“Has anyone ever told you that your voice really carries?”
Taichi, a lively, impoverished freshman, drops – literally ! – onto Kohei, a fellow student just as he’s about to eat his lunch in the campus grounds. Kohei, good-looking but with a reputation for being stand-offish, offers to share his bento which the starving Taichi cheerfully polishes off. It turns out that Kohei is hearing-impaired and is looking for a fellow student to take notes for him at lectures. A deal is struck; Taichi will take notes in exchange for home-cooked lunches (Kohei’s mother is a cookery instructor). And so an unlikely friendship is formed, although Taichi’s note-taking proves somewhat erratic, his handwriting is difficult to decipher, and he has a tendency to fall asleep in lectures. But Kohei’s hearing is deteriorating and the young man is overwhelmed by conflicting feelings about the way his life is going. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to understand the situations he finds himself in and witnessing Taichi’s encounter with a girl called Miho sets up a string of misunderstandings that drives the two apart.
Yuki Fumino’s first published manga proved such a success in Japan that it’s been adapted as a live action film – and the second volume is already out, with a third on the way. One glance at the beautiful cover art with its wash of green leaves, sun filtering through to cast shadows on the two young men, is enough to entice the reader to open the book. The mangaka’s art is delicate with finely drawn and expressive portrayals of the characters, an essential element in making this Slice of Life story convincing. Kohei’s expressions are especially important as it’s one way he can truly express what he’s feeling. And, yes, this is a Boy’s Love story but very subtle and understated. What comes across most vividly is Kohei’s sense of isolation, the little ways that hearing people around him thoughtlessly make his life more difficult, and his own refusal to accept his deafness by rejecting the chance to learn sign language.
While I’m very grateful to One Peace Books for bringing this thoughtful and touching manga to English readers, I’m a little surprised that I couldn’t find a credit for the translator, editor or letterer. (And just to mention that the French edition from Boys Love IDP has a dust jacket, double-sided colour page and 2-page bonus manga beneath the dust jacket, so if you really love this title, you might consider adding this attractive version to your collection for the extras.) Their translator’s interpretation of the original Japanese title Hidamari ga kikoeru as Entends-tu le chant du soleil? or ‘Can you hear the song of the sun?’ seems a little more fitting than the somewhat awkward I Hear the Sunspot.
Given the recent popularity of the anime film A Silent Voice, the sensitive topic of hearing impairment has been much to the fore. I Hear the Sunspot is a very different work but just as worthy of your time for its characterization and bitter-sweet depiction of a nascent relationship. And the artwork is gorgeous. Recommended.