Manga Mondays: Love Isn’t for the Weak-Hearted (pt. 2)

Last week, I posted about George Asakura’s first volume of A Perfect Day for Love Letters, so why don’t we finish up the series this week? In my opinion, what sets these two books apart is the collective tone of the stories. The first volume is much closer to what one would expect  from a normal shoujo—well, even then I don’t think it’s too terribly close—whereas in this second volume the stories get a little more serious and even explore different types of love (i.e.: not just romantic). So, let’s just hop right in!

Midnight Fax Letters: Volume two starts out on a more traditional note of high school love. Wada’s asked by her fellow classmate, Araki, if she has a fax machine. Her friends spill the beans and Araki tells her he might be sending her something later that night. She doesn’t believe him, but sure enough he sends her the most romantic first message ever: “You hate me, don’t you?” They end up spending the entire night faxing each other. For the rest of the chapter, they dance around the issue of liking each other, eventually ending exactly where you think they will. This story isn’t covering any new ground, but it’s still rather enjoyable.

Ko-chan’s E-mail: This is where the tone shift begins to happen. Natsume, the mayor’s daughter, is extremely unhappy. Being forced to excel at everything to maintain a perfect image is never a fun fate and the fact that her boyfriend has pretty much ditched her to chase his own dreams doesn’t help matters. Preparing to take the high school entrance exams (after being the only one in her family to have failed every other school’s entrance exam), Natsume has reached a new low and feels that life is pretty much useless. That all changes, though, when finally after a year she receives a text from Ko-chan, the aforementioned boyfriend. Getting this changes her priorities entirely and she ends up ditching her studies to enjoy her life to the fullest, and even in her prep school she makes an impassioned speech about how studying all the time is worthless (which is met with disgruntled mutters from the other students). Plus, Ko-chan sends her another text which she interprets as saying he doesn’t want to see her anymore.

Hitting a new low, Natsume surrenders herself to studying and depression until she receives an anonymous note. “The speech you gave in class the other day was interesting. I don’t know why, but I felt relieved.” From this, Natsume decides that even though Ko-chan may be apart from her, she can keep his spirit alive and give everyone else a little taste of freedom. What comes next you wouldn’t guess, but it’s hilarious and meaningful, especially to people who don’t exactly feel like they have meaning in their lives.

I love this story because it’s not really about the love between Ko-chan and Natsume; it’s more about the love of freedom and a love of yourself. Natsume knows she doesn’t want to live like her siblings and she thinks she can delude herself by thinking that acting like Ko-chan will bring her happiness. It’s only when she finds out how to balance the two and forge a path all her own that she truly becomes content with where her life is heading. Asakura also smartly implies that it takes a lot of effort and pain—although hopefully not as much pain Natsume goes through—to reach this point. Perhaps self-love is the hardest love of all.

Lovers on Planet Icarus: Koichi’s dead and his younger brother, Kenji, is drawn unwillingly into finding out about his brother’s secret life. For as long as he can remember, Koichi has been a complete dickwad to Kenji, but as he was the older brother he was allowed to get away with it—a bitterness that Kenji still holds close, even reveling in his brother’s death, because it meant he got Koichi’s expensive digital video camera. The stipulation of this, however, is that Kenji must deliver a video love letter to Koichi’s girlfriend (which no one knew he had).

For three weeks, Koichi went missing and apparently he got himself a beautiful and talented girlfriend, a fact that Kenji has a hard time believing even when he’s face-to-face with the pretty masseuse, Yuin. She explains to him how she and Kenji met and how his crazy antics—that Kenji is horrified to hear about—won her over. However, she doesn’t want to look at the love letter. She doesn’t want to be reminded of Koichi ever again and Kenji is only too happy to oblige. Kenji then returns home and tries to once again revel in the defeat of his brother, but only dwells on the reasons why his brother kept the stupid things from his childhood: some glass stones Koichi made their mother throw away, his journal, and a taped up page of some old lyrics to a song he wrote. In a huff, Kenji returns to Yuin’s place and makes her watch the love letter, leading to a rather heartbreaking scene where everything they both have lost by this is finally allowed to breach the surface.

