Chiharu Saeki and Wataru Toda became friends in high school, bonding over their love of cinema. During an idyllic hot summer spent on a pilgrimage visiting all the significant places where Saeki’s favourite film was shot, Saeki told Wataru that he was in love with him – but Wataru, although he didn’t reject Saeki, was not ready to embark on a relationship. Now they’re both students at different universities and Wataru is working part-time at a cinema, while Saeki is earning money as a part-time tutor. They’re still friends – and still hanging out together. Saeki hasn’t given up on his romantic feelings for Wataru but Wataru is still not ready to commit and keeps evading his advances. It’s summer break, so Saeki suggests they go on another pilgrimage, but this time Wataru should choose the places they visit.
Every time he meets up with Saeki, Wataru is reminded that his (taller!) friend draws attention, whether it be girls chatting him up on the street corner, a confused tourist asking for directions in English (Saeki obliges, faultlessly) or a talent scout giving him her card at a film premiere – and this only increases his uncertainty. He feels that maybe he doesn’t deserve Saeki’s friendship, that maybe he’s holding him back. And this makes him take a step back, using the upcoming exams as an excuse not to meet up for a while. “The more I learn about him, the more out of my league he is. No wonder girls love him.”
As with Volume 1, Kodansha have generously added a bonus story ‘A Certain Summer Night and Morning‘ at the end which gives us an intimate glimpse into the slow-burn developing relationship between Saeki and Wataru. And even though some kind of physical contact beyond kissing has been implied in the relationship between the two young men, their story has always been about the way they are at ease in each other’s company and the feelings that have deepened since then. Most of this second volume (the series is still ongoing in Japan) is told from Wataru’s point of view and he is less confident and more uncertain about his feelings for Saeki. Perhaps he’s also a little less emotionally mature? However, a telling moment comes when he hears a friend (Akiyoshi) call Saeki by his first name and is overwhelmed by a pang of jealousy. If anyone is to call Saeki by his first name, that significant indication in Japanese society of a more intimate connection between two people, it should surely be him! When Saeki asks him what’s brought about this change of heart, he answers, “I don’t call you that. So I don’t like it that someone else does.” It’s as if the invisible barrier/wall that Wataru has been using to protect himself suddenly melts away – and if he’s angry with himself for revealing his vulnerability, Saeki is genuinely moved by this undeniable evidence of the strength of his feelings.
The translation is again by Jocelyne Allen, who makes the dialogue (and therefore the story) flow very naturally (there are some helpful translation notes as well). There’s one tellingly nuanced piece of dialogue toward the end of this volume where the two young men are on a trip to Monkey Island when Wataru slips and falls. Saeki offers him his hand to pull him back to his feet and, for a single panel, Nagisa Furuya gives us a memory of the time they first met, years ago, and Wataru rescued Saeki who was lost in Higashimura Park. But then Saeki says to Wataru, “I’m going to really try… to make sure I never let go… of the hand you let me hold, Wataru…” which very simply, but subtly, sums up their relationship.
Nagisa Furuya’s art is, as in the first volume, simple but expressive – and her colour work is luminous, riffing on the intense blue of another hot summer spent together by the two students. (The apt title of the French edition from Hana is Blue Summer.) Kodansha have spoiled us with ten glossy colour pages at the end of the volume and one at the beginning of Chapter 2. The mangaka – perhaps inspired by the boys’ love of cinema – makes very effective use of close-ups, focusing in on fleeting facial expressions that convey so much more than the words being spoken. But she’s also good at creating different atmospheres and backgrounds, whether depicting a crowded summer festival or a deserted island clifftop.
My Summer of You delivers a second atmospheric volume charting a slowly evolving relationship taking place against another hot Japanese summer. Hoping we won’t have too long to wait before the third volume comes along…