Friday, January 25, 2013

Manga Review: Haru Natsu Aki Fuyu

Taishi Zaou and Eiki Eiki's Haru Natsu Aki Fuyu is a miracle of a series. I say so because its first two chapters are fucking awful, but it's still a long-time favorite of mine- a collection I've re-read a number of times. Admittedly, it holds some sentimental value as one of the earliest yuri collections I enjoyed, but its first two chapters (which I normally skip) aside, I do think it's a great collection.

Haru Natsu Aki Fuyu is about three couples at an all-girls' school- two student couples, and the school doctor and one of the teachers.

The first chapter, "Expressions of Love," is about how new student Akiho and her popular classmate Haruka get together.

The second chapter, "She-Wolf," focuses on how new student Fuyuka and her popular classmate Natsuki... well, they don't get together at this point, thankfully, but they do strike up a tenuous friendship. These two chapters, especially "She-Wolf," are riddled with tropes that make this book arguably the most problematic thing I love me want to light them on fire. It's some kind of miracle of writing that I like these characters as couples in the later chapters focusing on them.

The next arc, "First Kiss" (which ran in three parts in Yuri Hime magazine), shifts focus to the school doctor Reiko and a teacher named Ayano. Reiko and Ayano are best friends and alumnae of the school they work at. They fell in love as classmates and shared their first kiss, but thought, in keeping with the heterosexist assumptions they were ingrained with, that their feelings were a phase. After graduating high school, they swept their feelings under the rug and dated men, each oblivious that the other still carries a torch for her.

Things come to a head when Ayano mentions the possibility of marrying her boyfriend to Reiko, making Reiko despair and accept her boyfriend's proposal. I don't want to spoil too much, but if this story's resolution doesn't turn you into a quivering lump of jello, you have no soul.

At the end of "First Kiss", Reiko gives Fuyuka advice about her feelings for Natsuki- preventing Fuyuka from making the same mistake she and Ayano made.

Taking Reiko's advice to heart in "Little Red Riding Hood Strikes Back" (which ran in two parts in Yuri Hime), Fuyuka pursues Natsuki, showing that she doesn't do anything by halves. Ironically, now that she is interested in Natsuki and being really obvious about it, Fuyuka finds that Natsuki isn't as assertive about her feelings as she assumed.

Natsuki and Haruka (and their respective groupies- remember, this is still an all-girls' school story) can't stand each other, but Fuyuka and Akiho become friends and get along beautifully. Some misunderstandings later, Fuyuka makes it clear to Natsuki that she fully returns her feelings (unlike the sort of-girlfriend Natsuki once had), while Akiho and Haruka remain happily in love. Ayano and Reiko also get one last, nice cameo, giving the two younger couples a subtle helping hand to sort out their drama. In an extra-smile inducing touch, Fuyuka and Natsuki react to their first kiss the same way Ayano and Reiko did theirs. And naturally, Fuyuka has no intention of letting her painstaking research into what it takes to have great lesbian sex (courtesy of some advice books) go to waste.

In "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter", Fuyuka, Natsuki, Akiho and Haruka go on an overnight trip to the beach together. It's a sweet conclusion to this series.

Again, this series holds sentimental value for me, but it became a favorite of mine for good reason. It has two of my hooks- multiple yuri couples (who know about each other), and queer women helping younger queer women have an easier time being who they are. "First Kiss" is emotionally wringing but more than delivers in pay-off, and the more humorous "Little Red Riding Hood Strikes Back" and "Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter" chapters are a lot of fun and quite funny. (And admittedly, when I first read them, had the bonus appeal that the better examples of such stories would hold for a lesbian high schooler who doesn't knowingly know any other girls who like girls.)

This collection also has an amusing bonus, unrelated one-shot titled "Her," about two best friends who have feelings for each other, and are clearly going to learn that their feelings are mutual very soon.

This collection is one of the earliest series serialized in Yuri Hime magazine, but, like Kuchibiru Tameiki Sakurairo, it holds up as one of the most moving, enjoyable collections put out by YH.

I'm reviewing the English-language release of this book on JManga. As usual for ALC's releases there, strong translation, no complaints.

Story: B+ overall.
Art: B+
Overall: A-


Fran said...

I enjoyed the teacher-nurse story a lot. But reading the first and second story, my expectations about this serie were near zero.

Katherine Hanson said...

@Fran- Yeah, the quality difference between those portions of the book is like night and day. Comparisons to the first two chapters aside, the teacher-nurse story is indeed wonderful. ^^