I... um... judge books by their covers. That's why it took me so long to read Kiss in the Blue and realize that it is an awesome story. Because of its unappealing covers.
On the flip side, I saw the Kagen no Tsuki covers and I simply MUST read them. I've been a sucker for montages for as long as I can remember. And all three of Kagen no Tsuki's volume covers have montages, each in a particular color scheme. I was in cover heaven. I thought to myself that any story that could produce such dramatic montages can't be that bad.
Then I found out that it involves lots of kids playing detective. It's not really that much of a romance. Ordinarily, I steer clear of stories that involve kids ("You kids get off my lawn!"), which is why it also took me forever to read Kodomo no Omocha. I plowed through Kagen no Tsuki anyway because I liked the covers so much.
Kagen no Tsuki, or Last Quarter, is by Ai Yazawa of the Paradise Kiss and Gokinjo Monogatari fame. This is one of the first series that I truly associated with Ai Yazawa, and it strikes me how well she can create fascinating characters.
Then things slowly start looking up. Mizuki meets an English street performer named Adam. She was first drawn to him because of the song he played on his guitar. He told her it is called Last Quarter. Not long after, Mizuki runs away from home and move in with Adam. He lives by himself in a mansion. Right away, Mizuki notices little strange things about her new beau... but they really didn't bother her until he started talking to her like she is his old girlfriend, who already passed away. And then, when she tried to leave the house to go to work, he tried to choke her. The attempt failed, and Adam broke down and apologized to Mizuki, who simply thought he did it because he doesn't want to be separated from her.
A few days later, Adam disappeared. Mizuki waited and waited at the mansion. She stopped going to work and to school because she might miss him if he returns. Finally, he called and asked her to join him. Without hesitating, Mizuki packed and hurried over to their meeting place.
Just as she was crossing the street to join Adam at the other side, her ex-boyfriend, Tomoki, saw her. He regretted having cheated on her, and he has been desperately trying to get her back to no avail. He called out to her, making Mizuki turn around while she was crossing the street. Then an oncoming car came.
When Mizuki came to, she found herself amidst clouds, facing a gate that never seemed to end. She meets a little girl who is looking for her cat. She helps the girl locate the cat. The girl gratefully thanked her and disappeared. But shortly after, the cat reappered. And then she sees Adam at the other side of the gate. But there is no way for her to get through the gate and be with him.
The story shifts to the little girl's perspective. Her name is Hotaru, and she got hit by a car when she was looking for her cat, Lulu. When she came to, she was in the hospital. Hotaru could still remember the dream she had at the hospital, the one about the beautiful teenage girl who helped her look for Lulu. Now she had recovered enough to go home, but she still hadn't found Lulu. While she was waking up, a foreign music video was playing. It's called Last Quarter, by Evil Eye.
She goes home with her mother, and the following day, she looks for Lulu again. She finally spots a cat that looks like Lulu and followed it. The cat headed for this rundown mansion and disappeared inside. Hotaru went after her. Inside, she found the same beautiful teenage girl that was in her dreams. The cat led her to the girl. Unfortunately, after a closer look, the cat is not Lulu after all.
There are several strange things about this teenage girl. For starters, she remembered the same dream that Hotaru had. She also kept saying that she is waiting for someone named Adam. She could not remember her name or anything else about herself. When she tries to leave the room, she ends up in it again. Hotaru clumsily comforted her and promised to visit her again. The girl gratefully gave her a ring as a sign of their friendship.
The following day, Hotaru's best friend, Sae, returns with her to the mansion. Then another strange thing happened. Sae cannot not see nor hear the teenage girl, but Hotaru can. Sae also cannot see the ring that the girl gave Hotaru. Freaked out, Sae dashes out of the house only to run into two of their schoolmates: Tetsu, whose parents are friends with Hotaru's mom, and Miura, a boy whom Hotaru has a crush on. Tetsu reveals to Sae that the mansion is rumored to be haunted.
The three kids rejoin Hotaru, who stayed with the girl. At first, they thought that Hotaru was talking to herself. Then they saw her hat float in midair, and they realized that she is indeed communicating with someone whom they cannot see.
The four of them proceeded to do some detective work to help the girl, with Hotaru as the girl's interpreter. They figured she is a ghost, but why is she bound to the mansion? Who is Adam? Because she has this strange obssession with him, they named her Eve. They proceeded to investigate the mansion's past, but it doesn't correspond to the girl's accounts.
It was slow work, but they eventually uncovered the truth about Eve (and yes, she is Mizuki), Adam, the mansion's previous occupants, that song named Last Quarter, and what exactly happened on that fateful night.
Mizuki is also intriguing. I can't help but feel sorry for her because of all that she's been through, and how she also tries to make sense of everything.
The story hooks you in from the very beginning. It all starts as one big puzzle. The reader starts out with as much knowledge as Mizuki. Later, the reader realizes that Mizuki is simply a pawn in a bigger scheme to reunite two lovers... way before the kid detectives and Mizuki realize it themselves. This is one of those detective stories where I was like, "That clue is so obvious! How could they miss it?!"
This story is not really devoid of romantic elements. There's Mizuki and Adam, Hotaru and Miura, and then Sae and Miura, and maybe Hotaru and Tetsu. It doesn't really cover romance in the traditional sense... you know, girl meets guy, they fall in love, they overcome obstacles, they live happily ever after. This story deals with a love that's already there and how it struggles to survive even after death. And, although it may be cliche, I also like how the story involves redemption on a lot of levels.
Did I mention the cover art is awesome?
Anyway, that's enough rambling for me. Go check out this manga. Hurry. Don't walk, run. Run to your nearest manga supplier. You know, the one who makes sure you're supplied with lots of manga before you get teh withdrawal shakes.