Recently released by Juné Manga, Tsutomu’s Scent of Spring is a collection of short boys’ love comics. The stories included vary in plot and the ages of their protagonists, from a chance meeting between adults at a flower shop to a pair of high schoolers learning to communicate their feelings for each other. With that said, there’s a recurrent air of domesticity and the everyday across the stories. Is this enough to make the anthology read well as a whole? Is Scent of Spring good?
The first story shares its name with the collection. “Scent of Spring” stars a flower shop worker and a frequent customer who comes in for a bouquet on the same day each month. Tsutomu doesn’t reinvent the wheel in terms of retail romance stories, but she does deliver a level of sincerity and artistry that still makes the manga stand out. There’s a relatively slow burn to the main characters’ relationship as we get to see them interact several times before their romantic tension bubbles up to the surface. Their dialogue is charmingly awkward, as the shop clerk fumbles over his words while trying not to come off too strongly. The story’s artwork is also excellent from the get-go, as Tsutomu conveys a sense of sweetness and fragility by framing the corners of the first page with loose flowers.
Tsutomu’s visuals remain consistently excellent throughout the anthology, and they’re definitely the book’s greatest attribute. The characters’ facial expressions and body language are very evocative of what they’re feeling, both in moments of romantic pining and humorous outbursts. Pages and panels are also well-composed and balanced, leading the reader’s eye from point to point without much confusion. There is also some nice utilization of patterns as shading, and the contrasts between light and dark values are very well-rendered. All in all, this collection is pleasing to look at.
The rest of the manga beside the titular story go up and down a bit in quality, but none of them are outright bad. The weakest two are probably “Let’s Have a Chat” and “Love That Wavers in Winter.” The former may leave some readers feeling uncomfortable due to the way in which it portrays a romantic relationship between a teacher and his student. At one point the teacher remarks that his actions reflect badly on him as an educator, but this plot point isn’t actually delved into otherwise.”Love That Wavers in Winter,” meanwhile, doesn’t have quite long enough of a page count to really do its characters justice. While the open-ended nature of its conclusion works and the context of the relationship depicted differs a bit from those in the other stories, it’s hard to feel especially invested in the characters.
“Smile Again,” meanwhile, is more successful in what it sets out to do. It tells the story of a man who moves back home after a harsh breakup, and who rekindles a bond with his childhood best friend. The pair begins their friendship anew, and it eventually blossoms into something more. This shift feels a bit rushed, but the journey to get there is still fun to read. The pair have a great rapport and their banter is frequently amusing. “Rainbow-Colored Days!” is also very character-focused, but the main couple’s interactions are less smoothly written. This story may also put some readers off due to the way the underage characters’ sexual fantasies are depicted. Tsutomu stops short of depicting anything explicit, but she comes close enough that it can still feel unnerving.
Overall, Scent of Spring is an enjoyable collection of stories that gel well together. Tsutomu’s artwork is beautiful throughout and most of the stories are charming in their everyday authenticity. The comics with younger protagonists can sometimes veer toward uncomfortable territory but they don’t cross lines extremely enough to sink the anthology as a whole. There’s an abundance of sincere character work here that, combined with the excellent visuals, makes this a book worth reading.