Your happiness and the happiness of the one you love – when the two are at odds, how do you decide which is more important? It’s not a question that anyone wants to confront, but seeing as it is slowly shaping up to be a key issue in Natsuyuki’s plot, it was only a matter of It’s not a question that anyone wants to confront, but seeing as it is slowly shaping up to be a key issue in Natsuyuki’s plot, it was only a matter of time before both Shimao and Hazuki had to make their decision. It’s also a question that is messy, complicated, and has no right answers – something which was evident in each of their decisions. In terms of moving the main plot forward, there wasn’t much progress made in this episode however. Considering there are only three episodes left after this one, it’s a bit surprising that we’re no closer to knowing the outcome of this love triangle. Although, I do think that what this episode did do could be considered just as important. It set the stage for what I’m guessing will be a final confrontation between all three characters, and one of the main ways it does this is by showing us Shimao and Hazuki’s motivations and their decisions regarding Rokka’s happiness and their own.
At this point, it’s still not completely clear whose happiness Shimao has decided should take precedence. What makes his situation hard to decipher is that not only do his words run counter to his actions; they are sometimes self-contradictory as well. We hear Shimao’s thoughts about putting Rokka’s happiness first to help her move on, but then we’re also privy to lines about how he feels that her romance with Hazuki is inevitable anyway so there isn’t anything he could do to alter its course. If he really means to put her happiness as his top priority, I’m not sure if going for one last “fling” with Rokka, ditching her, and then removing all of his possessions from her residence is the best way to go about it. The same can be said with his plans for the titular plant, the snow-in-summer (natsuyuki) – he’s not making her happy by absconding with it, that’s for sure. The ghost’s “neither here nor there” nature has been well reflected in his personality and actions throughout this series, and especially now; it’s as if he can’t decide whether to choose Rokka’s happiness or his own so he’s straddling the line between both. Unfortunately, doing so seems like it could lead towards a resolution where the possibility neither he nor Rokka will end up happy.
Unlike the ghost, Hazuki’s choice of whose happiness is important was loud and clear in this episode. Though he (and Shimao as well) believe in the red string of fate – one which ties Rokka to their rival, he has finally left no doubt as to what his plans are. In a way, it was comforting to see a return to the Hazuki we knew for much of the series before this unexpected detour into fairy tale land threw him off course. Ever since the first episode, Hazuki has never been one to really waver or back down in his pursuit of Rokka. His unshaking commitment to winning her heart has been one of the few admirable personality traits of the characters in this series, and more notably, his personality stood as a refreshingly direct contrast to Shimao’s. Yet the Hazuki found in this strange realm really hasn’t been the same one who bravely asked Rokka for an affair, the one who takes charge and forces the issue, for better or for worse. The change in personality was understandable however when you consider his situation – he doesn’t really know where he is and his dialogue with the mysterious fairy tale princess hasn’t really shone much light onto his circumstances, or for that matter, even Shimao and Rokka’s in any concrete terms. Hazuki, instead of being the one at the helm of his fate, found himself at the beck and call of the realm he was trapped in. During this mini-arc, he’s been turned into a bit of a side story compared to the drama unfolding between Shimao and Rokka, but now that Hazuki has rediscovered the resolve that made him such a fun character to watch, these last episodes should be a joy to watch with someone easier to root for.
As for the woman whose happiness has seemingly taken a backseat to the others, Rokka’s character development seems to have received the short end of the stick as well. After the events of these last few episodes and a conversation with BakaMochi about Rokka’s weird lack of recognition that there was something substantially different about Hazuki’s personality, she is in some ways, increasingly becoming harder to either empathize with or feel pity for. Granted, she has been through one of the most stressful life changing events one could possibly experience, but much about her remains largely an enigma, especially her thoughts and emotions about falling in love again. This series started off so well with giving us a view inside her head, hearing her thoughts, but as of late they’ve become few and far between. With the climactic end to Natsuyuki coming soon, hopefully the show will give a more balanced look at each character’s thoughts, emotions, and motivations once again and continue raising these terrific questions about love that few other shows dare to ask, much less answer.
- Some additional info about the red string of fate:
The red string of fate, also referred to as the red thread of destiny, red thread of fate, and other variants, is an East Asian belief originating from Chinese legend and is also used in Japanese legend. According to this myth, the gods tie an invisible red string around the ankles of those that are destined to meet each other in a certain situation or help each other in a certain way. Often, in Japanese culture, it is thought to be tied around the little finger. […] The two people connected by the red thread are destined lovers, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. This magical cord may stretch or tangle, but never break. This myth is similar to the Western concept of soulmates or a twin flame. (Wikipedia)
- Full-length images: 01, 07.1, 07.2, 07.3, 11.5, 14, 15, 22.5, 25, 31.
