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)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Natsuyuki Rendezvous – 06

Shimao-as-Hazuki agrees to let Rokka wash his back, but she demurs when he asks her to bath with him. Both frustrated, he leaves, but not before drawing something in his sketchbook. Wanting to clear her head, Rokka spends her Sunday helping Miho tend her garden, but the roses there remind her of Atsushi. She retreats to the library, where Shimao-as-Hazuki happens to bump into her, and they go for a walk, during which time Rokka confesses to him that Atsushi was her first and only love, but now she’s fallen love in with him (Hazuki) too.

Atsushi remains in complete control of Hazuki, until the very last moment of the episode (we…think…?), and in this time, he and Rokka make a lot of headway. If there’s one thing he’s learned from both his time as a ghost observing Hazuki and his time as Hazuki himself, it’s that Hazuki ending up with Rokka is all but inevitable; it’s a matter of when, not if. This is confirmed when she finally confesses to Hazuki – Atsushi is the one to finally get her to say the words…and he’s the one to hear them as well. Learning he was the only man she’s ever loved (or been with) puts a look of shock on his face we’ve heretofore not seen.

Which brings us to the big dilemma of this episode (and last weeks, as well), at least from Hazuki’s perspective: he’s been lost in a pastel fairy tale land all this time, and thus hasn’t experienced any of these crucial moments in his relationship with Rokka. Atsushi half-reluctantly, half-regetably brought his wife closer to him, but will he know that when he wakes up? Will he gain the memories Atsushi formed while possessing him, or will he return to his body totally blank on the last two days? Will these recent events be a secret Atsushi will keep from him, leading to a misunderstanding between the real Hazuki and Rokka? We hope not. Or to put it like Hazuki did: we’re basically optimistic by nature, so we won’t let this bother us.


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)

Bakuman 2 – 24

The editors in the serialization meeting change their votes one by one until the chief is the only one to vote against it, and Ashirogi Muto’s Perfect Crime Club is approved for serialization. After recieving the news and being congratulated by Team Fukuda, Mashiro finds a USB in the slice of cake Miho made for him, on which is a recording of her singing “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.”

The news also comes down that Hattori and Miura will switch places, so Hattori will continue to be Ashirogi’s editor, while Miura takes on Iwase, who is none to happy. After hearing about the initial losing vote to Niizuma, Mashiro decides that Takagi will only give him scripts without layout, so he can better utilize his own imagination. Takagi agrees, and they prepare the first chapter.

Ah, for once, another Ashirogi Muto defeat is turned around at the last minute (or rather, the first minute of this episode), and in an unlikely adaptation of “12 Angry Men” (seven in this case). they get their shot. It’s almost as if the editors had forgotten about the readers and put Ashirogi Muto’s fate in their own hands, rather than those readers, which would have been totally unfair.

But getting those initial doubters to come around will require revision to Perfect Crime Club: enter Hattori, who immediately makes an impact with Ashirogi before officially taking the reins from Miura (who is also impressed with his authors’ professionalism.) When Takagi tells Hattori Mashiro is “saying crazy things”, we worry momentarily, but the drama is quickly dispelled once he explains himself. The ball is in their court.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 23

Miura reads Ashirogi’s manuscript for Perfect Crime Club. While at first he finds its crimes petty, the realistic art and serious tone draw him in. He believes it will be a hit. While at any other serialization meeting, it would easily pass, the editors have to determine whether it will be able to beat Crow and +Natural, right now. Their deliberations go on a long time, as Mashiro has a Christmas get-together with Takagi and Kaya. The resulting vote at the meeting is tied 3-3, and the Chief editor with the tie-breaking vote. He believes it’s good, but not enough to win. With the final vote 4-3, Perfect Crime Club will not be serialized by Jack.

Bakuman is full of foolish promises. The idea that Mashiro and Miho cannot possibly be together unless they achieve their dreams is getting to be a major problem. Huge chunks of their youth have been spent away from each other. Yes, they love each other, but the idealism of their promise is starting to strain credulity. Case in point: Takagi and Kaya have Mashiro over for their first Christmas as a married couple. Why isn’t Miho there? Because of that silly promise, made when they were still kids. We know this issue has been covered exhaustively and they both seem to be committed to keeping the promise, but these constant drawbacks make the dreams they seek to achieve seem more like mirages; impossible to ever reach. Time will tell, we guess.

