Mai HiME is a fantastic and inspiring series with a good message. Plus there's a lot more to discover within the Omakes, novels and hidden tidbits within Anime books. Before exploring the rest of these, I started with fansubs of the anime series that didn't include the Omakes (for some reason) which got the viewer inside the minds of the characters better.
I was quickly introduced to Natsuki Kuga. A lone wolf female with a mission to bring down First District. Natsuki is one of the most three dimensional characters I've ever had the privilege of knowing. She's an amazing fighter with a tragic past. Teaming with fellow HiME (HIghly advanced Materializing Equipment), mainly Mai Tokiha (the main heroine in the series) and Mikoto Minagi, she vows to bring down the opposition that terrorizes Fuka Academy. Natsuki is a stubborn yet strong willed woman who finds it difficult to trust others because of everything she's been through. As the series progresses, she puts her trust in Mai and a few of the other HiME. But there's one person who supported this powerful woman from the start...
Student council president of Fuka Academy. Not to mention long time friend of Natsuki. Shizuru is flirtatious and a major tease. Don't let her fool you though, Shizuru is quite the intelligent and responsible individual. Handling every issue within the school. From early on, Shizuru always took a liking to Natsuki. Making sure she has access to everything at Fuka for information on the mysterious activity that's going on. Which explains why Natsuki knows so much and ends up explaining things to Mai.
During the battle with the Orphan monsters, Shizuru doesn't play much of a role. When the Festival/Carnival arc kicked in, where Nagi claims the HiME must battle each other...everything changes.Not only is Shizuru revealed to be a HiME with incredible powers, but also one not fighting for any reason other than to protect her precious one. Natsuki.
She gave hints throughout the series, but Shizuru's love for Natsuki couldn't be any more clear in the last few episodes. After saving Natsuki from Nao's clutches, Shizuru takes a shattered Natsuki to an empty house, that belongs to one of her tea students, where she can be safe. Shizuru expresses her appreciation for Natsuki keeping her suspicions quiet about being a HiME. Shizuru is right, had Natsuki known sooner, it would of been another burden to carry in the middle of this unnecessary war. A small taste of not only Shizuru's love for Natsuki, but also the understanding that builds their relationship. Both have exchanged likings for each other, but Shizuru wishes Natsuki's meaning of "like" was the same as hers.
Haruka Suzushiro and Yukino Kikukawa track down Shizuru and pretty much tell her off for disappearing from the school when it needed her most. Yukino proceeds to tell Shizuru that Haruka always worked hard to match up to Shizuru's status. How Shizuru can just throw all that away just for Natsuki is unforgivable to them. Shizuru easily takes their anger and frustration without flinching. Not to mention Haruka's good hard slap. However, as soon as Haruka dragged Natsuki's name into this, Shizuru countered with one Hell of a slap herself. Shizuru took immediate responsibility for what happened behind closed doors with Natsuki (which Yukino and her HiME powers were able to take a glance at) and then asks the big question:
"Do you think you're allowed to get away with anything, if it's for the sake of the one you love?"
Natsuki rushes to the scene after overhearing everything. Shizuru quickly tries to offer comfort, but Natsuki pulls back in sheer terror at the thought of being violated by Shizuru. Shizuru didn't want things to end this way. Thanks to the Obsidian Prince's influence, Shizuru is thrust into an unstable and violent state. Killing off Yukino's Child "Diana", leaving Haruka (the single most important person to Yukino) to fade away. Gotta give Haruka credit for never backing down and giving Shizuru a good hit before fading away. Even so, Haruka didn't quite understand the situation enough to cut Shizuru some slack. Then again, the Obsidian Lord's influence was at work, toying with the heart of Shizuru who's only drive was to protect Natsuki. Shizuru makes her love for Natsuki public,and promises to defeat the other HiME. The look in her eyes and the quick cut-away to Reito and Nagi speaks volumes.
Shattered once again, Natsuki collapses on the street, only to be brought to a hospital and then captured again by Nao. Sure can't get a break, huh? While captured, Natsuki discovers Nao's past and reason for being so aggressive. Suddenly Shizuru finds her beloved and easily defeats Nao's Child "Julia". Simply defeating Nao wasn't enough, as Shizuru prepared for the kill. Natsuki defends Nao because they something in common, unable to trust others and have suffered greatly in the past.
Natsuki then stated that the reason she didn't end up like Nao is because of the support from her friends (like Shizuru, Mai, Mikoto, etc.) As Shizuru ties up loose ends (no pun intended), Natsuki reunites with the people she trusts for advice. Even getting a fresh Ducati from Yamada. She knows what needs to be done.
