Few recent manga have been as consistently compelling as Jun Mayuzuki’s After the Rain. The story of high schooler/part-time waitress Akira and her middle-aged boss Kondo has touched on the loss of dreams, shifts in life over time, and finding brief joys amidst the daily grind. The series’s final installment, Vol. 5, is now out and with it we get our last glimpses at these characters’ lives. Do their arcs end in satisfying ways? How does the matter of their crushes get resolved? Is After the Rain Vol. 5 good?
Since this is the series’s end, it’s no surprise that the supporting cast is largely moved to the side in favor of focusing on Akira and Kondo. This works; they each enter this volume with a lot of plot threads still in need of finishing up, both as individuals and as a pair. By and large, both characters’ personal arcs come to satisfying conclusions. The series’s themes of keeping at dreams and continuing to do what you love regardless of fiscal success continue to be prevalent and heartwarming. This is a manga that readers of all ages are likely to find relatable in the best way.
With that said, some aspects of the story could have been executed more effectively. I won’t go into many specifics because I don’t want to risk spoiling anything, but I have mixed feelings on how part of Akira’s story concludes. One could argue that certain information was either conveyed very subtly at best or even just lacked proper build-up. I would argue the former. It’s a bit disappointing since so much of her internals struggle has been beautifully conveyed throughout this series and even in this volume. It’s especially a let-down since the aspect of the story in question is so pivotal to her emotional resolution.
With that said there’s still a lot of excellence in the scenes shared between Akira and Kondo. The most poignant part of this volume, if not the entire manga, depicts a day they spend together in the midst of a snowstorm. There’s a lot of effective use of symbolism, with everyday items and gifts taking on great emotional significance. Your mileage may vary a bit on how well Mayuzuki handles the touchy subject matter, but I think she does so effectively for the most part. If you were holding your breath anxiously like I was that events might end up twisting in disturbing ways, I’d say that most worries are alleviated here.
The art in this volume is also great. The characters are rendered with wonderful expressions and body language that make the emotionally charged story all the more compelling. The attention to detail in the hair throughout is especially well-done, with it sometimes looking pristine and at other times disheveled. The weather and nature imagery here are also quite beautiful; there are lots of blinding expanses of snow with hazy shading that remind one of how vision can become blurred in winter. My only real complaint with this volume’ art is that there are occasional panels that feel quite stiff. This is especially the case in a spread of a character running where their motion isn’t effectively conveyed; they just look kind of stuck in place.
All in all, After the Rain Vol. 5 is a beautiful and emotionally charged end to one of the most memorable manga in recent memory. The protagonists get touching send-offs, the art is lovely, and any cons are small enough that they don’t hinder the overall quality too much. Fans of the series are unlikely to be disappointed.