That’s beause of another dumb promise: to create a manga that can defeat Niizuma Eiji, or leave Jack for good. Ashirogi Muto has been through the pressure cooker enough; there was no need to gamble themselves into a corner. We held out hope Perfect Crime Club, which is the most original and best-thought-out manga Ashirogi’s created to date – would at least be given a shot to compete, but the Chief Editor took their gamble to mean that they the editors – and they alone, not the readers – would be the arbitors of the manga’s fate. With that, it seems like Ashirogi Muto’s Jack days are finished, unless Hattroi and Miura have any other tricks up their sleeve.


Rating : 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 22

Hattori advises Ashirogi Muto to play to their strengths: Takagi should try to find “serious humor”, which Ashirogi could enliven with his serious art. A clear direction fires them up, but coming up with a storyboard proves difficult, so Takagi suggests he and Mashiro tail Hattori in secret for a day. They witness him go about his business, learn new and unexpected things, and get further encouraged. After their adventure, Takagi knows what he wants to do: a ‘perfect crime’ manga. They swap Kaya’s present for Miho with an identical one to further experience the thrill and accomplishment of pulling small crimes off. They whip up a storyboard and deliver it to Miura…

After quite a few failures in a row and their careers on the line, finally a little optimism and excitement. Hattori’s “serious humor” advice really caused a light to go off in Takagi’s head. Both he and Mashiro are certain this is their best idea yet. We especially like how Takagi makes sure they’re on the right track by literally acting out the idea by tailing Hattori, then making the ol’ switcheroo. The whole episode was brimming with positive energy and discovery.

There are lots of nice touches: Takagi and Mashiro finally find out about Hattori’s “Iwase Problem”, when she meets him in a restaurant in a come-hither outfit – that Takagi has his back to her is an even better touch. We also like that Aoki and Kaya remain in touch, and how Aoki innocently leaks that it’s Ashirogi’s last chance. A concerned Kaya calls Miho, but rather than feel betrayed for Mashiro keeping something from her, she takes the high road and tells Kaya to chill out and believe in them. The dress-for-drawing swap was also pretty romantic. Of course, next week, we can expect this Perfect Crime Club manga


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 20

Tanto’s rank is steady, but low, and Takagi is nearing the limit of his jokes, pulling all-nighters days before his wedding to no avail. At his and Kaya’s wedding reception, Mashiro confronts Hattori to tell him straight up whether Tanto is good; he says it isn’t. The final straw is when Niizuma calls Ashirogi Muto his rivals on live TV. Both Takagi and Mashiro ask the chief editor if they can quit Tanto and work on something that will surpass Niizuma – if they can’t, their Jack days are over.

First Trap got cancelled. They liked it, but the rankings fell to far. Now with Tanto, the rankings aren’t falling enough to risk cancellation, and it’s important to Jack as a kids’ manga – but both Takagi and Mashiro feel it’s holding them back. While it may seem unwise to put so much faith in the opinions of a few peers – in this case, Niizuma and Hattori – the way they see it, they would rather try and fail to surpass Niizuma with everything they’ve got rather than continue to dabble in obscurity. If they truly have the talent and it’s a matter of proper utilization, then Tanto has to go.

It’s a big gamble, because, well, what if they truly can never surpass Niizuma, and burn themselves out in the attempt? They’re already known as “troublemakers” in the industry, and there’s apparently no better publication to be in than Jack, so they’re really limiting their options. But continuing to eke out Tanto would be limiting them even further. Would Mashiro really be okay marrying Miho after getting a late night anime deal like Hiramaru? I doubt it. He wants the primetime, and he wants to be the best. And so they roll the dice.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 18

The good news: a revised Tanto passed muster and will be serialized, so Mashiro has a Christmas present for Miho and Takagi and Kaya can now move forward with their marriage plans. The bad: Akina Aiko and Niizuma’s manga +Natural is also serialized, and will be published the week before Tanto, putting Takagi in direct competition with Iwase. Fukuda gathers everyone together to talk with Niizuma. This includes Iwase, who has no intention for sharing her opinions with other authors. Niizuma dismisses everyone’s concerns as whining, and they should focus on making manga that’s better than his.

Bakuman finally gives Ashirogi Muto something to celebrate, only to sour their jubilation with the knowledge that not only is Iwase, at this point THE WORST HUMAN BEING IN THE WORLD, will be competing with their manga, but Niizuma has heartily agreed to lend his all-but-unbeatable art to her story. It’s a tough pill to swallow, especially when Iwase does her best to live up to her all-caps title by subtly taunting Takagi. This girl is seriously messed up, and in this case I think Niizuma is being a little too simple-minded by working with her on a whim. Yeah, we know he likes to draw, but enabling a budding psychopath is a bridge too far.We can only hope Iwase won’t turn dangerous if things don’t go her way. For his part, Takagi warns her nothing she can do will change his and Kaya’s plans.

