Tachibana Venio & Kitahata Akeno: A New Season of Young Leaves

Although Juné has made no distinction, this is the first volume of an ongoing series. I’m always hesitant about picking up titles that aren’t complete, especially when they’re still going in both languages. However, I felt like I should take a chance on this one. I’m glad I did. It was a delightful and curious read; I read it twice before going to bed. The second installment was just released in Japanese, so I wonder how long it will be before Juné starts working on it.

Mariya and Nachi are FRIENDS. At least that’s what they tell people. Neither childhood friends nor former rivals, they have one of the most interesting starts to their friendship. A lot of the dialogue at the beginning is purposely and cleverly (without trying too hard) misleading. Separately, they don’t seem like they would have much in common, but when you see them interact, it’s clear that they’re close. “How close” is what some of the other characters want to know. Nachi might seem pure, but he’s not; he’s possessive, a bit cunning, and has something of a one-track mind. He doesn’t cling to Mariya in the usual sense, but he has no qualms about verbally holding onto Mariya, locking him down, or separating people from him. And he does so with a single phrase: “you can’t.” Sometimes it’s directed at Mariya and sometimes it’s directed at the person Nachi feels is getting in the way. Although it was short-lived, Mariya only resisted once and it was rather beautiful how his opposition just disintegrated in the face of Nachi’s incantation. “You can’t.” It’s so simple, yet so deceptive, and Mariya just pauses and then melts at the sound of it.

Nachi’s pretty straightforward about what he wants and how he feels. On the other hand, while he has his moments, Mariya’s not as honest. Every time he attempted to disrupt Nachi’s intentions, he was reminded of how powerless he is against him. They had some conflict in the past and only remained in each other’s company because Nachi insisted in his usual way, otherwise, Mariya would have given up. He carries his past transgressions with him daily, but rather than his guilt, it’s his love for Nachi–love that others can see to varying degrees–that keeps him by Nachi’s side. And it is him by Nachi’s side rather than the other way around. Their relationship is peculiar and intriguing.

I really need Juné not to pull one over on us; they can’t stall this one or drop it. My thanks goes to whoever chose to license this one. It’s such a great story.

Beyond the main guys are a few well-written side characters. Natsume. who can’t wrap his head around Nachi and Mariya’s FRIENDship; Higa, who takes umbrage with the term “four eyes;” Sono, who doesn’t seem like he would hang out with them, but does, and Minami, who may have a better idea of the balance of the leads’ relationship than anyone else. There’s also a guy named Kashu who’s quietly building a tower of mischief that we’ll most likely see in the next volume. It’s a good mix and I think that works in favor of consistently compelling developments and reveals.

There are other things like the hand holding, which you just have to experience for yourself. Nachi’s Zura (Gintama) moments. And Nachi’s unexpected skill.

Kitahata’s art is very nice and her expressions are perfect, especially for Nachi. His face is often blank, but when he’s interacting directly with Mariya or someone questions him about Mariya, he looks alive. Her lines are clean and precise, but not mechanical. And there’s this one panel of Nachi where looks like Ueda Kiyo drew him; I just loved that.

It’s really good.

However, I’m questioning Nachi’s nickname, Natch, and wondering if it was actually Nacchan. And then there’s the fact that they misspelled the writer’s name; Venio as Venin. When I saw that I just laughed. The n and o are too far apart to be a typo–and it’s there twice. Too careless– in print, no less!

Notes: I can’t stop thinking about (really, since the first time I read it) Kashu. What if Ono’s parents got a divorce and he had to change his name to his mother’s and now he’s Kashu. Not likely, but I keep thinking about what his issue with Mariya or Nacchan could be.

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