by Hinako Ashihara; adapted by John Werry
published by Viz; $9.99 US
In part one of this book, Ann’s staying with her dad, his new wife, and their baby. She’s trying to face the future, about to graduate from junior college and being dragged on group dates by her friends, but the past comes calling. First, there’s an invitation to her high school reunion, then a chance meeting with an old boyfriend.
She’s 20 years old, which is the time to participate in the Coming-of-Age ceremony in Japan. While young adults in any country can relate to confusion based on wanting the comfort of the past while dealing with the uncertainty of the future, it’s particularly potent when there is an entire holiday based around the concept of being recognized as an adult. Not to mention how confusing any school reunion can be. You see the people who knew you when, and they don’t know how or if you’ve changed. You rethink how things have happened, because the past is safer and more comforting.
This is one of my favorite shojo manga titles because of the beautiful way it captures nostalgia and the uncertainty of love. Ann can’t help wondering whether her first love was meant to be more, and if she made the right decisions at key points in her life. I think that’s something anyone can relate to, especially once they have some maturity. And the way it’s drawn, so sparely and delicate, with so much attention to the soulful eyes of the characters in various moods, perfectly suits the content.
There’s a wonderful message about moving past regret, about accepting your past as it is. You can remember the past and even wonder about it, but it is already in place and part of who you are now. Accepting that gives you strength.
I’m also happy that Ashihara isn’t shy about jumping ahead in the story as needed. The second half of this volume puts Ann at age 26, which means a whole new place in her life. She’s a working woman, getting engaged, which gives this section of the book a josei feel, which I really appreciate. Ann is trying to navigate the fine line between being strong and being uncaring or lonely. Her challenges are informed by her mother’s earlier suicide, another aspect of the past that continues to cast a shadow on her life.
My biggest complaint about this series is that, for the number of endnotes it has, there ought to be a lot more numbered pages. It’s very difficult to figure out where in the book you are.