That Summer – One-Shot Review


My review on one of my favourite one-shots by one of my favourite mangakas, Matsumoto Tomo!! I hesitated to use That Summer as my first introduction of her on my blog, because this is an old work of hers and the art is not as polished as it is now, but this is one of her works that uses the motif really well, and even if it’s old you still get that distinctive subtle qualities of Matsumoto Tomo’s trademark storytelling style. Simple lines, the shoujo without the sparkles/flowers/etc, very quiet, and extremely, impossibly, beautiful. 


It was the summer of Eriko’s 15th year. She lived in a small town with an American army base, a fence separating the base from the town. One day, when Eriko was walking back home from her summer classes, a strong gust of wind blew and strands of her hair caught onto the fence. As she tries to untangle her hair from the fence, an American boy from the base walked over… 


I love how extremely well paced and planned this one-shot was. The only story is told like a flashback, and Matsumoto Tomo uses the black borders extremely well. She does these full black borders on the first page to let us know this all has taken place in the past, and then uses half black borders for most of the remaining pages of the flashback so as to let us know of the timeframe, but never using them so much as to let the black borders take over. The balance between dark and light is kept that way. 

And the love story! It is very simple, really bittersweet, and it evokes the feeling of fondly remembering the days of your first love that didn’t actually go anywhere, but is still sweet all the same. Another thing unusual about Matsumoto Tomo as a mangaka of the shoujo genre is that, not only does she rarely make use of sparkles or flowers in the backdrop (unless it’s for comedic effect, but in this one-shot she doesn’t use them at all), but she also does not have long dialogues or inner monologues. It’s very quiet, just Eriko and the boy walking side by side, with art rather than the text moving the story along. It’s so simple, and yet so effective, very Matsumoto Tomo-ish and I love it to bits.

I also liked how she handled the boy, and the whole interracial aspect of the relationship. Let’s face it, manga hardly has a good track record when it comes to representing minorities/foreigners, to say the least. If they’re not being put aside in the background or made into very minor villains, then they are portrayed like this exotic animal, this strange creature to be admired for their foreign beauty and general exotic-ness. (Harem series, I’m looking at YOU.) However, Matsumoto Tomo doesn’t wax poetry on how exotic and beautiful the boy’s eyes are, or how he and the Japanese girl are so different, etc etc. It’s just him, and her, making small talk across the fence, the dividing line, and it’s just so simple. I mean, it’s not like she got everything right, Matsumoto Tomo does pull that all familiar line where Eriko asks the boy how his Japanese got so good, but it didn’t irk me as much as it would in other mangas I’ve read. This is probably because Matsumoto Tomo didn’t make that one scene feel like it’s such an amazing accomplishment that the boy can speak Japanese, with Eriko admiring his prowess in everything, but rather it was just part of the whole small talk him and Eriko have going on, a simple passing remark.

My favourite aspect of this one-shot is how Matsumoto Tomo used the fence to depict the whole interracial aspect of their love story. Eriko remarks early on in this one-shot that the fence felt formidable, like the dividing line between two countries. Yet, the two of them were able to meet, under very normal circumstances, and it was so simple, just them walking next to each other, side by side, with only this fence in between. And I love how Matsumoto Tomo undermines the fence with the various ways Eriko and the boy interact. Yes, it’s there, but the boy is still able to buy a drink for her and pass it to her by throwing it over the fence. He’s able to pass her a wet towel when Eriko is fainting from a heat stroke. They are able to feel each other’s body heat as they leaned their backs against another. They feel the heat of the summer together. And near the end, during the last moments when the boy is going to leave due to his father being transferred to another station, he climbs over the fence and hugs her, whispering that he could cross the fence any time he wanted. The fence may make them look like they stand apart, people from two different worlds, but it is simply an illusion, easy to overcome. They can reach each other, they could be close. (And all these little moments told without a single use of roses blooming and sparkles coming out of no where! Shocking, eh?)

And, the moment of catharsis:


I love this one-shot. Seriously, the art might not be the greatest, but do try it out. It’s just, it’s told so beautifully, it’d be a shame to miss out on it. =D


2 Responses to “That Summer – One-Shot Review”

  1. 1 Sapphire Pyro June 1, 2009 at 7:41 am

    I don’t know the mangakas other works (or at least, don’t know that those are her other works too)

    but this seems interesting. I’ll try to look for it and check it out someday xD

    *already has a lot of one-shots in her pending list though >_>;;;*

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