Please be advised this review contains spoilers of My Summer of You: Vol 1 – The Summer of You by Nagisa Furuya
If there is one thing manga is good for, it is making a late twenty-something year old long for a high school summer of love. One in Japan, to be specific. There is something about the way high school romance is written through the lens of Japanese story tellers that brings out a sense of longing and nostalgia for me. Having spent my teen years reading manga like Fruits Basket, and falling in love with any and all slice of life anime, I knew the romantic trials and tribulations of fictional Japanese high school students were nothing like my love life (or lack there of to be completely honest.)
Now as an adult, I tend to lean towards manga and anime that feature more adult relationships. Office romances and otaku lovers are totally my jam. But in my diving into my yaoi manga bag for the first time in my life, I’ve been reading any and every thing I can get my hands on. I’ve been loving the office romances or entertainment industry stories, and all the ways people can meet in Japan. Something about a high school romance with two boys, though, has had my heart in a chokehold.
High school students are subject of shounen and shojo, as well western media for a plethora of reasons. Teenage years are often viewed as the most transformational of our lives. High schoolers are discovering parts of themselves, their identities, who they want to be within a four year span. They are getting different messages from parents, school, friends, and media on how to live their lives. They are discovering crushes, love, and heartbreak.
In boy’s love manga, I appreciate that the love stories are a little more layered and complex than your typical high school romance, a la Ouran High School Host Club. Some involve that stage where a character is figuring out their sexuality, while other knew all along but are dealing with coming out or accepting themselves.
I think one of the reasons why I really enjoyed My Summer of You: Vol 1 The Summer of You by Nagisa Furuya is due to its mixture of a few themes. The story revolves around high school friends Chiharu Saeki and Wataru Toda who are united by their love of movies. The two meet at a movie store and immediately become good friends and hang out often. One day, after their usual hang out, Wataru asks Saeki who he likes, which Saeki takes as an opportunity to confess his feelings. Instant swoon. Wataru questions if Saeki likes guys, to which Saeki replies that he doesn’t know but he likes Wataru. And that is it.
The manga truly chronicles the aftermath of Saeki’s confession and what it does to their friendship. At first, and this is one of my favorite things about My Summer of You is how for Wataru, he is not phased in the typical way that his friend likes him. He’s not worried about a guy liking him. More so, he’s taken back that Saeki likes him. He sees Saeki as this “hot guy” that all the girls have crushes on, and he doesn’t see himself worthy of being like by Saeki. As he’s confused by Saeki liking him, he also is questioning their friendship and his feelings about saeki.
As with your typical shounen ai, it is very clear to the readers that Wataru starts falling for Saeki and to me, it seems in an almost unconventional way. Saeki makes it clear multiple times that he is okay with remaining friends; all he wanted was to confess his feelings. However, Wataru seems to be the one who is not okay with remaining friends. He becomes more aware of Saeki and starts becoming jealous when he sees Saeki with other girls or when the girls question him about Saeki. When Saeki brings up an ex, Wataru feels some type of way.
Just when it seems that Wataru is putting his conflicting feelings together, second term comes and we learn that Saeki has moved away, without telling anyone. I don’t think I’ve ever felt instant heartbreak such as this. I hated seeing Wataru so sad and angry. He feels so defeated and confused. But I also loved him coming to terms with his feelings. When he receives Saeki’s letter and runs off to the beach, the waterworks started for me. When he finally gets there and Saeki is there (which is just perfect timing considering Saeki is not currently living in that area either) my heart skipped a few beats. I was so surprised when he punched Saeki but I really could not blame him. Damn you Saeki for leaving so dramatically.
The conversation that follows has to be one of my favorite ones yet. Both Wataru and Saeki lay it all out. Saeki confesses that he lied to Wataru and he left the way he did because he can’t be just friends with Wataru. He wants to be with him. Wataru also confesses that he likes Saeki or as he put it “you made me like you.” They also continue the vulnerability and both express how painful it was to be apart, and for Wataru how he was scared that he would never see Saeki again.
I cannot praise Nagisa Furuya enough for how vulnerable and mature she made these characters. Although they are high school students, she handled the complicated nature of their feelings in a way that feels very realistic to high school love. Love in high school always feels so strong, it’s crushing. Dealing with their emotions is not easy for Saeki or Wataru, but they both bravely admit to themselves and each other their feelings and decide to continue forward together.
Overall, I just cannot get over this story. I’ve walked by my shelf so many times and have stopped to pick up and reread the beach scene over and over. Start to finish, this is just a beautiful and timeless story of love. Volume two is suppose to pick up when the boys are in college and I am so excited to see their love fleshed out as new adults.
Purchase The Summer of You Vol 1 My Summer of You: https://amzn.to/3AOqjjr