Promises are the cornerstone of many a romantic relationship. For Shimao and Rokka, they are of such great importance that even death does not diminish the responsibility of keeping them. Their steadfast commitment to fulfilling their promises to each other is something I find very romantic and admirable in this day and age when even the vows of marriage can seem no more everlasting than any other common contract.
However, such a strong devotion to keeping a promise can divide two hearts as much as it can bring them together. Shimao is so dedicated to standing by his word (which was presumably one of his last words and promises to Rokka as she lay by his death bed) that by doing so, he seems to be hurting her more than helping her. At the very least, by being blind to the current situation, blind to Rokka’s emotions, he does come off as a bit selfish. I can’t help but feel that at the same time he’s trying to help her move on, he’s also assuaging his guilt of leaving her behind. My friend also noticed that Shimao never even shows even a hint of a smile, at least not any moments that we can remember. It’s almost as if he doesn’t want to show any emotions whatsoever, evidenced by the strange and anguished way he fought back his tears once Rokka, realizing who he was, clung onto his back. My best guess is Shimao’s melancholy mask probably stems from his belief that any time he spends with her is fleeting and destined to end when he has to return to his ethereal form. Even still, one would think that the sheer joy and elation from merely being together with a long-lost love would be emotionally powerful enough to bring some warmth to Shimao’s icy demeanor. In the end, after what should have been a joyous reunion, the image which remains in my mind is that of Shimao’s somber gaze as he is pinned beneath a truly happy Rokka.
Shimao’s lack of positive emotions notwithstanding, the long-awaited reunion between husband and wife was still definitely emotionally satisfying as I expected it would be, if not necessarily intellectually satisfying. Although it might have come later that I would have liked, Rokka’s emotional journey once she realized there was a distinct possibility that it was Shimao, not Hazuki, who she’d fallen for as of late, followed largely how I pictured it would play out. Granted, there were many signs of Shimao’s personality that she should have caught onto earlier, especially since they were so different than Hazuki’s personality. Yet seeing her put together all the pieces and remember the little things that only you would notice and cherish about the one you love was moving by any measure. From the tree and the story connected to it, to the unusual way Shimao runs, and finally to the clothes on his back and the items he left behind, every sign and memory was full of meaning to Rokka and their importance was not lost on us. This is a woman who, without a doubt, still loves Shimao to this day, and I’m not sure if she’s ready to move on.
For a series that loves using fairy tales as metaphors, Rokka’s story about the woman and the tree was absolutely endearing and memorable, partially because of the patchwork fabric style used to illustrate it and partially because of how well it summed up her relationship with Shimao. How she considers the story to have a happy ending says a lot about her views about her relationship with him as a whole, and why unlike him, she’s not focused on keeping her promises to him to the degree he is. She still remembers her promises though and feels that they are important enough where she does feel guilt about not being able to keep them, even though he’s long gone. It’s hard to discern whether her inaction is due to her inability to move on or something else however. Does she keep all his belongings for sentimental value, or does she keep them because she still doesn’t want to let go, even though he wants her to? Whatever her reasons are, the aftermath of her not being able to keep her promises to him will collide with his stubborn commitment to fulfilling his promises to her. And like so many other things about this series, I have no idea what will happen.
Although Hazuki’s story feels like a little too much of a side story than I’d like, it would be remiss of me to not write about him especially after this interesting twist in events that should finally begin to tie his story together with Shimao and Rokka’s. Since Hazuki’s body in the real world occasionally switched to take on the appearance of Shimao in this episode, it makes me wonder if this is simply a visual device Natsuyuki is using to show how Rokka sees Hazuki now that she realizes it’s Shimao’s soul inside the body, or if it has something to do with why Hazuki now looks like Shimao in the fairy tale world as well. Either way, it doesn’t bode well for him, as he was denied being the prince on his own terms and now ironically, he’s stuck in the body of his rival. How the tables have turned…
One of Hazuki’s lines in this episode really reverberated with me. “I love who I love” is a truism that we oftentimes forget when we’re suffering through the pains that accompany the pursuit of a relationship. We can’t help who we fall for, who we give our hearts to. Hazuki knows that despite the age gap, despite the fact that Rokka still hasn’t moved past Shimao, despite the uncertainty of any future with her – he loves her, and he’s committed to see things through to the end. I know I’ll be rooting for him to succeed, but even if he doesn’t, Natsuyuki will still be one of my favorite romances in recent memory.
- Sorry for the late and double post – due to the downtime, I figured it was best if I combined posts to save room on the front page.
- “Haters gonna hate”
- Full-length images: 01, 04, 04.5, 05, 10, 13, 17, 18, 18.5, 23, 23.5, 27.
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