More spoilers ahead if you haven’t already read this far…
Satoko Tawada (c. 32) has bumped into Mashuu (c. 14) who is on a school trip to Sendai. All the confused feelings that she has had to bury since she was transferred from Tokyo back to her home city to placate Mashuu’s angry father are reawakened. And then, just as the friendship between them is revived, Satoko is offered the chance to return to Tokyo by her company. Now she’ll be able to see Mashuu regularly again. However, Mashuu gets to meet her younger sister Mayuko (who has plans to share a flat in the capital with her big sister) and learns more about Satoko from chatty, outward-going Mayuko!
Through Mayu’s memories, we get to find out more about the not-so happy childhood of the sisters and begin to understand what’s made her older sister into the woman she is today. But we also get to see more from teenage Mashuu’s point of view – and to realize how much he values Satoko’s friendship. They see each other more frequently as Satoko makes her plans to return to Tokyo until the moment when Mashuu, with all the spontaneous ardour of a teenager, blurts out something that can’t be unsaid. The way Satoko responds – and the way Mashuu reacts to her response – will define how their friendship evolves (or doesn’t), going forward. Satoko has sometimes seen her role as substitute mother or older sister to Mashuu – but is she deluding herself?
Another engrossing volume of Hitomi Takano’s slice-of-life story of a May-September friendship (which may or may not be evolving into something else) tiptoes along the border of what is and what is not acceptable in contemporary Japanese society. Mayuko is a welcome addition to the cast as her lively personality contrasts well with painfully youthful and eager Mashuu and guarded, uptight Satoko. Sadly, as the Vertical editions have almost caught up with Japan, there are no fascinating and amusing mangaka’s notes at the end this time to hint at what she’s been discussing with her editors (as in earlier volumes). In the meantime, we’ve had the chance to read Hitomi Takano’s BL collection Shining Stars in Line (published in translation by futekiya in July) and to see what a clever writer she is of twisted tales and complex character relationships, as well as being a superb illustrator. And it has to be said that because of Takano’s wry narrative touches – check out the section with the estate agent – My Boy manages to avoid veering into soap territory.
Kumar Sivasubramanian continues to deliver a very readable, flowing translation for Vertical Comics which suits the mangaka’s style well as there are plenty of interior monologues for the three main protagonists of this volume. And the cover is lightly dusted with glitter which is a delightful and appropriate touch; are the warmer shades of amber and gold in the artwork indicative of happier moments to come, perhaps…? Or an impossible dream? This volume confirms how compelling this story is turning out to be and I’m now impatient to see where the mangaka takes the story in Volume 6.