Beyond all that unpleasantness, it was good to see the whole gang (save Nakai) back together, thanks to Fukuda of course. Niizuma’s comparison to Iwase as Aoki two years ago was not only a funny observation, but also underscored how much Aoki has grown as a person and how pathetic Iwase is right now. Niizuma was on a roll this week, urging everyone to lay off him for taking on two simultaneous serializations. While we fault him for giving legitimacy to Iwase’s vendetta (which goes way beyond a friendly rivalry), we can’t fault him for this. If they don’t like it, they need to make better manga.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 14

Miyoshi stays away from the studio, and when Takagi calls her she blows him off. Busy with their gag manga manuscript, they continue working. When Miyoshi tells Miho about her suspicions, Miho worries that Mashiro is in on the deception as well. “Tanto” is well recieved in NEXT, but Fukuda, Niizuma, and Hattori all believe Ashirogi Muto’s talents are wasted on gag manga. Meanwhile, Aoki’s manga draws heavily from her experience with Nakai and rips off Mashiro and Miho’s romance. Miho finally calls Takagi wanting an explanation from both of them. When Mashiro can’t give her one, she hangs up.

Yikes…the hole just got deeper for Ashirogi Muto, as both are caught up in Takagi’s multi-girl carousel…and for what? While “Tanto” looks to be serialized, everyone who knows them best are disappointed they’re not doing more serious work. To that, we’d argue they already tried that and failed, and right now they just need a hit; and to us it seems looking down at gag manga is akin to novelists looking down on mangakas. But as they hunch over their desks working on “Tanto”, all kinds of things are being set in motion in their real lives. It kind of sucks that the letter Iwase put in Takagi’s book is such an obvious plot device for romantic conflict, but it was really a catalyst for bigger problems.

Takagi and Mashiro have been taking advantage of Miyoshi’s kindness. And with Aoki exhibiting signs that she may be falling for Takagi, and the fact her manga so closely mirrors Mashiro and Miho’s story, compound the problems quite a bit. We’re as disappointed as Miho when Mashiro conceals the truth from her. If all four people simply sat in a room and unraveled everything – without omissions or lies – everything would be cleared up. After all, it started innocently as Takagi seeking the advice from someone who better understood girls. As for Mashiro failing to tell Miho that her mother and his uncle exchanged letters, well, bad move. And more ammunition for Miho’s assertion she can’t trust him.


Rating: 3.5

Bakuman 2 – 06

Mashiro is rushed to hospital, where it’s determined he requires liver surgery, which will require two weeks of prep and three months of recovery. It seems inevitable that TRAP will be put on hiatus, which may be a death sentence so early in circulation. Mashiro is determined to continue drawing from his hospital bed. Takagi tries to get Miho to convince him to rest, but instead Mashiro convinces her that he can keep drawing, and she backs him up.

We’ll be honest: we were a bit surprised this turned out to be a health problem requiring surgery, rather than a simple matter of exhaustion and malnutrition. But those two things can cause the other if one is careless. It seems awfully sudden, especially at such a damned inopportune time (Renly can relate), but…shit happens; usually suddenly. We’re just a little disappointed, because there was already enough drama without one of the guys getting sick and unable to draw in a show…about drawing. At any rate, if you can tell how popular you are by the number of people who visit you in the hospital, Mashiro is a popular guy indeed.

While we admire Mashiro’s moxie, pushing his body (and his well-placed trust and love of Miho) right to the edge, we don’t see how this can end well, judging from the final moments, in which Miho throws common sense and logic out the window and Stands By Her Man. This scene escapes farce due entirely to Miho’s totally earnest and powerful performance, which totally sells it for us. We saw an entirely new side of her, a new level of Mashiro Determination (which borders on dickishness), and the start of a new, more chapter in their relationship.


