by Hinako Ashihara; adapted by John Werry
published by Viz; $8.99 US
Ann and Daigo are almost grown as this volume of the melancholic series begins. It’s their 17th summer, and things are complicated.
Daigo’s working in his small town, while Ann’s in Tokyo. They parted on unhappy terms, with Daigo saying he needed some time to understand why she kept secrets from him. He said he’d call her, but it’s been three months. Their friend Shika keeps pursuing him, while Shika’s brother Fuji is in Tokyo, keeping Ann company.
Ann has been depending on Daigo since her mother committed suicide, and he’s beginning to feel the burden, although he cares deeply for her. He wants to be strong for her, but wanting to save her doesn’t mean he can.
Ann can’t do anything but wait for Daigo to call her. Meanwhile, Shika is cooking for him, having the advantage of being local. She’s addressing his physical needs first and trying to learn from her brother’s mistakes. Fuji likes Ann, but his strategy is simply to wait for her, demonstrating how much more like her he is than Daigo is.
I was touched by the discussion of love, although it isn’t obvious in its presentation. A friend of Ann’s draws a distinction between wanting someone to do things for you and wanting to do things for the person you care about. It’s not until you’ve reached the latter state that you’re really, maturely in love. Ann isn’t there, but she is trying, by not calling Daigo and giving him his space. She doesn’t want to bother him, even though she’s miserable without him. She may be unsure of their love, but she still cares for and needs him. He’s been the most constant presence in her life.
As always, the seasons are characters in themselves. Summer, for example, is a hot, sticky, unpleasant time to be suffered through until things improve, capped off by fun rituals with friends. I adore this series because it’s so moody, in a good way, and full of meaning. The underlying question is a tough, always relevant one: whether love is enough. You can care deeply for someone and still not be able to make them happy. How do you come to realize that, and what do you do about it?
Not to mention, there’s the distance problem. Sometimes life takes you in different directions through factors you can’t change. The art beautifully supports all of this emotional weight, with poignant illustrations of the teens and the countryside around them. Your first love will always be part of your life, affecting who you become — and I can’t wait to see more of how these teens continue growing up. There’s always another day to come.