When In the Clear Moonlit Dusk debuted a few months ago it made a good first impression. Mika Yamamori’s art was evocative and successfully heightened the character drama, and the protagonists Yoi and Kohaku were well-defined right off the bat. The series’ second volume is out now and it pushes the leads’ relationship in new directions. They agree to try dating on a trial basis and they go out together for the first time, resulting in plenty of anxious teenage confusion afterwards. Does In the Clear Moonlit Dusk Vol. 2 handle its characters and their emotions as delicately as the series’ debut did? Is it good?
Artistically this installment is every bit as striking as the first, if not more-so. Case in point: the characters’ facial expressions and body language. The attention to detail paid to how emotions impact physical presentation and interactions with the setting is excellent. Slight shifts in the angles and curves of eyes and lips across adjacent silent panels convey more emotional nuance than dialogue ever could. Plus, from the placing of hands behind heads in feigned indifference to the curling of fingers in moments of hesitancy, the body language adds a layer of realism and depth that elevates this from just being a good romance comic to being an engrossing one.
Yamamori also excels as a visual storyteller when it comes to shading, screen tones, and basic page composition. In the Clear Moonlit Dusk doesn’t just have strong fundamentals, it reads like a how-to for leading readers’ eyes smoothly from focal point to focal point. Characters’ downward gazes linger toward narration boxes, patterns strategically match and contrast in hue, and the shapes and angles of panels themselves vary in accordance with how best to pace events and heighten or diffuse their tension. This is a comic that understands how best to make use of the medium’s tools to deliver as polished and enjoyable of a story as possible.
Character-wise, the driving themes in this volume are Yoi’s commitment to feeling a sense of agency and Kohaku’s possessive streak. Yoi constantly interrogates her own sense of fate, rejecting or at least quantifying it with an emphasis on her ability to steer the direction of her life via her choices. The complexity of her confusion and her thoughts regarding her relationship with Kohaku plays out believably; she has actual nuanced concerns about her budding feelings for a boy who shifts back and forth between seeming extremely direct and confident and being difficult to read and inconsistent in his sensitivity.
Kohaku’s possessive nature is addressed directly and thus far reads like a troubling trait of a flawed character as opposed to a one-dimensional selfish one. Due to the honesty and complexity with which the pair’s dynamic is written their future together doesn’t seem like a foregone conclusion. The romance’s success seems far from inevitable, and if it comes to pass it will likely feel all the more earned as a result of the vulnerability with which it was built up. In terms of cons there are very few to note; occasionally a scene’s pacing will be a tad less perfected than the rest of the book’s, but never to the point of halting the flow of events completely.
All in all, In the Clear Moonlit Dusk Vol. 2 takes everything the first volume did well and does it slightly better. The visuals continue to stun, particularly with regards to screen tones and body language contributing to the overall mood. The leads’ relationship continues to develop in a way that feels appropriately paced and brings out several sides of each character. As far as romance comics go it’s hard to find series better than this one.
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