Wow, I can't believe it's taken me so long to get around to recapping this last episode. I apologize to anyone who's been waiting for the ending. Sometimes I just have a hard time letting beloved fictional characters go.
Episode 11: Our Final Choice and Decision! We Finally Give our Answers!
Junpei looks around expectantly at the bus depot.
Haruko collapses in pain, and Chiharu bursts in, frantic.
Junpei turns again and smiles, but it's only Mizuki.
As they ride in the back of an ambulance, Haruko rebukes Chiharu for not chasing after Junpei, but Chiharu clutches her hand and tells her it's okay. Haruko apologizes for ruining things for her.
At the hospital, Haruko apologizes again for getting in the way. Chiharu admits that she didn't have the guts to try to stop Junpei anyway, so it doesn't matter.
Tanigawa heads to the shop, but is disappointed to see a sign apologizing for being closed for the day.
Haruko's doctor talks to her about her fibroids again. She hesitates to talk in front of Chiharu, but Haruko assures her that she can hear. The doctor recommends a complete hysterectomy again, but tells Haruko it's up to her. Haruko insists to Chiharu that she can go home herself, and Chiharu offers to come after work and make her dinner, even if it's awkward. They laugh and Chiharu leaves Haruko alone to consider her options.
Chiharu arranges to meet Mai at the shop to pick up some flowers for Haruko. She settles on some Diamond Lilies. Chiharu wonders what their meaning is, but Mai answers that Junpei isn't around to tell them. Chiharu looks sad.
Chiharu arrives at the apartment to fulfill her promise, and presents the flowers to Haruko. She asks about her decision, and Haruko says that she always thought of her gardens as being places for children to run around. She never thought she'd have children, but when she was suddenly faced with a complete hysterectomy, she suddenly felt lost. "I wonder if there is a part of me that wanted to give birth. That I wouldn't feel like a complete woman until I had done that. Isn't that laughable? I need to find my own path forward."
She sadly contemplates her flowers, and Chiharu comes over to reassure her that her feelings are natural. After all, surgery or not, she's still Haruko. She says that no matter where she was, she would have flown from anywhere to be with Haruko at a time like this. Haruko teases her that she's not Superman, and they laugh together. Then Haruko solemnly thanks Chiharu.
She jumps up and retrieves Junpei's sketchbook. She presents it to Chiharu and then hides away in her room, peeking from the doorway at first as Chiharu sits and opens the cover. She smiles a bittersweet smile and then she, too, thinks about her path for the future.
In the morning, Chiharu tells Haruko that she's been contemplating her future. She's decided to apologize to Takahara, since she's decided that she can't marry him. She's also come to the decision that she needs to get her qualifications in order for work so that she won't need to feel like she's depending on someone else. She's going to stand on her own.
Haruko replies that she's also made some decisions about her future. She's going to have the surgery, and then she's going to focus on her gardens. She really wants to get back to creating beautiful gardens and fulfilling that dream. Chiharu promises to be with her on the day of her surgery.
Chiharu meets up with Takahara at a cafe and slides the ring box across the table to him. He has a very confused look on his face as he asks why. She answers that there's someone else she loves, and she apologizes. She thanks him for helping her, explaining that it was because of him that she felt she could move forward in her life. He admits that he had a feeling she didn't love him, since she always said "Thank you" instead of "I love you."
Chiharu apologizes to her family and explains her decisions and plans. They're surprised, but her parents are happy to see her newfound strength. She starts studying for her certification.
Haruko prepares for her surgery, and while she's packing, she spots the design plan for Tanigawa's family garden. At the hospital, Chiharu scolds her for scheduling her surgery on the same day of Chiharu's exams. She retorts that thinking of Chiharu doing her best will help her to do her best at recovering.
After her exam, Chiharu rushes back to the hospital. She and Haruko reassure one another that they did their best. Haruko sweetly explains that she's happy she was able to meet Chiharu, and she's happy to have her in her life. Chiharu answers that the pleasure is hers.
Mother walks in and is introduced to Chiharu. They commiserate with each other about Haruko trying so hard to be strong. Mother complains that she only found out about the surgery after it was over. Mother admits that Haruko has changed a little—she's become more honest. Mother attributes her changes to Chiharu's influence, which just riles Haruko. Hahaha!
Tanigawa returns to the shop, and sadly walks away again when he sees it's still closed. Haruko works on the garden plan and thinks back to his offer to live together, and their other discussion about growing old with someone.
Chiharu gets a letter at work from Mizuki. She writes
"How are things? Honestly, I've been wondering what to do. I guess I should tell you this, so I decided to write.
