Natsu no Zenjitsu: Tender passion(s) amidst the winter

It is cold but two people are warm. (ch. 7)

It is hot outside, the shadows are thick. A pretty lady enters the art supply shop in order to post some art recommendations on a special place in the shop. A handsome young man, who works there, offers to help her. That’s how they met. And some days later they run across each other again in a field under the sky that was so blue and high that is was suffocating; he paints and she watches. Their paths continue to cross until a night when the rain wouldn’t stop… and then…

That’s how Natsu no Zenjitsu by Yoshida Motoi starts unfolding and that’s where our new header comes from. 

Foxy Lady: The manga began serializing back in 2008 and runs in a bimonthly magazine. Up to now there are 2 volumes out in the stores. The scanlations are even slower as someone not reading Japanese can find 10 out of 12.5 chapters from the vols, but not from the magazine. Yet patience delivers each and every time fuzziness in the heart.

Although it humbles me to just mention his name, there is a song called ‘Natsu no Zenjitsu‘ by Mr. Kouji Takimoto of new age folk band, Tama. The title of this piece of work was borrowed from the name of that wonderful song. Although the world of the song and what I am drawing are completely different, I agonized lengthily over whether I could make this phrase my own and whether I would be able to carry the burden of its existing reputation.  I hemmed and hawed over it as a tentative title for this series until it reached the point that a decision had to be made. It was probably because ‘Editor S’ talked a lot about Tama with me during our telephone conference that I finally gathered enough courage to make the decision. Sorry for all that trouble.
Whereupon, when I began drawing out the manga’s title page, I realized that no other title would be more fitting for the series and decided to follow through with my initial instincts and name the series ‘Natsu no Zenjitsu.’ Of course, although people reading my work could hardly be concerned with it, the desire to make the series live up to its namesake certainly has been a strong motivating factor when writing the manga. I was thinking of writing about this matter in the previous chapter, but since it was the big premiere of passion between Aoki and Aizawa, I held back. I’m trying my best.

-Yoshida Motoi

 

The story is an adult romance story and as such it also explores job related issues, which shed a light on the characters and their interactions. I underline the adult part not only because the protagonists are over the age of 18 but because the whole relationship is more mature and not only in the sexual explicitness department (yes, there are extended sex scenes). The heroine makes her move in chapter 1, and already in chapter 2 the protagonists get physically intimate. The relationship isn’t as clear as it usually is in (heterosexual) shoujo; there are complex situations and perplexed feelings. And that’s really how adult relationships are most of the time.

But by labeling the story adult, by no means do I imply rough intercourse or nasty porn. Although there is tension and passion bursts from several pages, their love in all the forms is tender. We get many panels with sweet kisses on the face -and not only on the lips-, hugs, caresses and tangled legs. There’s foreplay and communication and teasing between them while in bed. I haven’t encounter such scenes in other manga. You really get warm on the inside from this honesty; from watching them explore their bodies and please each other.

The art does help a lot, in spite the fact that it isn’t the original quality, and the bright and contrast tool used by the scanlators has decreased the impact of the art (according to darkmirage). The expressions are awesome and well-defined. The crosshatching is, in my opinion, what establishes intimacy and warmth – it’s perhaps how it encircles the characters and fills in the space in the panels. Akira’s lustrous hair and soft, curvy body, Tetsuo’s not very edgy face and lean, strong frame ooze sensuality. Body language is used very effectively: from the lonely and/or nervous back of Tetsuo to the embarassed pose and hands of Akira. Realism is emphasized by the presense of Akira’s pube hair and Tetsuo’s hairy legs. Every character is designed in a way that speaks volumes for his/her character.

Let’s take a closer look at the characters.

“Do you know? there’s a way to erase your own existence. If you avert your gaze and avoid making eye contact, you can disappear from the field of vision of others. That’s a way to be transparent.”


“A person’s body… sure is warm. The first time we touched…inside her… Her voice and her smell… everything was so soft.”

