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|| Ryou-Omoi ||

Mutual Love
1 volume
ISBN: 4088476883

This was once simply a page about one of the short stories in this manga, but I have since bought the collection, and feel they are all worth talking about. There are six short stories in this volume.

In the first part of the title story, Ryou-Omoi ('Mutual Love'), a high school boy named Ikeda is in love with his classmate, but is afraid of confessing because there is a rumor that she has a boyfriend. He is working at his part-time job with a co-worker one day when a woman comes in for cold medicine. His older co-worker runs out after the woman, and we learn that she was a girl he liked when he was in high school, and that she liked him in return. She had lent him the first book of a mystery series when they were in school together, because (we now learn, she thought he had a lot in common with the main character). We also learn that she just got married last year. He returns to the store and tells Ikeda to confess, no matter how scared he might be. He also hands Ikeda the book he was reading-- number 11 in the mystery series. What will Ikeda do?

In the first part of Yumeji ('Dreaming') is a story about an old couple talking on their last night together, as the husband is ill and dying. The wife says they have had a good life and she wouldn't ask for anything more, except that sometimes she wishes they had met earlier, before college. The man closes his eyes and dreams of his next life.... In the second part (a seperate story), a girl is worried that her boyfriend may not really love her. After all, she asked him out, and made him kiss her the first time, and dragged him on their first date. She falls asleep looking at a scowling picture of him and has a strangely vivid dream...

Taiyo no Hana ('Sunflowers') starts with Ayako begining her first semester of high school. She hates first semesters, because she isn't good at making new friends. She watches the other girls gather into cliques on the first day with dread. She is assigned to watch a certian patch of the flower bed as a member of the gardening club, but hers is the only area where nothing sprouts. Finally, one day, she finds a sprout, but the very moment she spots it a wild baseball lands on it. Takai, a boy on the baseball team wrecks further inadvertent havoc when he goes to retrieve his ball...

The first part of Kikoemasu ka? ('Can you Hear Me?') is about a girl who can't stop talking but can't say what she really wants to say, and the boy who can't get a word in edge-wise. Until she gets laryngitis. The second features the shortest girl in class asking the tallest boy in class if things look different from way up there. He offers to show her. And the last is about a young woman and the older best friend who always has looked out for her and called her when she looked down. She always took him for granted, until the day he had some news to tell her...

Kokuhaku ('Confessions'): Yuuta has several secrets, and one that no one must know about. "Opening your heart; telling your secrets and feelings. People call this 'kokuhaku'... 'a confession.'"

Natsu no Kyousoukyoku ('Summer Rhapsody') is definitely the funniest of these stories. A girl and a boy live in the same neighborhood and have been together in the same school from elementary all the way to high school. He seems to take her for granted, giving her easy orders to help him with things. Her classmates want to know: 'Are you dating?' She isn't sure herself. The boy thinks she likes a co-worker, and finally asks the co-worker outright. The man chuckles and says, "No, but I think you like Ino." The boy admits it, but in such a way that although the girl over-hears the conversation, she's certain he just admited his love to their male co-worker! She decides she will support her friend even in this...

What I thought:
It isn't often that I find a comic artist who is so different they just blow me away. Natsuyoshi Ren is one of them. Her style reminds me of water-color paintings, and her stories are simply gorgeous in their realism. They resonate in a way most shoujo manga stories never do. Real girls. Real boys. And I love how she divides each short story into episodes: Short, poignant, and very sweet. I just wish she had more comics so I could buy them! I have found one listed online. It was published in '97, but hopefully I can track down a copy.

Kokuhaku Text