HaruNatsuAkiFuyu, (Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter) is collection of stories by Zaou Taishi and Eiki Eiki that ran in Yuri Hime and Yuri Shimai magazines. I got the deluxe version with Drama CD, a review of which will be a separate entry, because I said so.
It reads oddly, because the first two stories here were done as one-shots, then a third story took off into three-part mini-arc, which was followed by another two chapters that tied it all together. These are followed by an extra original chapter for this collection, and the Zaou Taishi story “Her” that ran in an early issue of Yuri Shimai (I think.) As an exercise in making omelets from cracked eggs, it’s incredibly successful.
The first two cracked eggs we meet are Akiho and Haruka. Haruka is one of the stars at St. Teresa’s school for girls; tall, beautiful, accomplished, friendly – she also has an unpleasant habit of molesting girls by grabbing their breasts. This is meant to be seen as funny, in case you were wondering. Akiho, who has just transfered in to the school, likes Haruka, but is put off by this behavior – can you imagine? After some soul searching, she comes to realize that it’s not that she dislikes Haruka grabbing her breasts so much as Haruka grabbing *other* girl’s breasts. She confesses this to Haruka who is surprised, but not displeased. She also ends the chapter by taking miles where inches are being offered.
The next story is sort of the same, only worse. Our eggs in this chapter are new transfer student Fuyuka who is very excited to be starting a new life at an all-girl’s school. Her anticipation soon turns to terror as she becomes the target of extreme stalker/molester behavior at the hands of another of the school’s stars, Natsuki. (All four of the principles have names with the seasons, hence the title, btw.) After knocking herself out cold running away from Natsuki, Fuyuka wakes in the doctor’s office and tells the school counselor about how she was sexually abused by a male classmate from her previous school. Now she’s developed a fear of men, and had hoped to put it all behind her at this new school. Natsuki, who has heard all of this apologizes, and admits that she has a similar phobia. The story is meant to be read as resolved as the two of them fall asleep in each other’s arms. I really, really don’t like this chapter. I didn’t like it when it ran in the magazine and it doesn’t work any better for me this time around.
This takes us to the three-part story of the school counselor, Reiko, and her childhood friend, and also another teacher at the school, Ayano. Although they both are *clearly* pining away for each other, it takes a while for them to get it. Long story short, they realize that they are in love with one another and live happily ever after. By far and away, my favorite arc.
Fuyuka’s story continues after Reiko tells her to go for it, in regards to her deepening feelings for Natsuki. But when she invites Natsuki over to her house when there’s no one else home and Natsuki doesn’t so much as try to kiss her, she’s not sure if she’s reading the signals right. Depressed, she runs into Akiho from the first chapter and the two uke retire to the roof for conversation, where they become good friends right away.
Natsuki starts to notice Fuyuka’s absences. She confronts Haruka, asking what *her* lover wants with Fuyuka? Haruka has no idea, of course. The argument escalates and they take it to the roof to battle it out, when they come across Fuyuka and Akiho. Natsuki demands to know what’s going on and everyone, including all the onlookers, are flabbergasted when Akiho says that she’s fallen in love with Fuyuka, and kisses her.
The final chapter begins with Natsuki beside herself with anger, and Haruka looking mightily surprised at her lover’s confession that she’s bored and was looking for someone new. When Natsuki starts to drag Fuyuka away, she belts Natsuki and screams at her that she, Natsuki, needs to put up, or shut up. If Natsuki loves Fuyuka, she needs to *say* so. Teachers Ayano and Reiko shoo all the rubberneckers away and leave the four to work it all out.
As Natsuki and Fuyuka confess their feelings, Akiho and Haruka leave them behind, with a short apology on Akiho’s part and a refreshing comment from Haruka that yeah, she was surprised, but she “got” what Akiho was trying to do and believed in her, implicitly. Good lord – does that ever happen in manga? Meanwhile, back on the roof, Natsuki and Fuyuka have it out. And in the end we learn that while Fuyuka maybe uke in school, she has no intention of being the bottom in bed.
The last chapter of the story is new for this volume. The four girls all go to the beach off season together. I very much like the looks on Haruka’s and Natsuki’s faces as they sit in the train grumping that they have to share this date with the other couple. But they perk up when they learn that they have separate rooms. They are accosted by generic guys trying to pick them up, so our female wolf and jaguar can cuddle their girls and tell them no guys need apply. Despite a promise of fireworks, they all end up in their respective beds and, erm, forget to leave for the rest of the night. Last panel, Akiho and Fuyuka lie unconvincingly about how they just were so darn tuckered out they fell asleep, how funny, us too, while Natsuki and Haruka roll their eyes.
And, again, the last chapter is Zaou Taishi’s one-shot, “Kanojo” (“Her”) that tells the story of yet another couple who have the same feelings for one another , but don’t know it.
So…was the omelet worth the broken eggs? Yeah, I think it was. If we had to see one more chapter with “funny” sexual harassment, I probably wouldn’t say so, but I can just get past the two that are here. Although I’ll be honest, the first chapter with Fuyuka and Natsuki really just bothers me in every conceivable way. (And bothered me worse in the Drama CD….) But I genuinely liked the “First Kiss” arc that dealt with the teachers, and enjoyed the turnaround after Fuyuka begins to pursue Natsuki. The last chapter on the beach was a nice extra and sort of tied it all together with a cute ending passage about them being together in each of the four seasons (coupled with pretty bed scene stills). So yes. It’s a nice enough omelet.
Extra come-withs – the picture of Fuyuka and Natsuki above on the front cover is complimented by a similar picture of Haruka and Akiho on the back in the same outfit, only green. Also – many color pages reproduced, including all of the pinup art of the two teachers, and a postcard of them during their school years. And, of course, a Drama CD. ^_^ …I can’t forget to tell you that the under-the-dust-cover gag art may well be the funniest I have ever seen on a manga, ever.
Art – 7 (I know, I know, insanely popular artist…but I find myself obsessing about the mouths because they bother me…)
Story – starts at 4, ends at 8
Characters – same as above
Yuri – 10
Service – lots of “boobies” 7 (“Boobies????” the wife says. “WTF?” Yup)
Overall – 8
I don’t think this is their strongest work, but I really did appreciate the skill that went into tying up all the loose ends and making the thing work as a whole.