After the Rain, Vol. 3

By Jun Mayuzuki. Released in Japan as “Koi wa Ameagari no You ni” in two separate volumes by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Big Comic Spirits. Released in North America by Vertical Comics. Translated by Jocelyne Allen.

The third omnibus of this series shows off a few of the characters beginning to realize that Akira’s love for Kondo is not just some easily swayed crush, and that they may need to take it seriously. This includes the smarmy chef who’s been hitting on her, who it turns out is a lot less smarmy when he’s around his sister. They run into our lead “couple” and Kondo’s kid and go on a sort of double date from hell, featuring the dorkiest sweatshirt ever, a lot of phallic plants with no symbolism intended at all no sirree, and Tamako, the sister, who is a LOT in a series that’s driven by introverts most of the time. It also has an odd moment where Kase tells Akira that she is the sort to “bend towards the light”, like plants, implying a depth that she hadn’t seen before but which we don’t really get deeper into because, well, sister.

That said, the most interesting part of this book is that Akira’s tortured feelings about Kondo take a back seat to Akira’s tortured feelings about track. I had assumed, and the text implied up until now, that Akira’s injury was very much the “career ending” sort of injury. But no, with physical therapy, she could easily regain her powerful running ways. She just ISN’T. And this is annoying not just Haruka but also a lot of her fans, including one very angry underclassman who I’m pretty sure we’ll see again. Akira loves working at the restaurant so she can be around Kondo, but is that really all a girl like her wants to do? And how can she run after her perpetually forgetful boss with a bum leg? Akira’s issues are not just related to love, there’s more going on here.

As usual with this series, there are a number of gorgeous scenes with people simply staring at each other, and I admit that as much as I like the story of After the Rain, I wonder sometimes how it would read without any dialogue at all. I’m not sure it could tell everything in silence, but I think the majority of it could be implied. And honestly, when you finish the book and then go back to look at your favorite facial expressions, that’s a good book. We’re over halfway through the series now, and I’m still not entirely sure where it’s going, but it’s become clear that the story is not just about Akira and Kondo but about Akira maturing… or not maturing, as there are several points in this book where, as with previous volumes, she throws a bit of a tantrum when reality gets in her way.

I had fallen behind on this series, so the 4th volume is out very soon. It will be interesting to see where it goes. We saw Haruka meeting Kondo towards the end of the book, and I wonder how close the ‘love story’ and ‘track injury’ subplots are going to come. In any case, keep reading this very pretty series.

After the Rain, Vol. 2

By Jun Mayuzuki. Released in Japan as “Koi wa Ameagari no You ni” in two separate volumes by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Big Comic Spirits. Released in North America by Vertical Comics. Translated by Jocelyne Allen.

As you might imagine given the title of the series is After the Rain, it rains an awful lot in this manga. This not only creates an appropriate atmosphere, but allows both of its protagonists to come down with bad colds. This causes both Akira and Kondo to lose control of their emotions a bit, allowing suppressed feelings to boil over – nothing going beyond hugging, mind you. No one is quite ready for this relationship to advance that far yet. (Well, Akira may want it to – her fantasies when she’s in bed with a cold verge close to a masturbatory scene.) Plus both Akira and Kondo have things in their life they need to work out first. Akira is still trying to untie herself from her previous track team life, despite her friend Haruka insisting they can still be friends. And Kondo has a hidden side – he writes. But doesn’t want anyone to find out about it.

It’s no coincidence that both of these plotlines resemble each other – our leads are very much alike despite the age difference. Akira is determined to move on from her injury, but feels like the only way she can do that is by completely cutting out that part of her life. This naturally upsets Haruka, who is reduced to tears hearing Akira essentially deny everything they had. As for Kondo, seeing Akira recommend a book by his college friend Chihiro brings up old memories, and causes him to reunite with said friend and discuss their old literature club, which also apparently had his ex-wife in it. The reunion allows him to give advice to Akira on her fight, which is, essentially, “even if you do never speak again, this will not change the precious moments you once had with each other”. Which is good, if non-confrontational, advice – I’m sort of rooting for Haruka here.

We also meet Akira’s father in this volume (complete with a great “stop telling people I’m dead!” joke), which is good, because it shows us that her dad really isn’t much like Kondo at all. (So he’s not a replacement father figure, which I was fearing.) She’s also a lot more outgoing with her dad, sort of like the flashbacks of her and Haruka that we see before the accident. Like most high school kids, she’s ready to grow up and be taken seriously as an adult, and is frustrated by people who still want to treat her as a kid – not realizing that the reason they’re doing it so much is they know they don’t have much time left to pamper her. She’s almost an adult, but you want to stop time just so that you can still have her need you in the same way. It amounted to my favorite chapter in the book.

This story continues to be a sweet, slow burn, and my misgivings about the May-December romance have faded a bit. More to the point, I just like the writing of the characters. Even if the romance doesn’t happen, I want to see what happens next in their life anyway.

After the Rain, Vol. 1

By Jun Mayuzuki. Released in Japan as “Koi wa Ameagari no You ni” in two separate volumes by Shogakukan, serialized in the magazine Big Comic Spirits. Released in North America by Vertical Comics. Translated by Jocelyne Allen.

In general, when reviewing manga that involves a relationship between a young girl and a much older guy, I have been pretty wary. This is because for the most part it’s either had the older guy be a replacement father who ends up with his adopted daughter, a trope I can’t stand, or the guy exists in a position of power over her, such as the classic student/teacher romances that litter shoujo manga. But After the Rain’s restaurant manager and waitress is not all that big of a power imbalance. In addition, the discomfort involved in such a relationship seems to be the point with this series – Masami is well aware that Akira is still only 17 years old, and that he is 45. What’s more, the audience sees that Akira is desperately searching for a purpose in life after an injury forced her to quit sports. Is this romance just a passing thing?

I’d mentioned that Akira’s face on the cover reminded me a lot of School Rumble’s Yakumo. It gets even worse when I read the series itself, as Masami is a very close match to Captain Goto from Patlabor. It feels a but like I’m reading someone’s AU crossover fanfic. That said, behind the character designs is some very pretty art and deft panel work, and you can see why this title won awards when it was coming out in Japan. Akira starts off dealing with her crush and trying to hide it, but resolves herself to confessing fairly quickly – especially for a series like this. That leaves the latter half of this omnibus for us to see how Masami (entirely referred to as “Boss” throughout by Akira, in case you wanted the power imbalance shoved in your face) deals with it – as he is very well aware what the world would think. That said, he’s not exactly unattracted to Akura either.

The audience is helped by Akira’s other romantic options, which range from pathetic (her hopeless male classmate) to loathsome (the playboy chef, who blackmails her into going on a date with him, smugly creeps on her throughout fully knowing she dislikes it, and straight up says that he feels that her love for the manager is not going to work out. The fact that he’s likely right about the last one is particularly galling, and nicely sets up the audience to root for the couple despite the age difference – we want them to prove this smug ass wrong. Unfortunately, I really don’t think Akira is in a position where romance is good for her right now. A scene where she sees her track friends running and having fun, and flees in raw shame and self-hatred when they try to resume their friendship – shows she’s in a very delicate place now. I think Masami knows this – so what does he plan to do about it?

We’ve got four more omnibuses to go, so I think the drama will play out for a while to come. What’s more, this apparently was made into an anime at some point, so I think most readers are well ahead of me in knowing what happens. Still, this was good solid seinen drama, deftly handling an uncomfortable subject. I want to see what happens next.