Waiting for Spring
春待つ僕ら (Haru Matsu Bokura)
Shoujo – Reverse harem, romance, slice-of-life, sports
5 Volumes (ongoing) of 9 Volumes (ongoing)
Mitsuki hasn’t made any friends at school, but she wasn’t always friendless. Her time with the basketball-loving Aya was so precious to her that Mitsuki found a job at a cafe near the court where they hung out. But will her special haven be ruined when the four most popular boys at school start hanging out at her workplace?
Finally, a manga that is good… because of what it isn’t. Waiting for Spring isn’t a story of Ultimate True Love. It isn’t a reverse harem in the sense all the guys fawn over the heroine. It isn’t a gut-busting ridiculous comedy. It isn’t a tear-filled melancholic drama. It isn’t the darkest, the lightest, the most realistic, the most fantasy-like, the most boring, the most interesting, the sweetest, the edgiest… it isn’t the #1 in anything.
And that is what makes it worthwhile. #notbeingthebestisokay
So many manga either try to become the ultimate example of its genre or play it safe and end up as a carbon copy of the series that were revolutionary. By most accounts, Waiting for Spring sounds like it is another story of an ordinary girl and the swarm of boys who surround her. Mitsuki is a bit shy and hasn’t been able to make friends at school. At work, she is called out by a guy saying his friend wants to confess to her. Well, it turns out Ryuji wanted to confess to the owner’s daughter, Nana. And poor Mitsuki doesn’t even get an apology for the mix-up and their casual, indirect insults.
Still, the other three basketball players want to support their friend, and they decide to hang out at the café. Mitsuki makes an agreement with her classmate Towa to keep the hangout a secret, and Mitsuki ends up finally making her first friends. Of course, this being a shoujo manga, she ends up liking Towa in a romantic way, but basketball team members aren’t allowed to date.
What I like about Waiting for Spring is that it feels natural. These are the kinds of teenagers you can find in just about any high school. Of course, there’s a bit of exaggeration (as there is in all fiction), but at least it’s in the ballpark of realism. Okay, it’s more like sitcom realism, but it’s still closer to real-life than a lot of those “reality” shows!
In particular, the tone of the manga goes a long way. While even some younger shoujo magazines are trying to push the envelope, including images of neck bites and domineering speech, Waiting for Spring is closer to Cardcaptor Sakura than Missions of Love. There’s even quite a divide between this series and other Dessert manga like Say I Love You. Mitsuki may want to express her feelings, but the story doesn’t drown readers in love lessons all because she’s experiencing her first crush. Plus, without going into this too deeply, this isn’t a manga where feelings are completely out-of-sync. This gives it an advantage over other soft slice-of-life shoujo series like Strobe Edge.
Plus, I’m sure a lot of readers were a Mitsuki during their school years (and perhaps beyond). If you weren’t a Mitsuki, then you probably knew a Mitsuki. She’s not deathly afraid of talking to strangers, but she is not an extrovert. Even when she finally gets an opportunity to hang out with some female classmates, she feels completely out-of-place. As she gains her first friends, she tries to continue to reach out for others, but I like how she’s neither the super-positive or the super-negative type of heroine. While guys find it easy to mess with Mitsuki (and she isn’t book-smart either), she isn’t overtly dumb or naive to the point those aspects define her.
Still, though, heroines often have a hard time stealing the favorite character polls over the guys in the story. Here, we first meet the four basketball team members: Towa is the low-tension, sleep-loving guy, Ryuji is hot-blooded one, Rui is the cheery prankster, and Kyōsuke is the smart one with a bit of a womanizing streak. (Although much of his ladykiller ways are downplayed and/or predates the start of the manga.) This isn’t a reverse harem in the strict everyone-loves-the-heroine sense; they all aren’t pursuing Mitsuki nor were they gathered together because of her. At best, two of the four are interested in her, the main love rival being introduced later. Regardless, while they do have distinct personalities, they also more alike than in many harem/reverse harems. The obvious connection, is, of course, basketball, but they also all have elements of Rui’s mischievousness for example, and Ryuji isn’t the only dense one. There are shades of Rainbow Days here… but no whips or chains.