"On the day I left for Paris. . ."
We see as she meets Junpei. She's excited about finally leaving and getting to be together forever. Junpei has a stunned look on his face as she wanders toward their gate. Junpei turns and apologizes to her. He tells her that if he goes to Paris with her, he'll only end up hurting her more. He hasn't been moving forward under his own power still.
She realizes that he doesn't love her and admits that she lied about the agent wanting to see his work. She felt that she didn't have the pull she wanted over his heart, so she arranged for them to leave as soon as possible. She returns his painting and promises to do her best so that she can catch up to his talent, so he needs to do his best, too. She leaves him standing in the terminal.
". . .It's regrettable, but I've given up on senpai. Now I wish sincerely for his happiness."
Chiharu reads the last part and desperately pulls out her phone. She tries to call Junpei, but his number has been disconnected.
Junpei is at his family home, packing up his art supplies. His brother asks him what his plans are, and he explains that he's headed to Hokkaido to work with a friend up there. He apologizes for not meeting his filial duties once again, but his brother points out that not giving up on himself is more important right now. Junpei tells his brother that he has to return to Yokohama one last time before he goes. "There's something important I've forgotten there." (Squee!)
Chiharu gets a call from a public phone and then heads to the garden. She smiles and sighs in relief when she sees Junpei from behind. She calls out to him and he apologizes for calling her so suddenly. She admits that she wanted to see him, which surprises him. She tells him that she received a letter from Mizuki.
He explains that he decided to start moving forward on his own. He tells her of his plan to move to Hokkaido, then says that he wanted to tell her his feelings before he goes. Even though he knows she's getting married, he feels he has to tell her once. She replies that she's not going to marry Takahara, and that she's been facing her own feelings. He grins and says that he felt he'd forgotten something important.
He pulls out his painting and proffers it to her, explaining that he promised to show her. She realizes it's the Novara roses she gave him, and he replies that she wanted to see them. She smiles and tearfully thanks him. They stare at one another for a moment, then move closer. Junpei takes her by the shoulders and then hugs her. They pull back for a moment and smile at one another.
Then they kiss. Sweetly. (Finally! Crazy kids!)
Tanigawa rushes up to the store when he sees Mai outside sweeping. She explains that she's just taking care of the store until Haruko can come back and they can reopen, but she'll be out of the hospital today. Tanigawa sighs in relief and runs off grinning, leaving Mai confused.
At night, Haruko studies the garden plan. Chiharu brings her coffee and asks if she's going to show it to Tanigawa. She sits and muses if she should say what she's thinking. "What will you do when you meet him?" Haruko sighs and says that her path was always straight. Chiharu says that she didn't even know her path when they met. "But the truth is, everyone has their own path, don't they?" Haruko agrees and says "We may lose our way for a bit, but that's because we've lost sight of our path." Chiharu: "Once we start walking upon it properly, that's when we really see it for the first time."
Tanigawa works in his garden, pulling up all the weeds and dead plants. Haruko approaches and says that it looks like a lot of work for one person. But with two people, it might be possible. She admits that she's not confident, and Tanigawa offers to take things easy. Together.
Chiharu and Junpei lean against each other in their garden, reading. She comments about how cold it is in Hokkaido, and he promises to do her best, so that he'll have at least one painting she can boast about.
Tanigawa lectures his class. "Marriage. It isn't merely an institution. But many people are troubled or made fun of by this institution. But, even if you have a relationship that can't be called marriage, as long as love is raised within it, a family can be built from it. As long as people understand each other clearly, I wonder if it needs to be caught up in an institution?" Mai looks back through her drawings/notes and smiles. Tanigawa concludes his semester on marriage and explains that next semester he'll be teaching about divorce. Mai's new boyfriend approaches and asks to see her latest drawing.
Chiharu finishes her last day of work and Takahara presents a huge bouquet. He smiles and says that he'll be cheering for her. Boy Crazy and Playa give her presents, and Boy Crazy pulls her aside to whisper her news. She nervously explains that Playa broke up with his girlfriend, so. . .
Playa jumps in, wraps his arm around Boy Crazy, and announces loudly that they're dating. As everyone cheers, Boy Crazy chides him for being so loud. Chiharu congratulates them.
Chiharu's alarm goes off, and she wakes up in a bed in Haruko's old room.
Haruko works in Tanigawa's garden, which is lush and green now. Tanigawa brings out her coffee and asks about some new plans she's drawing up. He places a paper on the table in front of her and says that he picked it up just as a trial run. It's a marriage registration, but even though Haruko smiles at it, he says they probably won't need it.
