for a better explanation and resolution to the pair’s journey through the world of the picture book.
However, I thought the star of this episode was unquestionably Shimao, whose point of view I’ve wanted to see more of since day one. After the previous episode, the key question was whether he would choose to remain silent or try to convince Rokka it was now he who inhabited Hazuki’s body. It appears that for now Shimao is content with merely being able to interact with her and I’d say that is the wiser choice of the two. Even calling her “Rokka-chan” was already too much for her to handle, so anything more would probably alienate her instead of bringing them closer together. I do feel bad for him though because he has all these pent up emotions upon reuniting with Rokka but can’t express any of them save for a handful of tears. Then again, Shimao should feel lucky that Rokka saw Hazuki drunk before the soul-swapping was made because it made his admittedly funny “trapped in an unknown body” behavior more easily excusable in Rokka’s eyes. If Hazuki was stone sober, I think Rokka would be more scared and/or freaked out more than anything at his sudden change in personality and Shimao would likely not have been able to spend as much time with her as he did, if at all.
Yet just as I predicted, Shimao’s decision to stay mum seems to be backfiring as well. Almost all of his behavior towards Rokka was colored by his love for her and while it is sweet to watch, everything is done in the guise of Hazuki and it appears to have caused her to look at her employee in a new light. Even when Shimao’s behavior did not have any romantic intentions, like when he cut his hair or when he and Rokka had dinner together and he looked happy eating, her heart was moved nonetheless. It’ll be especially interesting to see how he reacts to her sudden proposal at the end of the episode, which came as quite a shock to me as well. Will Shimao still hold his tongue and accept whatever he’s given? Or will he tell her the truth?
He’s found himself in a complicated catch-22 situation of sorts with Rokka, and I am pretty sure that the three of them now make up the messiest and most convoluted love triangle I can think of. While their exact situation isn’t found in real life (I hope), love often involves questions and compromises much like the ones they are faced with, and Natsuyuki Rendezvous’ portrayal of these issues has become one of my favorite aspects of the show. More surprisingly, none of the drama so far has made me rage at any of the characters which I find to be quite refreshing this day and age when it seems that almost every romance has one or two facepalm-worthy moments (or characters). So despite some various missteps in this episode in regards to Hazuki’s vague storyline, this series is still doing a fine job in crafting a compelling romance that I can’t take my eyes off of.
- With artwork this gorgeous, Hazuki can stay trapped in that world for all I care!
- Full-length images: 04, 05, 13, 25.
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