Haru’s Curse – February Graphic Novel of the Month

This month, we have a new manga from Vertical as Asuka Konishi makes her English language debut with Haru’s Curse. 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.

Vertical have in the past had a real knack for showcasing quality one shot manga (this one was two volumes in Japan but is collected into one omnibus edition for the English language release). Haru’s Curse is the latest example of that. Creator Asuka Konishi has generated a significant online following for their work on both Pixiv and Twitter amongst both Japanese and English-speaking fans; and is part of a growing group of manga artists who have found success via non-traditional platforms. It was therefore inevitable that we would get an English language release of her debut professional series.

Haru’s Curse touches on several topics that many readers will relate to. The most prevalent being dealing with loss with, both Natsumi and Togo trying to cope with losing Haru. Both being close to her are coping at different levels. Haru had been Natsumi’s rock for most of her life, especially after their parents separated. She frequently deals with feelings of survivors guilt – despite not being responsible for Haru’s death – and despair that Haru’s last thoughts were of Togo, meaning she couldn’t bring her comfort before her passing. She even considers suicide and is only stopped by Togo’s intervention. Togo meanwhile puts on a stoic front which he had to some extent even when Haru was alive, but is clearly bottling up his true feelings which slip out at certain points like the aforementioned suicide attempt. In addition, both can’t help but feel they are being unfaithful to Haru’s memory by dating each other.

Konishi’s art goes for a less stylised approach that helps emphasise the tone and subject matter, though their characters do have a tall-slender appearance somewhat reminiscent of CLAMP’s style of characters which is visually appealing and definitely stands out. Whilst there are some moments of the normal exaggerated expressions of emotion you’d expect in manga, Konishi is also skilled at more subtle moments, with many segments featuring the main characters achieving far more with less pronounced expressions and actions. This makes the rare occasions when Togo drops his stoic exterior for example all the more powerful.

Haru’s Curse is a fantastic done-in-one manga that features some powerful storytelling and relatable moments. It will be easy for readers to see how Konishi has generated such a strong following amongst Japanese manga fans.

Haru’s Curse is out 18 February 2021 from Vertical (9781949980264, p/b, £14.99)

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