I love me a good boys’ love title. More specifically, a story about two men who angst over the nature of their relationship before realizing it’s love? Sign me up. Such is the plot of Kei Ginkawa’s A Tunnel of Spring Rain. The manga follows Asahi and Eiji, two young men who bond in mourning after Asahi’s sister, to whom Eiji was engaged, dies. It’s quite a loaded premise, but is it good?
Writing-wise, this story is great. Ginkawa effectively depicts the daily lives and neuroses of two people coping with trauma as they cling onto habits irrationally and question where they now fit into other people’s lives. The manga addresses the concept of “moving on” compassionately and intelligently, showing how the protagonists keep living without ever truly “getting over” their loss entirely. There are also some great scenes involving how other people want them to cope with their circumstances, such as when Asahi’s parents pull Eiji aside to talk to him privately after the third anniversary of his fiance’s death.
The romantic arc throughout is very well-written as well, with the characters’ thoughts and actions reading believably even through all their chaos and confusion. There are multiple points where scenes shift from the present day into memories or states of delirium, and the hazy transitions are executed quite effectively. Some of the beginning feels a little clunky in its unloading of exposition, but the story quickly gets through this and onto the real work of analyzing the characters as they are now.
A Tunnel of Spring Rain also packs a punch visually. There are a number of great establishing shots, such as repeated images of the sky and architecture around Eiji’s apartment. The shading is pleasing to look at throughout, with some particularly affecting panels of characters who are colored in with gradiants that shift from plain grays into more detailed patterns. There’s also a fantastic shot of Eiji laying in bed with light shining in through his window and illuminating his hair in streaks. The protagonists’ facial expressions are very emotive, with subtle shifts in features effectively used to convey tender moments. My only real con to the art is that the line-work could be cleaner (or, alternatively, more committed to a sketchier style), but it’s still a pleasure to look at regardless.
In addition to the titular story, this volume also includes a short manga entitled “Voice.” It’s quite different from “A Tunnel of Spring Rain” and even has a dash of magical realism to it. The story depicts the relationship between a detective and a man he meets who claims to be able to hear other people’s thoughts. It’s a neat premise, and one that is effectively rendered visually. The most standout panel is one of the telepathic character on a subway train, surrounded by a swarm of sound effects representing the noise of others’ thoughts around him. “Voice” is rather short, and Ginkawa doesn’t have much page-time to flesh out the characters or the nature of their powers, but it’s enjoyable nonetheless.
All in all, A Tunnel of Spring Rain is a very good book. The art throughout is expressive and pleasing to look at, the main story is poignant, and the back-up manga has an intriguing premise. If you’re looking for a well-written and emotional boys’ love title, give this one a try.