Graduate – Spring, published by Juné Manga, is the third installment in a boys’ love series by Asumiko Nakamura. It stars Rihito Sajou and Hikaru Kusakabe, two high school students in love who are grappling with family illnesses, social stigmas, and the life changes they’re going to have to overcome after graduation. The series’s previous volume, Graduate – Winter, was memorable due to its beautiful line-art and shading, as well as the poignant romance between the main characters. Does Graduate – Spring shine in similar ways? Is it good?
Art-wise, Nakamura continues to impress with this volume. The visuals have a pleasing, airy quality to them thanks to their mixture of thin line-work with well-balanced page compositions. There’s never too much going on at once; plenty of white space is utilized so that every detail has sufficient room to breathe. The shading is also lovely, as Nakamura makes frequent use of gradients from white to jet black. It’s also worth noting that this volume’s nature and architecture imagery is beautiful. Most of the backgrounds throughout may lean more into blank expanses than highly detailed surroundings, but the exceptions to this always look fantastic.
With that said, the most crucial elements of this volume’s visuals are the characters’ facial expressions and physical movements. Just as much information about Sajou and Kusakabe’s emotions and thoughts gets conveyed through the artwork as through the dialogue and narration. These characters are very well-fleshed out, and their relationship is all the more poignant because of the development they receive as individuals. Virtually every shot of their faces is full of personality, too.
Another one of this volume’s main strengths is its pacing. The jumps between plot points don’t feel as sudden as in Graduate – Winter, as multiple conflicts take place concurrently. Sajou and Kusakabe’s concerns about growing older are particularly resonant, and there’s a major shift in their dynamic that’s believably handled. This volume also addresses the pressures imposed on the protagonists by homophobia more directly than previous installments did. Overall, this is a strong conclusion to the couple’s story.
In terms of cons, my main gripe is with the book’s middle chapters. There are a number of brief segments that don’t contribute much of note to the plot or flesh out the main characters. These scenes typically star Hara-sensei, who is once again the worst member of the cast. His presence doesn’t trigger significant growth in either protagonist, and his thought bubbles about his sexual attraction to his students are just uncomfortable to read. Thankfully he’s too minor of a character to besmirch the main plot, but this also makes his inclusion feel all the more unnecessary.
Overall, Graduate – Spring is a poignant and fitting end to the series. The main couple find themselves at a crossroads in their lives, and Nakamura traverses this state of flux very well. The artwork is utterly fantastic, and the pacing is quite effective. Unfortunately, Hara-sensei manages to drag things down a bit while also seeming utterly irrelevant to the main story. Nonetheless, there’s a lot to love about this volume, its two main characters, and their relationship.