by Kazune Kawahara; adapted by Gemma Collinge
published by Viz; $8.99 US
I’m surprised I’m still enjoying this manga as much as I am, because I would have expected that as it loses its shiny!newest! feel, I would be getting a little bored of it. But I’m not. I think that’s because the author, Kazune Kawahara, keeps the teen relationship realistic while plugging in lots of funny stuff and keeping the events moving.
Plus, Haruna is just so enthusiastic a personality, she’s a blast to read about. As the book opens, she’s incredibly happy to be dating Yoh, and her joy is contagious. That leads to her protecting a stranger on the train from being groped. The girl she helps becomes a new friend, which spirals in a completely unexpected way into a serious challenge for the two teens in love.
Fundamentally, this conflict boils down to the same underlying truth as previous ones: Haruna has to learn to accept that someone can and will love her. She doesn’t yet know how to trust in her relationship, so uncertainty or rivals or even just misunderstanding Yoh’s reactions will call that into question for her. That’s a basic struggle for everyone in love, and it provides some fundamental points of sympathy. Of course the reader sees Haruna’s strengths and how much she contributes and how much help and support she is for Yoh, but Haruna herself, in the middle of the emotions, doesn’t have that perspective. That’s what makes the series so gripping for me, watching her learn to trust both herself and Yoh as they gain more knowledge of each other and their reactions and needs.
Plus, the art supports all this well with authentic emotion on the characters’ faces. Yoh, especially, is a tough challenge. In lesser hands, he’d seem like a stick or a brick, someone with no feelings — here, though, he seems reserved, as he should, someone with hidden emotion that he chooses not to share. And I love the way Haruna knows her boyfriend is feeling normal about her when he lectures her on not doing stupid things. That’s a way of demonstrating caring that I can relate to — it’s more adult than the usual lovey-dovey shojo stuff. They really are changing each other for the better.
I’ve previously reviewed book 5. A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.