Surprises abound along with some heart-breaking truths
Writer/Artist: Fumi Yoshinaga
Translation: Sachiko Sato
Adaptation: Sachiko Sato
What They Say
For the whole entire year, Harutaro told himself and his classmates that he would never hide any secrets away from him friends. And one day during his first year of high school - an accident!
It's difficult to pinpoint exactly when we become "grown-up". For some, the movement away from childhood just seems to happen one day with the only evidence a change of attitude or opinion, while others get maturity forced upon them by events that thrust them into the often unforgiving realities of adulthood. Then there are those who are destined never to move beyond the attitudes of childhood, bound to act out as their inner ten-year old throughout life. In this final volume to the series, Fumi Yoshinaga shows how new found maturity, or lack of it, affects her high school students, their teachers, and their families.
While the primary focus is on Haru, Shota and Majima, Yoshinaga does not forget their classmates in little episodes skillfully placed throughout that let the reader know how these young people have changed: a declaration of love that, while rejected, leaves the declarer feeling better, and more mature, for having done it; restraining one's exuberance over good fortune that may inadvertently hurt another; sadness over a temporary loss of a relationship can be borne and comforted by good friendships. A reminder that for every door that closes, two open.
While it's tempting to cite Majima as a candidate for Peter Pan's evil twin, even he comes to some accommodation with adulthood. Too bad that can't be said for the adults he deals with in this volume - Saito sensei and Koyanagi sensei. Majima, for all his weirdness, is straightforward and Saito sensei's convoluted romance rationalizations confuse him. Dissuaded from taking some hasty action by Haru, Majima comes up with a response that is mature, but keeping within his particular pathological behavior. It's a surprisingly satisfying solution and not every mangaka could pull it off with a straight face.
The desire to move beyond Comiket with their manga leads Haru and Shota to submit their work to an editor. In a wonderful portrait by Yoshinaga, editor Takayama is a combination of tough, tender, concerned about his mangaka, and serious about manga and its future. Haru and Shota's exuberance and naivete is no match for this man, and meeting up with him provides the litmus test for adulthood for Shota.
The direction from which Haru's particular challenge would come should not be a surprise. Haru's past and his private reactions to his illness, barely mentioned after volume one, come front and center here. But it isn't Haru who is the compelling character here, it's his sister, Sakura. Throughout the series, Yoshinaga has stealthily built up her character, giving a picture of her fears, frailties, and dependence. It is she, in her despair and neediness, who destroys Haru's hard won equilibrium. This is a beautiful sequence, brimming with the truth that, indeed, no one can hurt us the way a loved one can. Haru rebounds too quickly given the gravity of the situation, but his resolve to live without the illusions of childhood makes way for the recognition that some deceit may be a necessary part of life.
A wonderful combination of comedy and drama, populated with memorable and unusual characters and situations. Fumi Yoshinaga's story-telling skills have never been stronger or more focused. Highly recommended.