Rating: 3.5

Sket Dance – 31

First half: Shinzo beseeches the Sket-dan to help him come up with an up-to-date, snappy outfit to meet his penpal. After many unsuccessful attempts, they finally get him looking good, only to find the girl meets is actually a friend of his brother Shinpei, waiting for him, and his penpal has an identical face but freakishly huge body. Second half: The Sket-dan recieves a workout DVD called “Biney’s Mute Amp”, which Himeko jumps right into. The initially irritating, disorganized, and ridiculous workout session slowly wins her over, and by the end, she and Switch are true believers. Then Bossun borrows it…

We don’t read Shonen Jump, but we are watching two anime adapted from Jump manga: Bakuman and this. In Bakuman 2’s last episode, we got a sneak peak at the first half of this episode, where Shinzo meets Megumi, voiced by the Bakuman character Miho (in reality, both are the voice of Hayami Saori, who though only 20, has shown up in at least a dozen series we’ve watched, most memorably Tsuruko in AnoHana and Ayase in Oreimo). In one of Shinzo’s many wardrobe malfunctions, Bossun dresses him up like Niizuma Eiji, and he even uses the same voice inflections.

We personally like these little cross-references, since they’re nice wink and nod to those who are watching (unsubtle though they may be).  It’s also funny how Bakuman considers Sket Dance a fictional construct in which one of its characters lends her voice, while in the often very meta Sket Dance, Bakuman is the manga/anime. One thing is for certain: between Shinzo’s odyssey to look cool (and the predictable shootdown with the hulk-Megumi) and the totally whacked-out workout video, Sket Dance is replete with variety.


Rating: 3

Bakuman 2 – 05

After their seventh chapter drops to 13th in the rankings, Takagi plans on stepping up his game by adding some lightheartedness. Even before the revisions come into effect, TRAP begins a surge from ninth for chapter eight to sixth for chapter ten, then a tie for third with Crow, finally challenging Niizuma. Miho is getting more and more anime roles, and Miura gets TRAP the color cover for their 20th chapter, plus an edition of 100,000 for their first volume. But as they continue to succeed, Mashiro is getting thinner and not sleeping, which culminates in his collapse.

First of all, Miho got a voice role in SKET DANCE? Sweet! Time is moving faster now, and this series continues to pull no punches when it comes to setbacks potentially fatal to Mashiro and Miho’s dream, But with TRAP enjoying consistently high rankings, their first volume getting printed, a team that’s happy and in synch, and the fan mail pouring in, this newest setback is a much more basic one: Mashiro’s health. He knew going into this that balancing school with the manga was not going to be easy, but three hours of sleep most nights and none on others simply isn’t going to cut it, especially when he’s not eating.

Now that Takagi is in a writing groove (and Kaya is basically his personal assistant), he’s under a lot less stress. The amount of labor Mashiro puts out easily eclipses Takagi’s, as is exhibited by his always working while Takagi and Kaya are hanging around. But this industry won’t let Mashiro take a break, and if he does it will be seen as weakness and an inability to cut it. He’s not alone in this; Hiramaru is pissing blood, after all. But I’d hate to see The Dream be taken down by something as simple as eating and sleeping. So the question is, how is he going to get better without interrupting school or TRAP?


Rating: 4

Bakuman. 2 – 02

With their TRAP team all settled in, Mashiro and Takagi adjust to their new system. The ice is broken after lots of awkward silence, and even Takahama eventually speaks up to Mashiro. Miho is faced with a decision to make a photo book to advance her career, but she doesn’t want to, and knows Mashiro doesn’t either. She gets depressed and refuses to pick up her phone, prompting Mashiro to hear to her place, risking the manuscript deadline. Takagi calls Miho, and Miho calls Mashiro off. They have a long and fruitful discussion, and agree to tell each other everything from now on.

Oh, we’re sure it can be exceedingly easy for many to get turned off by a pair of lovebirds like Mashiro and Miho. We just don’t happen to be ‘many’. We’re not exactly sure why, either. Their progress thus far has been excruciating. They’ve taken “taking it slow” and “fulfilling dreams” to heights we never thought possible. But goshdarnit, they’re so pure, so honest, and so on the same page, it’s exceedingly hard for us not to love watching their little trials unfold. Last week there were a lot of changes in Mashiro and Takagi’s world, but this episode established that many things remain constant.

Mashiro and Miho will keep their distance, though they’re now bold enough to talk on the phone more. Miyoshi is an excellent girlfriend. And, both of the guys’ love interests are constant fonts of encouragement, distraction, and temptation, all rolled up together. They’re muses. Takahama mentioned to Mashiro how they both dream big, while the other assistants are content where they are. If there’s anything this world needs more of, its people who see cold reality staring back at them with their big ideal dreams and say “I’m going for it!” Easier said than done; we know.


Rating: 3.5