Just then, the doorbell rings. Mai and her boyfriend wander the garden as Haruko and Chiharu chat. Chiharu explains that she's still working hard to find a job, and Junpei stands off to the side admiring the plants. Chiharu offers Haruko her rent for the month, but Haruko tries unsuccessfully to make her keep it until she gets a job.
They ask Junpei about his new job, and he explains that he'll be flying out in the morning to his new job, where he'll teach children to paint and he hopes to enter a contest along the way. Mai gets excited and then mentions how great it would be if he and Chiharu were to get married. They both react with shock. Haruko quickly changes the subject and asks Chiharu to give a toast. "To the paths we each are traveling on."
As they walk home that night, Chiharu contemplates the whole idea of marriage. She decides that she was so desperate to get married before that she blindly stumbled ahead, making many mistakes. But now that she's found love, it's okay to let things develop and grow in their own time. Maybe marriage isn't even for them, right? Junpei agrees. She says that they can find happiness together, on the paths they're headed down.
As they reach the divergent point in their walk to their homes, Chiharu asks to say their goodbyes there. They embrace tightly. Chiharu starts to walk off, but then remembers something she wanted to ask him, about the meaning of diamond lilies. He pauses, then smiles as he answers that they mean "Looking forward to the day we next meet." She repeats it back to him with feeling and they head home.
As Chiharu passes the garden, she sees a woman sitting on her bench. She moves to get a better look, and Haruko turns and giggles that she thought Chiharu would come there. She offers beer and vegetable chips and they drink together. Haruko reminisces about the first time they met there, then pulls out the marriage registration to show her. They examine it, then Haruko says she doesn't need it, and Chiharu offers to make a paper airplane.
She launches it, and it circles the fountain and hits the police officer in the head. He recognizes them and they start backing away. They grab their things and run for it. He chases after them, yelling that he has something to say.
In the morning, Haruko comes out of the guest room and complains about not sleeping in her own bed. The women joke around about whose apartment it is, and Chiharu admits that Haruko is welcome to stay any time.
I have to say, this is a more satisfying ending than most romantic comedy jdoramas have. I know that they're all gunning for a special (or two) or a movie (or two), but it's still frustrating when they leave things open-ended.
But Kekkon Shinai found a good balance of having a decent ending and still leaving the door open for more. (For some reason, I have a feeling or a hope that it will get a special, but I haven't heard anything. It's just my own feeling.)
I find it interesting how our protagonists had such drastic changes in their attitude towards relationships through the course of this series. Haruko wanted to live alone, yet ended up living with Tanigawa. Chiharu was so desperate to be married, but in the end she decided that she was okay just being with Junpei, with or without the marriage certificate. And Junpei went from not feeling worthy of a decent relationship to committing wholeheartedly to Chiharu. And despite these complete reversals in perspective, the show made everything feel natural. You can see how each person changed bit by bit along the way, so that their final positions fit with each of their personalities, but still offered growth in their character.
Also, I'm sure you couldn't tell (wink, wink), but I'm so happy we got a kissing scene here. That's another thing with jdoramas—they don't often have kisses, and most of the ones they do show are boring and short. Or at the very beginning, but that's it. But this one was lovely and sweet. Sure, I would have loved seeing a bit more passion (maybe later on), but the kiss was very fitting of Junpei and Chiharu. And they both looked like they enjoyed it.
I also loved how Chiharu and Haruko were able to make up in this episode. It hurt to see them fight and not reconcile for so long. I just love their relationship of mutual support and growth. It was especially telling that Haruko was more concerned about Chiharu's relationship with Junpei than her own suffering. For someone who doesn't express her feelings, such preoccupation really shows how much she cares about Chiharu. And it's awesome that Chiharu could be there for her, even willing to sacrifice her love for her friend.
I think it's great that the side characters got in on the love, as well. It's so satisfying to see Mai happy with her boyfriend, and Boy Crazy and Playa finally figuring out how perfect they are for each other. I'm a little sad for Takahara, but he's a great catch, so I'm sure he'll find someone. (Oh, and I almost forgot Mizuki, since I never really liked her. She'll probably find some European guy to love. I'm sure of it.)
In the end, I have to say I love this show, even the parts that hurt. Overall, it has such a light feeling, yet it touches on some really big issues for much of the industrial world. The relationships throughout are very satisfying—and that's not just the romantic relationships. The friendships, the romances, the family relationships, even the coworker relationships are positive and uplifting. Sure, there are hiccups and bumps along the way, but that's how all relationships are. What really matters is how we learn and grow from those things into better people. And we all need the perspective our loved ones bring us on our journey down our life paths.