Natsuyuki Rendezvous – 11 (Fin)

After a long, tearful good-bye, a brief incident with garden shears, and a neck bite, Atsushi finally releases Hazuki’s body back to him. Hazuki wakes up as if from a long slumber, confirming his love for Rokka and asking her to marry him. Many years pass, to when Hazuki passes away at age 65, not long after Rokka. Their daughter Yuki vows to keep the shop, while their grandson inspects Atsushi’s old room, kept closed thoughout Yuki’s childhood. Atsushi chats with her son, Hazuki and Rokka’s grandson, and tells him to throw everything in there out.

We’re all for the occasional mysterious or ambiguous ending, but we after all we’d been through (like Hazuki), we wanted nothing less than a good old-fashioned happy ending, and by gum, we got one. And it was everything we could have hoped for. A few last memories of Rokka (when she got drunk, she’d reveal an envy of Atsushi’s talent). Atsushi’s method revolved around flowers as more than just things of fleeting, conventional beauty, but considered their entire life cycle from seed to death andr eturn to the soil. It’s a one-way process, which is probably what makes him realize he can’t stay in the living world and must leave Hazuki’s body, however much seeing Rokka makes him want to stay.

There’s a tense moment when it seems Rokka believes taking her own life and joining him is the solution, he drops the gardening shears. As Hazuki says – powerless at the time to stop what he thinks is happening – that’s not what they’re for. Hazuki’s long, dreamlike daze through Storybook Land caused him to grow and change. He gave up his body in a drunken stupor, convinced Rokka would never love him as much as she loved her late husband. He didn’t know he was inadvertantly giving both Atsuhi and Rokka a gift – the chance to talk one last time and to say good-bye.

We especially liked the simple, quiet but exquisite epilogue, starting with Atsushi floating above the city (no longer trapped in the house), but it’s not long before we’re told both Rokka and Hazuki have passed away – and not too long after each other. Their grown daughter Yuki (a nice combo of Rokka’s hair and Hazuki’s eyes) looks over some photos with her elderly Aunt Miho, and her young son explores the apartment where Rokka and Hazuki lived the rest of their lives. The shop and its surroundings look the same, but the old flowers wilted and died, having planted seeds that bloom in their place.

Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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Natsuyuki Rendezvous – 08

Rokka is confused by the sight of bouquets Atsushi made for her, and the fact Atsushi’s journal, tools, and backpack are all missing. She calls Hazuki – still under Atsushi’s control, then has the urge to go backpacking herself, without a finite destination. Meanwhile, Hazuki, under the urging of the mini-Rokka, finally escapes from the undersea scene into a white void…

Well, whaddaya now, Hazuki’s STILL STUCK IN THE DAMN DRAWING. We don’t want to discount the fact that there was a lot more lovely flashbacks of Rokka’s last days with her husband (as well as flashbacks to Hazuki’s earlier dealings with her), but we must confess our enjoyment of this episode was marred somewhat by our hope and expectation (however premature) that we were finally going to get some kind of payoff. But the series was content to keep Hazuki wallowing in the drawing, totally shut off from the real world and what Atsushi’s doing with him.

By the way…what exactly IS Atsushi doing with him, now? He withdrew a bunch of cash from his and Rokka’s bank account and dons a giant backpack supposedly filled with clothes and provisions. One flashback mentions a trip to a faraway place he and Rokka never got to go to. Well fine, but how on earth is Rokka going to track him down? Will it just happen by chance? And even if she does, what is she supposed to make of Hazuki’s actions? Right now she just seems lost, confused, and distraught – not a state you’d think someone who proports to love her would want her to be in for long. Will this series continue teasing us till the end, or will Atsushi ever finally move on for good?

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Natsuyuki Rendezvous – 05

Atsushi “borrows” Hazuki’s body while Hazuki’s consciousness is stuck in some kind of surreal dreamworld within the pages of one of Atsushi’s sketchbooks he used to draw in while hospitalized. He is accompanied by a fairy-like Rokka. Atsushi has to deal with Hazuki’s poor eyesight, lack of money, small apartment, and unavoidable hunger. Rokka cooks dinner for him, and then asks if she can wash his back.

This entire episode, Atsushi is in control of Hazuki’s body, and while there’s no doubt he’s ecstatic about being able to talk to and touch Rokka (he tears up multiple times, in fact), the inescapable fact is, he’s just as powerless as he was as an invisible ghost. He’s still invisible to Rokka, although she seems to feel his aura. Is it his aura? We’re not sure; this is a metaphysical can of worms. But one thing’s certain: Rokka knows her husband is dead, and would never believe Hazuki’s body telling her he’s back. She’d sooner throw Hazuki out for being so cruel and foolish.

