Saki is a teenager with a love for the piano. On the way to her lesson, she accidently bumps into a beautiful girl who then helps Saki pick up the sheet music she’s dropped without saying a word. To Saki’s surprise, she meets the same girl again next day at school, and discovers that she’s called Kanon and is hard of hearing. Despite a warm welcome by the teacher, Kanon makes it very clear to the class that she has no intention of making friends and tells them not to bother trying to communicate with her. Nevertheless, Saki is already fascinated with Kanon, and wants to get to know her better. But with Kanon being reluctant to open up and Saki knowing little about her disability, can the pair find a way to make it work?
If this series piques your interest because you happen to be a fan of the likes of A Silent Voice and/or A Sign of Affection but you’re worried the story will be the same but with a lesbian romance instead of a heterosexual one, then you’ll be pleased to know that The Moon on a Rainy Night is its own thing entirely. Like disabilities in real life, from the mental to the physical, there’s a very wide spectrum in how people can suffer with said disability. Including how someone may react to it or how they came about it (whether it be from birth, or something developed later in life) so there’s a wealth of stories to tell. In the case of this story, Kanon is hard of hearing, but not completely deaf, and it was a disability that she developed after an illness as a kid, and so has had to make a huge adjustment to how she lives her life. As a result, she’s had to give up certain hobbies she enjoyed (playing musical instruments) has lost friends along the way, and so understandably remains guarded in making new ones. There’s lots of lovely details that the author, Kuzushiro, puts not just into Kanon’s character but her disability as well. For example, Kanon has stronger hearing in one ear and therefore prefers to have Saki sit on that side to hear her better. Then there’s things like eating with others at lunchtime being difficult for her, as she cannot read people’s lips when they’re either eating or covering mouths as they speak whilst eating, so despite growing a friendship with Saki, that’s a line she doesn’t feel comfortable crossing just yet. They’re things that a non-disabled person wouldn’t really think about, but would absolutely impact someone like Kanon, and it’s these little details and down-to-earth scenarios that brings the reader into her world as well as make the experience relatable.
We also get Saki’s perspective on things, as someone who knows next to nothing about deaf people; when she is researching on her own, and learning via interactions with Kanon, the audience is learning with her. The page that got me the most is the one where Saki reads an interview from a deaf person over the internet, with them saying that the most difficult thing about being disabled is when others fail to see said disability and make comments like ‘I bet you can hear just fine’. It’s a gut punch that highlights how dismissive others can be, and anyone from a minority group can relate to that (e.g., ‘Everyone’s a bit autistic’, ‘Why are you bisexual? Can you just pick a lane!’ ‘You don’t look like you have ADHD’ and so on.) Saki even admits she first thought that way and wants not only to get to know Kanon as a person but also accommodate to her needs in a way that allows Kanon to be comfortable. Then there’s Saki’s experiences with others outside of Kanon, the students who dismiss Kanon’s condition, or the store clerks that have no idea too, and seeing Saki’s world expanding, as well as her empathy, is a great read as well.
As briefly mentioned, this manga is tagged as yuri/LGBT+ on Kodansha website, and the first volume of this story doesn’t have much in the way of romance, preferring to use its time to set up the story and introduce the characters (wisely, I might add) but what we do get I can say is quite masterful. Whilst Saki’s over the top reactions for the most part in this book (saying things like ‘too steamy’ because Kanon is sitting too close, even though Kanon needs to, to hear Saki’s voice) might be grating on the reader, it’s the subtle build-up from the opening chapter to the last that make it worthwhile. It’s heavily hinted that Saki’s love for piano is not just exclusive to the instrument itself, and the blushing Saki does around Kanon can be seen as simply bashfulness at first, but the last page brings all these disconnected elements into one revelation for Saki. I won’t spoil what it is, but I will say that I loved how the themes of LGBT, the binary-gendered nature of some sign language and confusion of first love as a teenager are expertly crafted together on the final page to make one hell of a cliff-hanger to the first volume.
Kevin Steinbach provides the translation to Volume 1, not only delivering comprehensive translation notes, but also the original author’s note on which books she researched to make sure she got Kanon’s hard-of- hearing disability correct, as well as general info on the condition. It’s nice to see that the author truly cared about representation, and the translation helps the reader to get absorbed into the story as well.
The artwork by Kuzushiro is distinctive as well: the characters are very detailed, there’s excellent use of shading and every panel just looks expertly crafted. Plus, in the scenes where we’re exclusively in Kanon’s POV, there’s more use of dark imagery and shadows when she is overwhelmed. It’s a different take to what I’ve seen in other manga portraying deaf characters and it’s always nice to see how different artists interpret that.
I can’t recommend this book enough; it’s beautiful in both the art style and storytelling, with a story that doesn’t shy away from the difficulties of living with disabilities, whilst also telling the side of someone who learns to accommodate them. If you’re looking for a new yuri manga, or just want good representation of a disabled character, The Moon on a Rainy Night is an excellent example.
Our review copy from Kodansha was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK.