Haru’s Cruse revolves around the seasons. The names of the main sisters are seasons; Haru means spring and Natsumi means summer. The manga’s story is told over a year, from spring to winter. The manga revels in the change each season represents. Haru passes away in the spring, and Natsumi’s romance grows over the summer. Each season signifies great change. Through these changes I found a compelling, complex tale.
The story begins at a wake. Natusmi is grieving over the loss of her dear little sister, Haru, to an untold illness. Before she died, Haru asked Natsumi to do one thing: to place a picture of her and Togo in her coffin. Togo is Haru’s fiance from an arranged marriage. He’s cold and stoic, but Haru nonetheless fell in love with him. Natsumi hated how he took Haru away from her. Still, when Togo asks her out, she says yes. But on one condition: they only go where Togo took Haru.
Right away you know you're getting into an emotional, complicated story. The manga deals with grief, suicidal thoughts, and complex human emotions. The author, Asuka Konishi, thankfully takes a grounded approach. It helps make the main pair, Togo and Natsumi, more empathetic and likable. They don’t start dating because they have feelings for each other, but as part of their grieving process. Both have a piece of Haru that the other doesn’t have. It’s from the need to connect with those pieces that their feelings develop. Through organic moments they grow close, not as pieces of Haru but as individuals. By moving beyond Haru, they move on together.
During the course of the story, you get to see the leads as real people. Natsumi is cheery and bright to hide the horrible pain she feels inside. First she lost her sister to Togo, then got her partially back but only for a short time before she passed away. Natsumi has only ever loved Haru. Love for her was so rare and strange that she thought that her love for her sister could be romantic. Now that she’s developing feelings for Togo, what would Haru think? How do you know the feelings of the dead?
While Haru is trapped by familial love, Togo is trapped by familial duty. Being part of a rich family, he has his life laid out for him. The college he went to was founded by his family. His relationship with Haru was only because his parents wished for it. Choices that look like his own are for the family. He learns new skills, but those skills serve the family business. It’s only when he asks Natsumi out that he makes a decision all his own for the first time. Can he be his own person and still be part of the family?
These questions and themes are portrayed with wonderful character art. Asuka Konishi’s art uses thick lines and it looks so clean you’d think it was an animation cel. The characters can be described as long, skinny noodles a la CLAMP. They are quite expressive noodles, though. Their most striking feature is their eyes. It’s been long said that big eyes allow for more expression and a stronger feeling of attachment from the viewer. The moe craze was founded on those big-eyed principals. But it feels like such a long time that I’ve seen such eyes convey complicated emotions. As you can guess, there are lots of emotional moments in this manga. To convey the emotions, Konishi draws panels where the characters are looking straight forward. Happiness, anger, grief, love, it’s all there. Their eyes pierce your defenses. They stab straight into your heart. Because you know what they’re feeling. They’re being vulnerable to you. Multiplied by the subject matter, it’s an intense experience.
Haru’s Curse was a great change of pace for me as a reader. I’ve been reading fantasy books and superhero comics recently, and this was a nice return to reality. It was grounded and didn’t resort to melodrama to get its points across. I was rooting for the characters. The relationships between them are complicated. and the story addresses that complexity in a satisfying way. The author has an earnest art style that uses the character designs to full effect. First published in Japan back in 2016, I’m glad it was able to eventually make it stateside for all to enjoy.
Haru's Curse manga contains the complete series, volumes 1-2, and features story and art by Asuka Konishi.
Natsumi’s little sister Haru was her whole world—and now she’s gone. After the funeral, Natsumi reluctantly agrees to date her sister’s fiancé Togo. But as their relationship develops with the passing seasons, Haru’s memory lingers over them like a curse.Add to CartLearn More