The Lost Letters series is centered around a love letter that a student finds and wants to return to it's author. The story is about the characters who are some how connected to the author. That's the basics of the plot.
The manga starts out with Kiyotaka Hiros, the student, waiting in a tunnel to meet up with his friend, Arihara Mineo, to return his letter. There, he meets The Match Seller Hanashiro Seiji and they start talking about why this letter is so important and why Hirose is waiting out in the cold for his friend that never comes. The story then quickly becomes about
Hanashiro Seiji and why he's also standing out in the cold selling matches, or whatever he's REALLY selling. Later on, Seiji drags Hirose back to his office to have sex with him. The next morning, without even knowing each others names the two form an awkward relationship that Seiji's colleague Sawa Jinichiro describes as "another whim", or is it?
My first thoughts were about how romantic this sounds: someone trying to return a undelivered love letter so the author can fulfill their desires and deliver it, but it's actually not as rosy as it seems. While reading this apart of me felt that the romance was dirty; tarnished; spoiled by the characters and their personal demons. Both the men (Seiji and Jinichiro) are broken souls who pray on anyone who is willing (and sometimes not) to satisfy them. Both men have been around the block many times and at first treat the student's as their pets. This is the part I felt was dirty. Sure the sex was consensual but it felt like broken hope as the older men bullied the boys to amuse themselves and their mundane lives. As we tumble down the rabbit hole, we discovered the bitter-truths behind three of the characters. The only character who wasn't messed up was Hirose. He was oblivious to what was happening around him. Even though the story was about Arihara's love letter, Hirose is at the center of everything.
There were touching moments but the overall feeling of the events are about damaged people with no morals who become entangled in hopeless love triangles.
There are many chapters to this series. Sometimes, as each chapter turns into the next, the story would start at a new point changing the POV; shifting to who is telling the story or who's inner thoughts we were reading. This was a great way to mix up the plot and throw the reader off. Memorizing the names of the characters was important as the story was told like a jigsaw puzzle; slowly filling in the missing pieces to create the overall picture.
I like Kusama Sakae's art. It's sketchy and messy but doesn't loose it's appeal. I like her lanky characters. The time period is set early 1900's, post war, and her costumes and backgrounds were detailed enough to leave an impression but not overwhelm you. Her characters also were appealing even though her art can sometimes look sharp and blocky.
I liked this series as it still had heart warming moments amongst all the depressing scenes. You could tell that the bitter-sweet romance would eventually become moments of real love as the characters discovered themselves and let go of their problems. I liked following along knowing this and hoping that our couples would eventually figure this out.
In the afterword, Kusama Sakae explains how she would love to keep going on with the Lost letter series but fears that she can only afford to do one more volume. No release dates for the next volume have been released, at this stage, but she did say she will finish this in volume 3.