Aoki Tetsuo is a 4th year talented student at an art university. He almost always wears an intense gaze, like being angry permanently, and in spite the fact that he even has won a prize, he isn’t confident or a bit content about his art (mainly impressionistic works). Tetsuo is turmoiled by existential angst, one could say. Confused and frustrated doesn’t know what he should do in the future. He’s quite lonesome and an introvert who faces problems communicating his thoughts and can be abrupt and rude sometimes. His face rarely cracks a smile and in purpose puts up walls between himself and the others. His long hair bangs kind of function like a wall. This trouble of expressing himself might create the wrong impression of him. He isn’t stone-cold; he wishes to be tender towards Akira and that is shown through small gestures, like handing her a ginko leaf, and through his thoughts. Smoking is a bad habit of his, but it appears it’s his way of letting steam off. He’s observant and yet this trait of his doesn’t translate to apprehension of feelings – his or of others. Tetsuo has a certain pride when it comes to his independence. He doesn’t like being helped in any way, even if it’s for something small. Therefore he is hardworking and runs several part-time jobs (he works at an art supply store) and one-time errands (eg. construction worker).  He has also become competent at house chores like cooking, since he struggles to make ends meet. He seems to feel inferior compared to his brother who already works at a bank and makes money. Tetsuo was not a high-achiever in school, you see. He makes up with his talent that isn’t restricted to painting – he is in a music band along with Mori- but he doesn’t appreciate his abilities. In the course of the story and when he is with Akira, he opens up slowly, he relaxes, seeks consolation in body warmth, blushes and gets hungry for the woman who fell for him. (Pay attention on the notes on the side of the manga; they usually express Tetsuo’s thoughts.) – In the omake where everyone gets an animal to represent him/her, Tetsuo is a panther.




” I like your eyes. That look in your eyes when you are drawing. I want to see that all the time.”

“If you wouldn’t mind, I want you to be with me, embracing me. Every day. Is that what you wanted to hear?”

Aizawa Akira is an elegant lady, around her early thirties, that works for an art gallery and as an art critic. She’s always in a kimono and she may carry a parasol during sunny days or cover herself with a shawl during cold days. Her style is classic, but not very strict. Her A-line hairstyle makes her really cute and allows her alluring smooth white neck to show. Under the kimono she hides beautiful curves and I must say that she is among the few manga characters with rich assets I really like- the physique isn’t played mainly for the fanservice, but rather to indicate a mature body. She seems a woman that knows what she wants and pursues the object of her desire without minding what others might say about her. She’s confident and spontaneous: Akira was the one who took the initiative to visit Tetsuo while working on a painting, she gave the first kiss, she led him to embrace her, she was the one who caressed his erection through his boxers. That doesn’t mean she is promiscuous; she gets shy and embarrassed, too, and states that Tetsuo was the first person entering her bedroom. Akira is a very dynamic woman and even expresses her wish to support him financially. She really is a nurturing creature that wants the best for the person she loves, playing with the possibility of getting her heart hurt in the process. Among other things she’s playful and enjoys the moments she shares with Tetsuo. Of course, when the time calls for it, she can get the most serious expression. She is seen once being demanding from a subordinate of hers. Akira can also get a bit ugly when she’s jealous and her eyebrows become like arrows of death. This implies that she can get insecure from time to time when it has to do with Tetsuo. We know he thinks highly of her (and he goes as far as doubting if he deserves being together with such a fine woman), but doesn’t have the guts to confess his love, a thing that Akira is a bit sad about. – In the omake she is depicted as a cat.

Hanami is the ‘flower girl’ (she’s seen often carrying flowers) that has caught Tetsuo’s eye and interest. She’s introduced from the beginning when she carries some big sunflowers and bumps on Tetsuo. We don’t know much about her yet apart from her being an art student that both paints and photographs. Hanami’s smile is radiant and only once she is seen a bit melancholic. She hangs around with another girl and goes to a cafe from which Tetsuo passes by. She even shopped once at the art supply store. Although Tetsuo thinks he wants to be friends with her, the fact that he is rarely interested in another person and that he mentioned her in his diary in contrast to Akira (who isn’t mentioned at all) is quite ominous. SPOILER: the mangaka’s first two manga featured Hanami and they are tagged as prequels to Natsu no Zenjitsu. There we see Tetsuo paired with Hanami. I really hope that Natsu no Zenjitsu is a spin-off rather than sequel. I don’t want a bad ending for the couple. It’s very unfair, if you consider that in Koi Kaze, that is an incest story with a man being older, the ending was optimistic for the couple, but here where the woman is older, she’s probably doomed to disappointment…

Mori Atou is an underclassman of Tetsuo, who’s the complete opposite of him. He’s always cheerful to the point of sillyness. He’s carefree (you can notice his unshaved beard and his general slack way of dressing), likes alcohol and company. We get a comment about him and women: he’s kind of a womanizer. He carries his guitar around and sings. He appears to spend much time rehearsing songs, though we do see him painting. – In the omake he is a bear.

“That moment – as if a miracle has just happened- when the female body brings forth complex and subtle curves… when light and shadow duel, when meat and bones dance in competition. In that moment I wonder ‘what in the world was I looking at before?!’ “

Riko Inoue is a small-framed tomboy graduate student that really loves art.  She’s a mangaka and at the same time wants to continue painting. She organizes croquis gatherings and seems generally an active person. She says she really enjoyed putting up her works alongside with Tetsuo and shows an honest interest and admiration in his works. She herself is pretty good. We see a nude self-portrait and I think that’s telling about her self-awareness and self-image. Of course she worries she needs improvement, but she doesn’t nullify her work like Tetsuo does. It came to me as a surprise that she smokes, although not very heavily. She also drinks but she gets tipsy easily.- In the omake she is a rabbit/hare with glasses.

