Ever since his father died, 11-year-old Natsuru lives with his mom, an author. He’s at the age where he loves soccer and doesn’t care about girls, but that’s before he meets Suzumura, tall and boyish and quiet, a girl whose eyes seem to look on a different world than anyone else. When he finds an abandoned kitten and gives it to Suzumura, Natsuru is invited to her rundown house and discovers her secret: Suzumura and her little brother Yuuta live completely alone, without any parents to take care of them, while they wait for their dad to return from a crab-fishing job in the Pacific Northwest.
On an impulse, Natsuru skips out of summer soccer camp and asks Suzumura if he can stay with her and Yuuta instead. In the evenings, they play with the cat and cook together for 5-year-old Yuuta and at night they sleep (platonically, of course) on the same futon while Yuuta snores in the next room. It’s a dreamlike summer, but Natsuru starts to suspect that something is wrong, from the things Suzumura won’t talk about, and from the time she turns to him in bed and starts crying uncontrollably (“I was carried away by the feeling of her in my arms, trembling and warm”).
Soon Natsuru discovers secrets too important to spoil, building up to a masterful coming-of-age story (and not-quite-love story). The script is simple and it’s a quick read, but Ozaki’s wonderful pacing and artwork makes it all feel real: the sunset streets, graceful characters, overgrown gardens, and fallen flowers. An excellent story, with accomplished artwork in a style neither shojo nor shonen, this is one of the best single-volume manga of the year. Recommended.
story and art: Kaori Ozaki