As was the case with my first Short Cuts session, future reviews will be shorter in nature unless I feel that a title warrants substantial elaboration.
Spoilers beyond the cut lie for CLOCKUP’s latest venture, Natsu no Kusari.
It is summer, and the emotions of three characters have reached a fever pitch. Shy Haruka has a crush on the eternally oblivious Takayuki and is more than content with watching him from afar. But nothing can possibly happen between them if she keeps that up, so it’s up to mutual friend Mitsuki to fix that. After a rocky start the pair eventually overcome their issues, and so spend the rest of the summer enjoying each other’s company. Everyone’s happy, right?
Yet for some reason, the usually animated Mitsuki becomes withdrawn to the point where she isolates herself from the happy couple. Perplexed by her uncharacteristic actions and the appearance of an unknown boyfriend, Takayuki can’t help but become increasingly preoccupied with what has happened to her, at the expense of his girlfriend. As tensions inevitably rise something has to give and it isn’t long before an unforeseen tragedy rips the lives of the three friends asunder; permanently staining those summer tones before they can resolve their feelings. As the sound of sirens fills the air, they can at least be sure of one thing: their lives will never be the same again…
When will this nightmare come to an end?
30th of July, 2001.
During a sweltering summer’s eve, something begins to stir within Torabishi Takuji. Covered by a sweat-soaked blanket, the damp darkness pervading his room is just about enough to keep from sleeping. The ceiling stretches above him during this somewhat bizarre night. As he takes in these minute details of his surroundings, it comes to him; the ‘grey’. A bizarre noise which Takuji only started hearing recently, it distorts his world through an incomprehensible ‘zaza… zazazazaza… zazazaaaaa’..
This ‘grey’ is an alarm signaling the world’s crumbling, where all that he was once sure of becomes incomprehensible, what was real unreal. Takuji decides that he will dye his own world in this ‘grey’, in turn transcending the everyday monotony. Morning will soon come, and these idle thoughts of searching for a way to define the world – his world – shall cease.
As dawn breaks, the curtain of the worst day in Takuji’s life and the ill-fated characters that become entangled with him opens…
A word like ‘fate’ is an all too convenient one: it guides people to meet, coaxing them to open up their hearts to one another only to toy around with them. Such are the morose thoughts a man holds as he’s on the verge of freezing to death one wintery night. The subject of corruption within the firm he once worked for, it’s no surprise that he’s also left without a sense of purpose or self – until, a goddess who may as well have descended from the heavens themselves offers him a warm drink and a lifeline. Her name is Hinosaka Honoka, a landlady at Hinosaka Terrace House. Feelings the warmth of the drink in his hand and the warmth of her words spreading through his body, the man knows that the word ‘fate’ is convenient. Honestly, he does. After all, humans live on a larger scale than to be governed by some unscientific higher power. He knows that, but… For such a meeting to occur when it did, he can’t help but feel that it may indeed be what one could call ‘fate’.
The man’s name is Yoshimura Osamu. Unemployed, divorced, and pushing thirty
Winter passes, and his feelings thaw. Our poor excuse for a hero shows up at Hinosaka Terrace House in his best suit with a bouquet of roses, holding every intention of wooing his saviour. But it’s not Honoka who answers the door – a scowling girl forty centimetres below him does. Instead of getting the warm welcome he expected, the girl slaps him and demands that he return her mother. On a spring day where the cherry blossom petals fall, the rose petals which were once part of his bouquet are carried along with them. As it turns out, Honoka has mysteriously disappeared leaving the daughter to take care of the battered boarding house and its rent-evading residents all by herself.
The girl’s name is Hinosaka Mitoko. An overworked high school student about to enter her final year.
And so begins the world’s most forbidden love…
An English proverb ‘between the devil and the deep blue sea’ came to mind.
Behind me lies a devil, ahead lies a situation which you could liken to a deep blue sea
There’s no salvation no matter which one I choose.
– But I hold no fear.
Deep within a forest, an all girl’s school surrounded by pastel-coloured flowers can be found. Built in the late 1800s, Saint Angraecum has earned itself quite the reputation for preparing young ladies for life on the outside, as it were. Now, students who are to enroll in April will become part of its Amitié system. On entering they will be rigorously assessed and subsequently matched to a pair who they will grow to be firm friends with. The trio will share rooms and generally, be encouraged to be together. Doesn’t sound like a bad deal, right?
One student who has taken an interest in this system is our protagonist, Suou. A quiet soul, she’s lived her life without a single friend to call her own, isolating herself in the world of books and films due to personal issues. Believing that she’s unlovable, she enters Saint Angraecum holding the desire to make the kind of lifelong friends she’s always dreamed of having; the kind who she can take midnight trips to the bathroom and share sweets with. The Amitié system eventually matches her to a pair of girls who by no coincidence, she had fateful meetings with that first night. Her heart beating at all the new experiences which no doubt await her, Suou’s very own spring in all its rich verdure begins…
An inadequate guitarist, a gifted vocalist, and a prodigious pianist: three melodies once distant eventually intertwined and thus formed something harmonious. But as it swelled to a crescendo, it became too much. Something had to give, and none of their own melodies reached… Neither did their love.
Three years later, the harmony is but a distant dream. With Kazusa having long since left for Vienna, both Haruki and Setsuna are left to pick up the pieces of their fractured relationships. Held captive by their destructive memories and overtaken by a mutual guilt, it’s all Haruki can do to avoid Setsuna as he throws himself into work despite her evident hopefulness. As they’re being strangled by the string of fate it’s a wonder if he can continue avoiding her. Three distractions come in the form of women Haruki finds himself coming into contact with. It’s all well and good for him to forget about everything that happened, right? Time to wipe the slate clean…
…Is what would happen if this were any other title. It’s not so easy for Haruki and Setsuna to move on as they’d like to hope, for the shadows of their past persistently linger, blanketing everything they do.
A new winter is on the horizon. A season filled with much pain for them, for it’s a season without –