The Red Thread Volume 2 Review

Pharm is a first-year economics student who has a passion for cookery; Dean is the charismatic captain of the university swimming team. From the instant they meet, they feel strongly attracted to one another – although they don’t know why! It’s not long before the two start spending more time in each other’s company (Dean drives Pharm to and from the campus when Pharm’s car has to go in for repairs) and their friends can see that it’s only a matter of time before they start dating.

Although, when the Thai Dessert Club is commissioned to prepare some simple Thai food for a short film the drama club is making, Pharm meets the ‘star’ Alex – who coolly makes a pass at him, having praised his cooking. Pharm politely but firmly tells him he’s not interested – but Alex is not one to be so easily dissuaded! On set, Pharm also meets Del, Dean’s pretty younger sister who’s playing the heroine in the film, so together with his friend Manaow (who’s also in the film) the three have a great time together learning how to prepare and cook Chor Muang dumplings.

As the rumours about Pharm and Dean continue to appear on social media, Pharm can’t help but be thrilled when Dean invites him to lunch at his friend Sorn’s restaurant in Siam (a shopping district in Bangkok), but also nervous. Is this… what you would call a date!!?

However, both young men continue to be haunted by vivid dreams in which they’re other people – and the dreams start to bleed into everyday life. We know that the two are reincarnations of two ill-fated lovers, In and Korn, who resorted to suicide when their strict families forbade their relationship. But Pharm and Dean are as yet unaware, although as the flashbacks become more intrusive, there’s a lingering sense of disquiet, even danger as when Dean experiences a very realistic episode while driving home and has to do an emergency stop, banging his head.

And then all the faculties have to start preparing for Open Campus Day (which means Pharm and the Dessert Club will be making more delicious sweets to serve to visitors). But as the flashbacks and memories grow more intrusive, Pharm and Korn realize that there’s more to the attraction they feel as they ask each other if they know two names: In and Korn.

The second volume of The Red Thread continues in much the same vein as the first, only now the innocence of Pharm and Dean’s developing relationship is ominously overshadowed by the flashbacks to In and Korn, hinting that there are no certainties in life, even when you’re very much in love. There’s two rather charming insertions of the ‘Red Thread’ myth/tradition, the first during the Open Campus Day activities in which Pharm and Dean find themselves connected as Pharm and his fellow students are running a ‘see around the campus with a guide by picking a string and seeing whose finger it’s attached to’ activity. And, no prizes for guessing that the string Pharm picks is attached to Dean! The second comes up when the two are eating out with friends and one of them refers to it as the Japanese legend ‘with the red thread attached to the pinky’ which then leads the young woman in question to her fated lover. But then he goes on to explain, “If their love isn’t to be, they wrap the thread around their wrists and commit double suicide… believing that the thread will pull them back together in their next lives.” The friends don’t notice that Pharm and Dean have gone very quiet on hearing this… and on the way home in Dean’s car, Pharm starts to tell Dean of a recent waking dream he’s had…

Much of this manga version of Lazysheep’s original novel (there’s also a Thai drama adaptation Until We Meet Again) makes use of smartphone communications as a narrative aid. Kids today, eh? Although In and Korn seem to belong to an age which wasn’t so dependent on the internet; from their clothes and hairstyles we assume that they lived c. twenty years ago. The ‘rules’ of reincarnation stories are not set in stone but much of their ability to convince and move us has to come from the author setting the guideposts up very clearly so that our disbelief stays suspended!

The local Thai colour is provided as before by the descriptions of food and the sweets that Pharm is so skilled at making; helpful translation notes at the back once again give extra and fascinating information not just about the food but local references. The translator for Yen Press is Emma Schumacker and the translation works very well; the lettering by Chi Bui is clear and easy to follow, even when it changes from texting on smartphone screens to everyday conversations, then flashbacks to the past.

Mangaka Hibiko Haruyama continues to do an excellent job of bringing Lazysheep’s work to vivid life, with a nice balance between comedy, drama and romance. This story could so easily have failed to convince but the way the mangaka has portrayed the main characters in her attractive art makes them sympathetic and believable: the ‘nostalgic’ vibe seen in Volume 1 is even more evident here and gives the manga an undeniable charm.

The volume again concludes with a light-hearted extra chapter about the original pair of lovers, In and Korn, allowing us to see how different they were from Pharm and Dean – but also delivering a truly bitter-sweet final page. Volumes 3 and 4 haven’t yet been given a publication date by Yen Press, although it looks as if they will be available in Japan from 1st March 2024.

Our review copy from Yen Press was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK.

9 / 10


Sarah's been writing about her love of manga and anime since Whenever - and first started watching via Le Club Dorothée in France...

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