However, by far, the weakest link in the manga is Reina. While everyone else is relatively normal, Reina is a boys’ love fangirl, aggressively pursuing pictures of suggestive material between the basketball club members.
It’s not as I have a problem with otaku or fujoshi (heck, depending on your definition, I’m one too), but she feels so out-of-place in Waiting for Spring. To start off with, while Mitsuki has been mostly friendless for her life, and her friendship with Reina seems incredibly rushed. They start hanging out in between the first and second chapter (and officially become friends in the second), and so readers aren’t rewarded with a satisfying development regarding Mitsuki’s pursuit of female friends. I’m not saying I wanted the usual rivals-turned-friends turn of events, but I’d rather have seen Mitsuki’s internal joy at when a couple of girls in her class started to talk to her instead of a brief chibi drawing in a bottom-left panel. Even if you chalk that up to early manga syndrome, Reina’s over-the-top expressions and her wide-, wide-, wide-angle camera lenses are at odds with the down-to-earth atmosphere of the story. I’m guessing the author wanted someone who wouldn’t serve as a love rival to Mitsuki — which is good — but she stands out as more of a parody character rather than blending into the cast.
I mentioned the main love rival is introduced later. One of the original four besides Towa may play a part in the battle for Mitsuki’s affection, and it seems rather silly considering Towa’s rival is a perfect counterpart to his subtle approach. Mitsuki’s boss and his daughter also play roles in the story, especially Nana since she’s Ryuji’s crush. Otherwise, as I have stated repeatedly, Waiting for Spring is a tame, everyday adventure. This is Anashin’s first series going beyond two volumes, and the characters just kind of wander at points due to the basketball season being over. It does moves at a much slower pace than some of its other contemporaries like Honey So Sweet, but at least the no-date rule (no matter how ridiculous it is) provides some sort of reason why they just can’t get together. Although, to be sure, their shyness and rivals already provide enough obstacles.
The art style fits this casual tone of the manga. It’s simple, and it’s relatively unremarkable. Towa and his friends are called “hotties”, but they don’t seem to be any more handsome than the few other young men we see. Ryuji’s also the only one of the four that looks significantly different thanks to his delinquent-looking sharp eyes. (Interestingly enough, he looks more like his friends in the color images versus the manga itself.) As this series skews toward the younger teen crowd, there is little to no fanservice unless you’re looking for Reina-approved images or want some kabedon. This is a lighter series, but Anashin doesn’t play up the fluffier parts. This works both to its advantage and disadvantage. It keeps the manga easy to read, but the lack of impactful images and relatively safe plot, starts weighing the series down into forgettable territory.
The English subtitle (or translated title) in Japanese is We Hope for Blooming, part of which you can see on Towa’s shirt on the first cover. In the original, this as well as the romaji name of the title are written on the front and back covers on each volume. Kodansha USA did keep this idea alive, as you can see parts of Haru Matsu Bokura in the background. Interestingly enough, in the original Japanese version, certain letters are different colors based on the logo. So the first volume, for has blue accents, so those letters are blue in Japanese. (The logo in Japanese changes both the main color of the font and the color of the kanji 待 in the title.) The English version has various letters in a different shade of the volume’s cover. In the first volume’s case, it’s a dark pink. I do love the logo with the different chalk colors in the background though.
… Okay, I admit it. I don’t have much to say. Honorifics are used. There are a good number of translation notes, and it’s nice they even included a little picture for each note. There’s just one I’m surprised didn’t get a mention. The boys are called the Elite Four Hotties in English. Their Japanese group name is Ikemen Shitennou (イケメン四天王, “Good-Looking Four Heavenly Kings”). In Pokémon, the Elite Four are known as the Shitennou in Japanese, and this localization has been used in other works like Kill la Kill. But considering plenty of other series have a Shitennou group with their own translated namtes (let alone the real-life references to samurai and Buddhist figures), I’m surprised this didn’t have a note.
Instead of focusing on a kiss, Waiting for Spring focuses on K.I.S.S.: Keep It Simple Stupid. A girl starts crushing on a boy, a boy starts crushing on a girl, others like them, too, and they navigate the awkwardness of the teenage years — plus with an added “no date” rule. Oh, and basketball. If you’re looking for lighter, clean fare, check out Waiting for Spring.