Neko-kun: Usually a series has a certain trademark that uses in order to attract as many people as possible. Natsu no Zenjitsu is simply the narrative of a relationship- that between Aizawa Akira and Aoki Tetsuo. Yet, this is more than just another light romance.

Natsu no Zenjitsu delivers an amazing set of high quality characteristics. Firstly, its magnificent artwork: I have never come across lines and shadows as warm as the ones on the pages of this manga. The use of color could easily mess up the harmony of the drawings (the colored covers are made with watercolor instead of pen), so there really is no need for such a thing, since the reader can sense everything depicted on the printed paper; the cool breeze, the sunshine, the chill on the skin of the lovely couple, the shadows of their bodies when they touch each other and so on.

Foxy Lady said more than enough about the characters. I can only add that the main thing I love about them is that they act and think as if they were living people. That is to say, the story is shaped by the characters, not the other way around. There is no predestined path (in contrast to Mawaru Penguindrum’s characters for example that lead to some not very smooth character changes), which is a good justification for the nervousness, the doubts and the wonderful moments they experience. This much needed element of realism is a rare feature in romances, so readers should welcome Natsu no Zenjitsu for giving us a human dimension of love where we may be saddened, troubled or become joyful, for the moments of intimacy between a man and a woman that in many ways reflect our own.

Natsu no Zenjitsu does not aspire to be neither the funniest nor the saddest, the hottest or the most innocent of romances. It only reads ‘communication’, ‘devotion’ and ‘love’ above all things. in the beautiful world we love wonderful things. Especially these days of emotional bloom and boom, there is hardly a manga as beautiful as Natsu no Zenjitsu to suggest.

 ——-

We believe we’ve justified more than enough the choice of the 5th header. Natsu no Zenjitsu is a wonderful piece of art and literature. Go read it!

F: We resemble in some ways the main couple, as well. Neko-kun is a tad introvert, not to the extend of Tetsuo, but introvert still.
N: What common do I even have with this jerk???
F: Come on, you’re too harsh on him. Anyways, I go on. He’s shy and gentlemanly aggressive in bed the way Tetsuo is. His ear is quite the button – oh hon, I love your sweet moans, I’ve told you already, haven’t I?
N: … *blush*
F: He’s rarely pleased with his work, too. Then, I can get red from embarrassment like Akira and be as teaser as she is 🙂 I also adore watching Neko drawing, talking philosophy or being focused in a task. I find it pleasing, even sexy- don’t ask why, I just do. The cute interactions between those two is like seeing us in a manga form – a happy feeling I might say. As for the particular image- well it’s winter and that’s how I feel when I’m with Neko. He’s in the army now and he came on my island, so when he has permission to have a break, we meet. In that case I feel like Tetsuo: my lover’s words, body and heart make me feel very much at home.

P.S.: You can find beautiful sketches and illustrations of the characters in the mangaka’s page.
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6 thoughts on “Natsu no Zenjitsu: Tender passion(s) amidst the winter

  1. After experiencing the beauty and boldness of “Koi Kaze”, I’m certain that this manga will confirm me in my high appreciation toYoshida Motoi`s work. I think she is a major star in graphic literature not just in Japan, but everywhere.

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    • Yes, Yoshida Motoi does an excellent work here; I guarantee that. Especially now that the protagonists are both adults, she is free to explore the physical aspect of a relationship much more. Everything is perfectly fleshed out -with the exception of ch 26 which I’d like to not have existed; I was crying and yelling when I saw what I saw. In any case, I’d love to see this series adapted into anime and/or coming over to West in German at least (coz let’s be honest, American publishers are hesitant with their prude audience).

      On other news the 5th volume of the manga will be the last. http://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2014-05-04/koi-kaze-motoi-yoshida-to-end-natsu-no-zenjitsu-manga

      Like

  2. Yes, it can be a one-seating indeed. Not necessarily due to suspense, but because of sheer beauty and immersion in the story. The atmosphere is indeed great. And it's nerve-wrecking that the scans progress so slowly :/ I am glad that both of you appreciated the expressions even though I have posted a restricted number of close-ups.

    I refrained myself from posting an explicit scene, since I wanted to attract many readers without setting my post as NSFW. But you can google the title and search images, if you don't mind spoilering yourself, just to taste this manga better.

    Like

  3. Just like Ryan, I like the expression, but aside from that I love the tone of this manga. It sets the right mood of what's there to expect.

    I guess this is something I need to prepare myself before starting because I might end-up reading it in one seating.

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  4. 😀 So happy to see you drop by again! I can't wait your comments after you read it! You can't imagine how happy I am to be able to spread and share love for this manga 🙂

    Like

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