by Ken Saito; adapted by Alethea & Athena Nibley
published by DC/CMX Manga; $9.99 US
This final volume of one of my favorite CMX series comes at a sad time — not only is The Name of the Flower ending, but so is the manga line overall. This may be the last CMX book I review, which adds a melancholy air that’s well-suited to the bittersweet tone of the story.
It’s all about learning to survive the pain of loss, and the hope of love afterwards to fight depression and give life some purpose again. Kei is a gifted writer, your typical tortured artist who lost his parents at a young age. Chouko, his younger cousin (of some kind, remotely), had a similar experience, so he took her in and provided the silent-but-caring solid companionship she needed. Of course, she fell in love with him.
As this volume opens, it’s over four years after the two came together, and Chouko has moved from being upset at being left alone by her parents to being upset by being ignored by Kei. He’s working, and she’s learning what it’s like to live with a creative type. It’s emblematic of how to cope with caring for someone who may love something more than you. In her case, it unfortunately taps into her deep-seated fear of loneliness, of having those she loves desert her.
Yet, as a change of pace, the first chapter is a bit of comedy, with Chouko’s artist-groupie friends trying to attract others to their college club and Kei having to deal with old people helping out in the garden. (Since that’s the symbol of his growing feelings for Chouko, I’m not sure what that says about their relationship. Trust your elders?)
Chouko is distracted by her grandfather, who’s in the hospital (and has been for years). Meanwhile, her classmate Yousuke (who’s shown on the cover) is attempting to balance his crush feelings for her with his adoration of Kei and his works. He’s a welcome alternative to the deep suffering of the others, with his brash and exaggerated feelings expressed openly. The older students are trying to teach him to be an adult, to stand up for himself and take responsibility. That’s difficult, though, since he can’t really fight for Chouko — she has a unique connection to Kei.
Given the way everyone behaves in the resolution, I’m not sure I can call it a happy ending. It’s new and yet it feels just like before. Perhaps that’s the best any author can aim for.