Wednesday, February 9, 2011

One-Shot of the Week: Kon no Ki Konoha

This week's One-Shot of the Week was a toss-up between two brilliant manga by the same mangaka that I had a bit of conflict over. One of them was taken from a volume of manga that consisted of a series of one-shots, and the other is the tragically romantic piece I present to you today. Although the other one is also tragically romantic, I thought I'd save it for another week where I felt it more. I'd already started writing the review for it, but then I just happened to come across Kon no Ki Konoha, and it captured me completely and I knew no one could resist having a change of heart – it practically stole mine. But don't worry! You'll be seeing that one-shot in the coming few weeks, I promise you that.

Although at first the title seemed like a tongue-twister to me, it presents itself to mean Konoha of the Deep Blue Tree. Reading the summary for this one-shot made me doubt it for a bit. I thought, it's not my style, I don't generally go for the romance-slash-tragedy-slash-slightly supernatural, but why not give it a go? Believe me, I'm glad I did. “Beautiful” is the only word that fits this manga perfectly, and I'll probably be using it lots in this review!

As a young girl, Akino's father takes her up into the mountain where she finds a tree that is dappled in deep blue. Roots, trunk, branches, leaves – all of it. She can't believe it's real and, well, she smacks the tree to make sure it is (which I found adorable, by the way). From within the branches of this tree a boy with deep blue hair appears, telling her that it hurts when she does that. He's a spirit that lives in the tree, and his name is Konoha. He protects her from another aged tree spirit and they soon become friends. Apparently, his spirit can only come out when it's autumn, when the leaves start to fall. So every year, every autumn, Akino goes into the mountain and spends some time with Konoha.

I like Konoha as a male lead, mostly because he's got a personality without having to boast that he's got one. It's like if you were truly feeling happy: you don't boast about it or blurt it out or announce it, you're just sitting quietly one day and you feel it – you truly experience it (didn't I warn you guys that Mho-Shoujo has a penchant for weird or random metaphors that rarely make sense?). I think throughout the manga, while you're sitting there reading it, Konoha's gentle, protective and silently passionate nature just serenely breezes in. And suddenly, you don't know why, but you feel very calm and very content. I don't know if it would get across to you as much as it did to me, but you'd know what he's like without the leading lady's inner monologue having to explain every little thing to you, like “Oh, he just protected me. He did all this for me? He must love me so much.” At the same time, Konoha's not a man of many words, but when he does speak it expresses unimaginable quantities than if he were making big speeches or rambling on and on about true love. I think he it's great that he expresses lots in such few words.

Here's where our problem is. Our lovely man here lives in a tree. And I don't mean in a cute tree-house kind of way. He lives inside the tree. Him being a spirit or somewhat of a ghost means that Akino can't touch Konoha, her hands slip right through him. But if she touches the deep blue tree, it's transmitted through so that he feels it. This brought on a lovely side of the manga where Akino smacks the tree to wake him up or even tickles the tree to tease him. I think it's good that Yumeka has put in scenes from Akino's childhood other than explaining how she met Konoha. It adds that childish innocence and a pure adoration to their mutual interest in each other, showing that it isn't just a magical transformation into a purely romantic relationship. This is something that developed and grew. It's not “Oh hey! I haven't seen you in years! My how you've grown, I think I've fallen in love with you now!”. No, no, no. It's “We've grown together and spent time together. I know you and you know me, and I adore you deeply and yearn for our time together.” That kind of pure relationship is something I love to see, rather than the glorified idea of love at first sight that sometimes manga tends to have.

I also love how the yearning for physical contact is portrayed in this one-shot. Akino hugs the tree so Konoha can feel her at one point. The desire to express through physical closeness is not one of erotic or lustful nature, but a sincere passion coupled with a tender longing for a deeper sort of intimacy. The kind of intimacy where you want to hold the person and never let go, not the kind where you want to rip each other's clothes off and do things that are ecchi rated. Don't get me wrong, there's a time and manga for that, but this – this is pure and simple and sweet. To top it off, Yumeka doesn't seem to want to let go of your heartstrings. The physical contact isn't just illustrated through Akino's contact with Konoha, but through her contact with other people as well. Attention being paid to her by other people doesn't seem to satisfy her, and the colours and sounds and smells of other seasons don't seem to be enough for her either. It almost seems like she's quietly adapted to autumn and what it means to her, and who autumn is to her.

Up to this point, and beyond, the manga is absolutely irresistible. The artwork is pristine. The lines are sometimes wispy, giving it a soft, flowing feel, and I love that the mangake doesn't draw traditionally larger-than-life manga eyes. The way the leaves are drawn, as well as hair, movement and expressions gives this manga an almost liquid feel. I love it. Love it! I can't get over how beautiful it is. And positively heartbreaking, in the most gorgeous way possible.

The ending... wow, I don't even want to talk about it, other than saying that it is probably on my top 3 endings to a manga – ever. It's beautiful, painful, glorious and passionate. I don't know how to describe it, and I don't want to ruin it for you kidlets, but I've never seen emotion drawn so beautifully. I recommend this one-shot over anything else, as it quickly became one of my favourites – if not my favourite one-shots so far. Get your hands on this gem, you won't regret it!

Stay sharp!