Saturday, April 17, 2021

Manga Review: Haru's Curse by Asuka Konishi


Title: Haru's Curse
Original Title: Haru no Noroi
Series: Haru no Noroi #1-2
Author: Asuka Konishi, Hannah Airriess (Translator)
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Genres: Romance, Graphic Novel, New Adult, Josei, Contemporary
Format: Kindle Edition
Publication Date: February 16th 2021 (first published 2016)
Pages: 360

Synopsis (Goodreads): After Natsumi's younger sister and best friend Haru dies at the age of 19, she begins dating Haru's fiancee Togo - on the condition that he take her only to places he had taken her sister. Their relationship deepens as the seasons pass, but Haru's curse lies between them... 

Will there be happiness after Haru's curse is broken?

My rating: 4.5 / 5 ★

TW: depression, suicide

At the start of this manga, Natsumi was attending the funeral of her younger sister, Haru. She was seen discreetly slipping a picture of Haru with her fiancé, Togo, into the casket with Haru's body before the funeral ended. Natsumi later started dating Togo after he asked her out after the funeral ended, and she accepted with the condition that they visit the places he visted with Haru during their dates. Sounds horrible, right? I wholeheartedly agree, but Haru's Curse is more than just a story about a sister "stealing" her dead sister's fiancé.

Haru's Curse is a story about Natsumi and Togo, the closest people to Haru and how they dealt with grief and guilt after Haru's death. Haru and Togo were engaged for an arranged marriage, and while Haru helplessly fell in love with Togo, it seemed that it was not the same case for him. He ends up asking Natsumi out after the funeral, using his parents as an excuse. Shockingly, Natsumi agreed right away, giving him a condition for agreeing to it. Their relationship stayed as a secret between them, and while their feelings start to bloom towards each other, the guilt of betraying Haru continued gnawing at their hearts.

I saw a few other readers saying that Togo is toxic for asking Natsumi out, and not reciprocating Haru's feelings at all despite dating her for more than two years. While I agree to a certain level that that behaviour is toxic (I mean, how could you even ask your dead fiancée's sister to date you right after your fiancée's funeral?), I would not say that Togo is a bad person. For a start, he got engaged to Haru because of his parents, and he was kind towards Haru during their two years of relationship. Despite catching feelings for Natsumi, Togo did not acknowledge it and was ready to marry Haru. He only approached Natsumi when Haru was gone. Not exactly something applaudable, but Togo should not be blamed for wanting someone that he truly loves. And if Togo is toxic for asking Natsumi out after the funeral, who's to say that Natsumi is not toxic as well, for accepting to be in a relationship with him? 

The original manga in Japanese consisted of two books, but the English version is combined into a single book, in two parts. In the first part, the story is told from the perspective of Natsumi and Togo. From just a few pages, it was obvious how much they both wanted to care and love each other, yet the guilt held them back. In the second part, readers are exposed to Haru's perspective, which I really appreciate. I love Asuka Konoshi's artwork; not only are they beautiful, but the expressions for each character are so vivid and clear that you can easily understand their emotions.

Natsumi's character is easily likeable. She is attentive towards those around her, and she tries her best to be cheerful and happy around her family, despite knowing that her father doted more on Haru. She loves Haru a lot; she even confessed to Togo that she was probably in love with her sister, because Haru was the only real family to her. This caring part of her was what drew Togo towards her, without both of them realising it. While Togo may seem rather emotionless most of the time, I rather believe that he is just not good at expressing himself. Growing up following whatever his mother wanted, he never had any dreams of his own—and this changed when Natsumi entered his life. 

I like that Haru's character is present too, although she was no longer alive. Her character is portrayed realistically, which is proven in one of the online journals she left behind: she mentioned that she would not willingly witness Natsumi and Togo marrying each other. Perhaps she noticed earlier, the small accidental interactions between Natsumi and Togo, and she knew that she would never experience the same thing. My heart broke for her, but feelings are something that is very complicated.

I do not think that either Natsumi or Togo are at fault for accepting their feelings for each other. They respected Haru and only acknowledged their feelings after Haru's death, although the timing is still not great. It may be considered as a betrayal to Haru for some people, but Natsumi and Togo deserve their happiness as well. It's a very complicated matter, and both of them will carry the guilt for a long time. Despite Haru saying that she could never accept Natsumi and Togo to be with each other, if Haru lived, I am rather sure that eventually she would learn to accept it. Sure, she will resent Natsumi for it, but their sisterly bond is stronger than that and it would not easily be broken just because of a man.

The story has a rather open-ended ending; though readers will know that Natsumi and Togo are trying their best to make things work, there's no saying that another hurdle would be coming right at them soon. It is also clear that they still carry the guilt, or as they called it: Haru's curse. The story focuses a lot on their grief and guilt, and the romance are not strongly shown. I ended up liking this story more than I expected, because the topic of "stealing your dead sister's fiancé" is actually something I am uncomfortable with. But the way Asuka Konishi presented the story made me able to easily empathise with both of the main characters.

Many thanks to Netgalley and Kodansha Comics for the review copy in exchange for my honest review.


If you die, I will die too.

Till next time ♡ Love, Aishah Humaira'

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