Show of hands – how many of you saw all these twists coming? Even with a series whose plot is already nearly impossible to predict week to week, some of the developments in this penultimate episode were pretty far out of left field. It would probably take some black magic to conjure up the correct predictions, maybe of the sort Shimao is using? The beautiful thing is that the twists still came from within the boundaries of the story; they were not so far removed as to feel completely arbitrary or contrived. Move along folks, no deus ex machina here. Looking at the plot developments in hindsight, they all make sense in the context of the plot and where it was heading.
There’s probably little doubt that the most important development in this episode was the revelation that the fairy tale world was actually the product of Shimao’s imagination after all. Compared to the other twists, this one wasn’t as surprising when you consider the clues that were sprinkled throughout hinting at the realm’s true nature, like Shimao’s sketch book and the hand drawn scenes contained within. Every time he sat down to draw, he was probably either adding pages or altering the story in order to build a better fairy tale prison for our unfortunate hero. The real twist in this revelation that was unexpected was that the cute and endearing Rokka, who played the part of Thumbelina and the Little Mermaid so well, would actually turn out to be Shimao in disguise all along. I had assumed that she was a separate supernatural entity altogether, a spiritual guide of sorts to lead Hazuki through the fairy tale world – not an illusion crafted by Shimao to try and brainwash Hazuki into giving Rokka up.
Although my opinion of Shimao was never very high in the first place, with these new revelations he’s sunk to a new low, a low which I don’t think he can ever truly redeem himself in my eyes. Before this episode, I was still willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Sure he’s been quite immature and childish with how clingy, stubborn, and temperamental his behavior is, but I could still forgive his conduct as the byproduct of all the stress and sadness he’s experienced over the years as a ghostly apparition. I also wanted to believe that despite his apparent selfishness, Rokka’s happiness was still paramount to him; basically above all else, he wanted to move on and he wanted her to move on. However, I’ve realized that this is pure malice, plain and simple – his unhappy facial expressions tell half the story, and his thoughts of killing Hazuki by trapping him as a ghost, or murdering Rokka and framing Hazuki tells the rest of it. This is not simply a man looking to see his wife one last time before moving on. This is a man who wants make their reunion a permanent one, whether it is in this world or the next (and from the looks of things, probably the next). For a florist who knows all too well about the impermanence of flower arrangements and probably of life as well, having died at such an young age, what Shimao is trying to accomplish by stealing Hazuki’s body and then turning his rival into a ghost is something I can never forgive and forget.
The one twist that came as no real surprise was the reveal that Hazuki now finds himself in familiar shoes, albeit ghostly ones. I actually thought that with his renewed conviction to win Rokka’s heart and to put his own happiness first, he would eventually make it out of the fairy tale realm and back into the real world sooner rather than later. I just didn’t expect he’d come back like this, having seemingly lost the war against his rival without even realizing it. It does make a lot of sense that with Shimao now inhabiting his corporeal body, he would in turn inhabit Shimao’s ethereal body. It’s a welcome turn of events as it gives a chance for Hazuki to see things from Shimao’s perspective and to maybe gain some understanding, if not appreciation, for what the dead husband has had to endure for years. I just hope he doesn’t stay trapped as ghost, forced to shed more heart-wrenching tears as he watches his body doing all the things he wanted to do with Rokka, fated to stay by her side as he tries to get his body back from Shimao. Hazuki may not be a perfect man by any means, but when compared to Shimao, he’s a veritable knight in shining armor.
“Then the Hazuki-kun I fell in love with…” For me, the most surprising development in this episode was undoubtedly the cliffhanger ending. Unlike some of the other cliffhangers, this one was less of a plot twist and more just a simple line of dialogue. Instead of declaring to Shimao her realization that the one she fell in love with was him and not Hazuki this whole time as she believed, Rokka instead utters a question that could possibly bring about an ending completely different from the one I had envisioned.
“…where is he?” is the question she asks, and it is one whose intention and meaning has deep implications to the story. I had assumed that with so few episodes remaining, Hazuki would have a hard time achieving a perfect happy ending. Rokka falls in love with Hazuki, realizes it was Shimao all along, then either she is unable to move on or Hazuki has to start from square one. Yet her question seems to turn my theory on its head. It appears she isn’t concerned about falling in love with the wrong guy like I thought she would, but more about the wellbeing of that very same guy. I never knew a woman’s heart could be this unpredictable yet still stay intriguing nonetheless.
Natsuyuki Rendezvous is truly an unconventional romance in every sense of the word, never content with using any of the usual tropes and twists. It’s played this strength to great effect, keeping us on our toes until the very end, and bringing some much needed spice to the usually conservative romance genre.
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