Kodansha imprint Vertical Comics’ newest josei release is Haru’s Curse, a melancholic story of grief and love by Asuka Konishi. The manga follows Natsumi in the wake of losing her younger sister, Haru, to cancer. Struggling with the loss, she winds up in an odd relationship with Haru’s former fiancé, Togo. The manga is translated into English by Hannah Airriess, edited by Daniel Joseph, and production by Risa Cho and Lorina Mapa. No specific lettering credit was provided.
The manga lets readers know right off the bat that it will go to serious places. Natsumi is mourning her sister, who was her entire world. Everything Natsumi did revolved around Haru, to the point where she even decided her career around her. Natsumi studied to become a nutritionist, inspired by Haru’s health issues. The loss is so great on her, that she even considers ending her life. When approached by her sister’s former fiancé, Togo, to enter a relationship, she agrees on one condition: that they only visit places he went with her sister.
Haru’s Curse focuses on both Natsumi and Togo’s complicated feelings, which are incredibly complex. Both are unpacking a lot of suppressed emotions, some of which stem from Haru’s death, and others that reach much deeper. Firstly, there is Natsumi, who is concerned that she may have been in love with her sister. It isn’t as salacious as it sounds. Due to their family situation, Natsumi and Haru depended on each other an immense amount. Haru’s Curse strongly gives off the impression that Natsumi latched onto her sister because she felt unloved by others in her family. Her initial resentment towards Togo is because she feels he was taking away her reason to live. While this may all sound unsettling, what saves it is that Natsumi clearly knows that this is unhealthy, and Haru’s Curse is largely about her trying to recover and move past this.
On Togo’s side, he is dealing with a lot more emotional abuse from his family. He is in a life he has never wanted. He has long held feelings towards Natsumi, but once again it isn’t painted as some affair. He does care for Haru, but their engagement was arranged and forced on him by his family. What is so compelling about Haru’s Curse is how Haru is a character in this story to whom the audience will also grow attached.
There is guilt between Natsumi and Togo as they realize they may love each other, but at the same time, there is a genuineness that makes you root for them. It isn’t unheard of for people to become romantically involved while grieving the loss of a loved one. The romance is secondary to the recovery in Haru’s Curse and that’s what makes it work. It is first and foremost about two twenty-somethings learning what it means to live for the first time.
Konishi’s art does a fantastic job of altering between comedy and drama. The more popular English josei manga releases often feature the extravagantly detailed, beautiful art also seen in shojo manga, with smolders and kabedons galore. To clarify: this is not to diminish those in any way, but it is what is currently most commonly seen in the English market. Haru’s Curse lines are heavy and bold, characters feel less larger-than-life in their beauty, and more realistic. Shading and heavy black ink carries the melancholy tone. Additionally, a huge focus is on eyes. The way the pupils and eye expressions change often will alter the entire tone of a panel from the previous one. It adds to the introspectiveness of the manga.
Haru’s Curse is a well-done English-language debut from Asuka Konishi. It is an introspective josei and a great example of the breadth the demographic has to offer. The series features romance but is ultimately a nuanced story of moving past grief and unhealthy family dynamics.
Haru’s Curse goes on sale February 16th, 2021 wherever books are sold.
Haru’s Curse is a well-done English-language debut from Asuka Konishi. It is an introspective josei and a great example of the breadth the demographic has to offer. The series features romance, but is ultimately a nuanced story of moving past grief and unhealthy family dynamics.