Much like the previous story, this one’s not really about the romance. It more encapsulates the saying, “you can’t choose your family,” but despite that you’ll always love them (even if you don’t want to). A sibling bond is such a strong thing and it’s clear to me that both Koichi and Kenji wanted something like that, but they both didn’t know how to do it. It makes me wonder if Koichi knew somehow that events would happen like they did and that his video was made not only for Yuin, but for his younger brother as well. I would like to think it was.

Summer’s Foam: After the two previous chapters, I think it’s almost necessary to have some sort of a ‘break’ chapter, and that’s what this is. For lack of a better term, this chapter is boring. I don’t even find it particularly cute. It’s simply a puff of shoujo air that quickly dissipates into nothingness.

Tsurukawa, one of the swim team members, is approached by the chilly beauty, Katagiri, about joining the swim team herself. However, she can’t swim. So Tsurukawa ends up teaching her how. There’s a subplot about Katagiri having to move to Alaska in a couple months, but the whole thing is kind of dull and emotionless as both of the characters are rather apathetic. It’s a nice palate cleanser, though.

Secret Exchange Notebook: Okay, now this story would have been much better as a follow-up and the pages used on ‘Summer’s Foam’ could have been saved entirely.

‘SEN’ is a completely silly, more shoujo-y styled chapter based around the shy crush that Kaede has on Tsutsui. Well, shy is the wrong word. The way that their cram school tutor, Kyoumi, describes it is perfect: “[It’s] a junior high kid’s romance! They make a fuss even though they’ve never even talked to each other.” Taking a dramatic offense to that, Kaede heads home only to find a note in her bike basket that says that if she wants, Tsutsui would be up for dating her.

This is “dating” in word only as they still don’t talk to each other. After one very awkward phone call, they revert to leaving messages in a notebook to talk. They get more comfortable around each other and eventually actually hang out together, like once. It’s a start. Problems arise, though, when one day the notebook falls into the wrong hands and they both think the other one has stopped. As the tutor said, their relationship is very ‘middle school’, but it’s also charming since their personalities are so strong and distinct: exactly what the previous chapter was missing.

Metal Moon: Finally, in the last chapter Asakura proves that he can actually write an apathetic character that the audience can find interesting. We follow Kaneko, the ‘always getting turned down’ type, as he once more gets turned down by the girl he likes. To celebrate this occasion, his friends throw him a party. It’s only after the party that he realizes that someone has slipped a CD into his bag, along with a love letter. He’s surprised to find out it’s from the Zeze, the quiet, mysterious girl that sits in front of him and finds that it’s increasingly harder to submit to her wishes and “act as usual the next time [he sees her]”.

Upon this realization, Kaneko makes an effort to get to know Zeze better and in coming to terms with his blossoming feelings for her, he discovers that he’s made an unrealistic image of the girl who had previously turned him down.  However, it comes to light that Zeze wasn’t being exactly honest in her letter: she didn’t like him like that, but wanted to make him feel better. But it’s hard to tell if that statement is even entirely truthful, even for Zeze herself.

Now that we’ve reached the final end, I hope by exploring these chapters one by one I’ve piqued your interest at least a little bit. The series is definitely worth a read and Asakura’s humor really makes each story unique and enjoyable (except maybe that one, but every author has their off days).

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About Tsunderin

Greetings and salutations! Feel free to just call me Rin—we’re all friends here, or nemeses who just haven’t gotten to know each other well enough. I’m a video game lover from the womb to the tomb, and Bioware enthusiast until the day they stop making games with amazing characters that I cry over. And while I don’t partake as often as I used to, don’t be surprised to find me poking around an anime or manga every once in a while either. A personal interest for me is characterization in media and how women in particular have been portrayed, are being portrayed, and will be portrayed in the future. I’m not going to mince words about my opinion either.