Monday, November 24, 2014

Manga Monday: Getting to know a loved one all over again

Mio and Takumi were high school sweethearts...of a sort.They met in high school, but circumstances kept their relationship from developing until after they had graduated. Eventually, though, they finally come together, and a year after they marry their son Yuji comes along.

In most manga, this would be where the story ends. But here, the story is just beginning.
"Archive is a planet of memory. People who have passed away continue to live there as long as someone on Earth remembers them."
So says the picture book that Mio wrote for Yuji before passing away. She promises to come back when when the rainy season starts, and this is where we pick up, in Takuji Ichikawa's Be With You.

It's been a year since Mio has passed away, and her son couldn't be more excited. She promised to come back at the start of the rainy season, and as the weather forecast predicts cloudy skies, Yuji runs outside to find her. His father follows, glad that his son has so much faith in his late wife but not expecting to find anything.

Imagine his surprise when he finds Mio, sitting on the steps of Lab 5. But the discovery is bittersweet, as they realize that she has no memory of her family.

The manga follows the six weeks of the rainy season, as the family slowly  learns about each other again. Yuji turns seven, Takumi has another health scare, and sleeping arraignments have to be renegotiated. Mio might not remember that Yuji is allergic to strawberries, or that her first dates with Takumi were hours of simply talking, but the family was one built on love, and that love can transcend whatever strange magic has brought Mio back to them.

Be with You started out as a novel, and has become a manga, a tv show and a movie. The theme song of the movie was the highest selling single of 2005, which shows some of the love that Japan has for this story. A melancholy, sweet look into the life of a family that is hurting - and healing - Be With You is a lovely one-shot manga to spend an afternoon with.

Highs: In the last chapter, as we see the events from the mother's point of view, is much more of a payoff than I'd expected from a story like this.

Lows: The fact that Yuji calls his father by his first name was extremely confusing at the beginning, but things made more sense as it went.

Verdict: One-shot manga are hard to find, so this is an even better buy than usual.

Further Reading: Be With You (novel), Bunny Drop, The Girl From the Well

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