Jun Mayuzuki’s After the Rain tells the story of Akira, a high school student and former track runner who had to give up that passion after a leg injury. Now working as a waitress, she develops romantic feelings for her boss, Kondo. The series’ first installment impressed with its believable dialogue, strong character focus, and airy, emotive artwork. Vol. 2 is now out from Vertical Comics, and it collects chapters 17-32. The tension between Akira and Kondo rises, and they both grow as characters as former friends reenter their lives. How does this volume compare to the series’ debut? Is it good?
This volume manages to flesh out the characters’ worlds and motivations effectively while seldom resorting to exposition dumping. The introduction of Akira’s friend Kiyan is a great example of this. We get a brief flashback to when Akira and Kiyan ran track together, and the juxtaposition of their carefree younger selves with their current circumstances helps convey the nature of the gulf that’s widened between them. There’s more than just the physical distance that came when they started attending different schools; Akira’s injury and resultant inability to run track anymore have clearly put a strain on her ability to connect with others. This is seldom addressed outright, however. Mayuzuki addresses the issue subtly, such as in a telling panel where Akira’s leg is shown at an angle where the reader can see the scarring on her calf. Moments like these demonstrate Mayuzuki’s talent for showing instead of just telling.
Kondo’s meeting with his former classmate Chihiro is also well-written. Chihiro shows up at a critical point in Kondo’s character arc, and their conversation really sells the fact that Kondo had a life and dreams before the events of the manga. This helps shape him into more of a dynamic character with depth beyond just being a worn down, complacent middle-aged man. The pacing of the pair’s reunion is also great, and has some foreshadowing that isn’t apparent until after the fact.
As with the last volume, Mayuzuki impresses artistically as well. The atmosphere throughout this volume is ridiculously good. The shading is lovely, and the use of patterns and hatching when conveying depth and texture is top-notch. The characters’ facial expressions continue to convey the intensity of their emotions, as well as the awkward humor present in many of their interactions. The only real con to the visuals is some occasional wonky anatomy, but this is very rare.
Overall, After the Rain Vol. 2 is a poignant read with lovely art, effective pacing, and strong development of the protagonists’ social lives. Both Akira and Kondo are more well-developed by the end, making their dramas all the more enjoyable. As with the last volume, your mileage may vary on how adequately the subject matter (regarding Akira and Kondo’s age gap) is handled, but I personally think it’s dealt with tastefully for the most part. Besides that the main cons are just some occasional anatomy issues. Overall, this volume is even better than the last.