Natsuki and Shizuru meet face to face once again. Thinking that Natsuki had rejected her feelings, Shizuru is left with no choice but to attack. During the battle, she says there was no intention of hurting Natsuki. She truly loved her and sadly it had to come down to this. Natsuki responds by successfully summoning her Child "Duran". This time, Duran has grown bigger and more powerful than ever. Thanks to the strong love a HiME has for another. Shizuru being that new love.
The battle ends with Shizuru capturing Natsuki and pulling her into an embrace. But what came next shocked Shizuru. A tender kiss from Natsuki. Natsuki tells Shizuru that she was never able to trust anyone in the past, but was glad to put her friendship and faith in Shizuru:
"Shizuru, you were the first one who came to me when I was unable to believe anyone. But, I can't have the feeling that you wish I did. Even then, I'm happy that you loved me. I also love you, Shizuru."
With that, Natsuki orders Duran to destroy Kiyohime. The blast takes them both, leaving Natsuki and Shizuru fading away. To this day, some people find Natsuki did this on purpose to lower Shizuru's guard down, which isn't 100% true. On the contrary, she knew what she was doing. On top of that, she willingly embraced a fulfilled Shizuru to join her in the peaceful unknown.
Just before the final battle, Mashiro revives all fallen HiME and their most important person. Shizuru apologizes for everything she's done, and Natsuki assures her that everything is going to be ok. It's at this point that I shed tears even more for the pair.Even after keeping secrets, causing destruction, and destroying innocent lives, Natsuki found it in her heart to forgive Shizuru. A true testament to her character and what she's all about. Beautiful, absolutely beautiful way to finish the drama between the two. Personally, Shizuru deserved another chance. No matter how you see it, she was in love with Natsuki. She went a bit too far, but that was thanks to the influence of the Obsidian Lord's power. Shizuru's love is, was and always will be true. She supported Natsuki since the beginning, protected her and even understood everything she's been going through. Natsuki could of thrown it all away because of one major rampage, but she knows deep down that Shizuru is the one person that's always be there for her.
Everywhere you go, many fans have their own opinions on the relationship between Natsuki and Shizuru. Some even refer to them as overrated. The constant debate is the subject of Natsuki's "rejection" of Shizuru. All fans are entitled to their opinions. Trust me, if everyone thought ShizNat was pure canon, discussions would be boring. That's what makes the series so great, it leaves things open to discussion and assumption.For a 26 episode series, there's so much to explore. Not just the surface of the plot, but the the heart and souls of the characters. In my opinion, Natsuki and Shizuru became a happy couple in the future. Now immediately, but definitely down the road. You don't even need to bring up the page 25 of Mai Hime animation guide book defense to consider it canon. Put the epilogue aside for a second. It's a fact that Natsuki put her trust and friendship in Shizuru for the longest time. I don't believe Natsuki has a specific preference either, all she wanted was someone she can trust and believe in. Shizuru, being the long term angel watching over Natsuki's shoulder, IS that person. When you feel strongly for someone, it doesn't matter what gender they are. You feel it in your heart, you go for it. I do know that Shizuru is a lesbian because of her strong sexual attraction to Natsuki. Natsuki allowing Shizuru to touch her in the last episode is a nice start, eh? Drama CDs and the fact that they're official in Mai Otome needs to be taken into consideration too. The whole message of "Love Transcends Everything" is practically wired into Mai HiME.
Did Goku from Dragon Ball GT become a God upon absorbing the Dragon Balls? Did Sailor Cosmos actually make an appearance in the Sailor Moon Sailor Stars anime? Fans speculate and doubt all the time, it's normal.I respect everyone believing what they want, as long as it makes some kind of logical sense. Though sometimes, wondering about Natsuki's preference does get on my nerves. After all, why should it matter? She sees Shizuru as a person. One she could spend the rest of her life with. Many people can take the word "love" and play around with it. In my eyes, Natsuki and Shizuru have given me more proof than I could possibly need.
From the early events in Natsuki no Prelude (which I highly recommend), to the "happiness that will soon visit these two" (I also read "before one knows, happiness will visit them both" in another translation.), I'm in awe of these two wonderful characters. They proved that understanding and love will always triumph in the end. No matter how complicated the circumstances and no matter how big the obstacle. I had a similar situation happen to me recently. Watching Mai HiME again and following Natsuki and Shizuru made me realize there's hope in finding your shining star again. One you can actually see and touch.
"Ultimately when the Battle had concluded, Natsuki again spoke affectionately to Shizuru who was graduating.
Before one is aware, happiness will visit these two..."
- Mai HiME Animation Book page 25