I was between this and Koe no Katachi when selecting the titles for the 12 Days of Christmas, but since the latter will get an anime soon, why not spent this space to shed light to an unknown title that had me crying at each and every chapter no less. I tried to avoid spoilers as much as I could in this post, so please enjoy this review!
Haru Koi is a one volume josei manga with four short stories written and illustrated by Suetsugu Yuki, the mangaka who has brought us Chihayafuru.
In the homonymous story, Ryuko is a 50-year-old lady with a young heart who has befriended the 23-year-old Nodoka, a sweet introvert kindergarden teacher. Ryuko usually fawns over shoujo manga and her daughter who has married a British, but one day Non-chan has something important to confess: she’s in love! Ryuko supports her and even goes out with her to the restaurant where Non-chan’s crush works. Despite her timidness she gets a positive response only to later witness Ryuko trying to convince her love interest not to further get involved with her. Is Ryuko jealous? Does she use Nodoka as a past time pleasure or is there something else going on?
Of course, misunderstandings are the quintessense of conflict, and thus interesting plot, but what’s more important here are the human stories that are hidden and the new bonds we create. Haru Koi is special for making a middle-aged woman the main narrator and shedding light to her unlike friendship with a young adult as well as her joys and sorrows. It reminds us that some times we pass judgement too quickly onto other people.
Ring of an Unrequited Love is about Kitaouji Mayuko, 30, who works as wedding planner for a hotel. And she’s still unmarried, a fact that doesn’t get unnoticed by her nosy co-workers. It’s not like she doesn’t have a boyfriend, she has; he has went through divorce recently though, so the idea of marriage is nowhere near his plans for the future. Mayuko has to deal with the gossip, the pressure from her family, her boyfriend’s distant attitude all the while keeping a smile for the customers she serves and take care of the delayed wedding ceremony of her friend. Will she manage to be happy? Will she change job? And is her relationship going anywhere?
In shoujo we see teenage girls getting to meet their first love and perhaps find themselves in the center of the attention of multiple bishies, no previous experience is ever revealed. In josei we usually have to do with adult women but this doesn’t necessary mean they aren’t virgins (e.g. manga by Ohmi Tomu). So it’s a real joy to be able to see very down to earth problems a woman in love deals with. I haven’t encountered before a story where the man is divorced and his new partner has to deal distrust and japanese society’s views on a second marriage, thus I found Ring of an Unrequited Love not only touching but also very interesting.
Misa’s Eatery tells the story of Misa, 26, who works for a construction company because she felt too pressured working as a kid in her family restaurant. She also wants to settle down with a decent man. Fate has it that she has her eyes on someone owning a traditional japanese eatery. When she visits, she finds herself somehow involved and gets hired to help the store reclaim its older glory. It might have been left uncared for too long but her future father-in-law is an excellent cook and it’d be a shame if the shop closed down because it couldn’t make profit anymore. Is Misa going to succeed? Is her help only temporary? What are her motives?
Misa’s Eatery is a typical hard-work, no regrets narrative, but it’s well excecuted. It was an enjoyable read that highlights the breach between the old and the new generation, the working conditions and the dreams of young people. Although one may find Misa’s reason for cutting ties with her family frivolous at first, it’s the final outcome that matters and where her feelings lie.
Nanatsu from Nanatsu’s Promise is a young girl with mother who is a translator. The latter has moved with her daughter in a new apartment of her own instead of relying on her parents, earns little and works very hard probably to be able to pay both rent and her daughter’s piano lessons. As a result, she’s exhausted, doesn’t dedicate much time to her child and has lost her smile. This upsets Nanatsu, so she comes up with a plan to cheer her up and that requires to go to her grandparents on her own. Can she find her former house safely? Will she make it back in time before it gets dark?
Whoever loved Usagi Drop, this is a oneshot you’ll love. Nanatsu is adorable and clever but she’s still a child and getting on the bus alone is quite a big adventure. Having to see small daily things from a child’s eyes surely makes one reconsider many things. Moreover the parent isn’t painted as neglectful, which is rare, and I appreciate it a lot. Parents are human beings who may try to make ends meet as best as possible and aren’t always intentionally hurtful.
The art is pretty good but a bit repetitive. For instance, the protagonist of the first story resembles Chihaya a lot. That said within this one volume the characters are distinguishable. This manga’s value lies mostly with the stories that tells, encompassing relationships with elders, marriage, work and parenthood, while using fresh voices we don’t often encounter in manga. Take your handkerchief packet and start reading!