Atsushi initially has a little fun with his control over Hazuki – spending all his money on dorky glasses, then giving him a bad haircut. But the more he’s in Hazuki’s skin, the more he realizes the inevitability of this guy ending up with Rokka. He often talks like he’s not Hazuki, but he never gives away who he is, thus damaging Hazuki and Rokka’s relationship. Why? Maybe he remembers what Hazuki told him: even if he gets rid of him, there are other guys. Rokka is nice (and cute) a human being to live out the rest of her days alone. If Atsushi takes Hazuki away, he won’t just be hurting Hazuki – he’ll be hurting Rokka too.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

Natsuyuki Rendezvous – 03

While recovering from her fever, Rokka reminices on the night she met Atsushi, and ended up in a bed, with him doting on her. She faces a similar situation in the present, with Hazuki taking care of her. They share a passionate embrace as an increasingly bitter Atsushi looks on. He starts to shake the room and throw objects at Hazuki, who insists he go rest in peace and leave him and Rokka alone. Even if he’s Rokka’s second choice, he only wants to make her happy. To that end, he asks her out on a date to a theme park; the same place she last went with Atsushi and Miho before he was hospitalized.

Here was another gorgeous and affecting tour-de-force, laced with bitter, sweet, and bittersweet moments. First  of all, who would have thought Rokka’s first night with Atsushi was spent throwing up in a toilet and then passing out drunk? Our ghost is starting to show signs of becoming a poltergeist, which is not a good sign. Atsushi is resorting to violence, and even warns Hazuki he may end up killing him if he doesn’t leave. But Hazuki won’t be cowed so easily. You see, he’s fallen for the super-cute Rokka, and fallen hard. Who can blame her? Those friggin’ eyes; that pixie cut; she’s a beautiful human being inside and out. Hazuki’s challenge is to help both her and Atsushi  to move on. But how?

While at dinner after a day of filling in for Rokka at the shop, Miho tells him about her and her family’s concern for Rokka; they don’t want her to be alone, toiling away at the flower shop the rest of her youth – they’d like to set her up with someone, and maybe even get her out of that shop, or sell it off. Miho tells him Rokka may need a push to move on, so a push he gives her. As for Atsushi; Hazuki’s point about cut flowers being like ghosts created selfishly really resonated with us; it was a great analogy that summed up the situation pretty succintly. In the circle of life, flowers separated from their roots should go to feed their forebears. Even if his mind is still in the living world, Shimao is no longer part of that circle. His continuing to interfere with Rokka’s life does nobody any favors.

Rating: 8 (Great)

Natsuyuki Rendezvous – 02

A week after their ramen date, Hazuki has had difficulty talking to Rokka due to Atsushi’s constant presence at the shop. Finally, he looks through Atsushi and asks her out to dinner. Afterwards she invites him in and things are about to get frisky when Atsushi interenes again; Hazuki blurts out an insult at him that upsets Rokka. She kicks him out, sleeps on the table, and wakes up with a fever, collapsing on the floor. Atsushi cries out and somehow, Hazuki hears him and comes to the rescue. Rokka calls out to Atsushi, apologizing to him.

As their vows stipulated “as long as they both shall live,” why does Shimao Atsushi haunt his former wife, Rokka? Glad you asked! It’s simple: she begged him not to go…so he didn’t; he stayed. And still he stays. Rokka can’t see or hear him, but whenever she’s home or in the shop, he’s there. Does he even have a choice in the matter, or does Rokka keep him there? Ever the practical fellow, he offered her signed divorce papers so she could marry someone she could have a child with. She promptly tore them up in a heartwrenching scene. Now, Rokka is at a crossroads: a cute guy eight years younger than her seems  to want her, at a time when she’s nearly forgotten how to want or be wanted. Is there room in her heart for a living man along with her dead husband?

We like how quickly Hazuki moves with Rokka…it’s very adult. Once he finds his nerve, Hazuki is not one to hesitate. Their chemistry is very nice too – we like the detail about Garlic Breath, Bane of Dates. Rokka, self-conscious about her age and widow status, is being tugged and pulled every which way by her emotions in the midst of this new courtship. Her practical side wants to give in to the advances (while she still can), yet she finds herself pushing him away. Of course, Hazuki hardly help matters by falling for Atsushi’s trap and getting him to open a wound not easily closed. Perhaps next time he should invite Rokka to his place…if there is a next time.

Rating: 9 (Superior)