written by Justin Prince (@prince_justin)
ED NOTE: I am placing this disclaimer at the top to let you all know that this will be a VERY SPOILER HEAVY article. The story takes an unexpected turn in the 37th chapter. I urge you to at least read up to chapter 37 before reading this article. Find it on Crunchyroll if you are a premium member.
Recently I picked up reading a new manga series, thanks to my Crunchyroll subscription I started reading Fuuka from famed mangaka Kōji Seo (Suzuka, Kimi no Iru Machi). If you are a fan of his work, you’ll know that he likes to share a universe across his manga. Fuuka is a sequel of sorts to Suzuka and Kimi no Iru Machi. The titular character, Fuuka Akitsuki, is the daughter of Yamato and Suzuka. So given the aching pain I’m used to feeling from reading Seo-sensei’s work, I should have expected that the romance in Fuuka would never be the smooth sailing type… though personally I did not expect it to rock me to my core as heavily as it did.
So jumping right into it… what made me want to put this manga down? Over the last 36 chapters I loved reading it and with the series still ongoing (it was at chapter 116 when I started reading it) I was excited to have so much of the story to cover. But in true Seo-sensei fashion, you just can’t be too happy with how the romance is developing in the early chapters of his books. We saw it in Suzuka and we saw the same happen in Kimi no Iru Machi. Love never truly prevails until the final few panels, sure we may get some happy moments here and there… but he does seem to enjoy to pulling at our heartstrings until they’re violently taut. He did the same here… by killing off the heroine.
Titular character Fuuka Akitsuki falls in loved with the male protagonist, Yuu Haruna, after he helps her find her true passion in life. They start a band and with their beloved friends, they vow to make it to the stage at Budoukan. After a drama filled but widely successful live show at their school’s culture fest, they are given the chance to rock at a live venue outside of school.
But before they could debut in their first live club show… Fuuka is involved in a traffic accident and passes away.
This rocked me because in the previous chapters I was under the assumption that this would be a story chronicling both Fuuka and Yuu. Now I know this is shonen manga romance; but much like in Suzuka, I knew that throughout the whole story both Yamato and Suzuka would be well represented from the beginning to the end. Instead, with Fuuka, the spotlight shifts narratively and literally to Yuu.
It toyed with me, made me feel a real sense of loss. Throughout the series I began to fall for Fuuka as much as Yuu was. What made her different from the heroines like Suzuka Asahina and Yuzuki Eba was that her character development sped by fairly fast and right as she passed away she seemed to have already become the type of heroine other Seo heroines take 100+ chapters to become. She loved Yuu unconditionally and if the fates (and Seo-sensei) were kind, we could have seen this pair go through all the pitfalls Seo-sensei likes to throw into his manga. But instead, we got loss and mourning… not just for the main protagonist but also for what the title of this manga means to the reader.
In Suzuka, the title was more so self explanatory… a story about a boy named Yamato who falls in love with a girl names Suzuka. In Kimi no Iru Machi, the theme of home and what home means to the characters was prevalent. But with Fuuka, the shift is almost jarring… though it’s in this jarring shift that I found what the title means to the series.
Fuuka Akitsuki was an incredibly passionate and headstrong woman. She exhibited the brazen nature of her father coupled with the unwavering stubbornness of her mother. She was like a wind that pushed people to discovering who they really were. She pushed the quiet and reserved Yuu to get out of his own way, and for the rest of her bandmates… she helped them realize just what this band really meant to them.
As I kept reading, despite Fuuka no longer being in the picture, it felt like she was there every step of the way. Pushing them, especially Yuu, to be the greatest they could ever be. One of the most heart-wrenching scenes was when their band, the Fallen Moon, finally made it to the Budoukan stage. They set up two mics with Fuuka’s front and center, despite her no longer being there… Yuu took his spot off to the side… hung the matching phone charm he shared with Fuuka… and sang his heart out. Mere word’s can’t describe what this scene felt like, so if this piques your interest even in the slightest… better start reading.
A shonen romance manga has never made me cry like Fuuka has. While I can expect that from shojo romance manga… shonen prefers to pepper in the romance with unrealistic panty shots or harem mechanics. Not saying that the series hasn’t been filled with all manner of oppai/pantsu moments, Fuuka did indeed keep up with the visual and content aesthetic present in Seo-sensei’s work, despite all the unrealistic sonen romance tropes… it really drove the point home that this loss is something felt not just by our protagonist but also by the reader.
Sticking with it was the right choice; in this manga… much like life… moving on is always a worthwhile lesson.