Kouno Jun is a lively character who lives life with all his might. In kindergarten, he falls in love with Hasebe Rino, the most beautiful girl in his class, and he confesses to her. Hasebe accepts his love, but the moment she gives her answer, she vanishes on the spot. Failing to figure out what's going on, Kouno asks his friends about Hasebe, only to find out that no one remembers a single thing about her. She has just vanished, along with all memories about her, except for those of Kouno.
While Kouno leads a weary and desperate high-school life, Hasebe appears again as a transfer student. However, this Hasebe is not exactly the Hasebe he knows...
Oh woe is Jun - victim of cruel fate, poet of lost love. The tantalizing fruits of love are reaped yet never consumed. Poor Jun is left with naught, but to hunger evermore.
It's not easy to work up the courage to confess one's love, even less so for an kindergarten boy who believes himself unworthy of her reciprocal affection. To Kouno Jun's intense bewilderment, however, she requites his feelings in full measure. With a radiant smile and her pinky extended, Hasebe Rino asks for Jun's eternal love. Yet, as the promise is made, she vanishes into thin air without a trace. Fast forward to
middle school, another Hasebe Rino appears but with no recollection of Jun. Call him committed or call him crazy, but Jun manages to woo this Hasebe too through sheer force of will. But alas, she too disappears from this world the instant their hearts connect, the cycle set to repeat itself once more.
The lion's share of Undead Lovers is simply episodic stories of Jun meeting and winning the hearts of different incarnations of Hasebe until the imminent moment of elation and subsequent sorrow strikes. Herein lies the greatest strength of the manga - Undead Lovers thrives on these episodic stories which the rather unique premise has enabled. The opportunity to start numerous relationships afresh is used to great effect: each Hasebe, in addition to varying in personality from one another, is accompanied by wildly different circumstances. This places the protagonist in interesting situations in which his indomitable commitment is put to the test. One chapter sees Hasebe as an elementary-schooler troubled in preparations of a school play, another stars her as a middle-schooler in love with a university student whom she can only admire on the morning trains. Hasebe never concedes her love to Jun easily; each story is served with its dose of comedy, tension and drama, and as such never fails in delivering entertainment. As there is usually only one chapter to depict the unfolding of each relationship, much unnecessary chatter is filtered away. Arguably, the constraints in space forces each story to advance at an unnatural pace, but the fast-fire approach to the narrative also augments its energetic style.
The problem, however, becomes apparent as the stories go on without any disclosure as to why Hasebe disappears. Throughout the course of its 11 chapters, there are minimal advancements in the main plot, and the story concludes without any resolution whatsoever. Although the clarification will indeed arrive in later parts which have yet to be released, the existing portion already suffers from its episodic structure. Little distinguishes the individual stories from other more elaborate pieces of fiction, and the constant presence of Jun gives the story a degree of repetitiveness despite interesting scenarios. People reading in hopes of a conclusive tale will be disappointed.
Speaking of disappointment: there are no zombies in Undead Lovers. Rather, the "Undead" refers to Jun and Hasebe's undying love through each reboot. The manga depicts love as an almighty force which encompasses one's entire being and transcends time or logic. This idea is presented convincingly as Jun overcomes all barriers between him and Hasebe, paying no heed to his pride, decorum, age differences, and its likes. "I love you" as his catchphrase, Jun spares no means to show just how raw and powerful his feelings are. His unwavering dedication in spite of adversities and his bitter position leads to many genuinely heart-felt moments where transient bliss mingles with melancholy and despair. The irony in this is that despite this glorification of the eternal love, his love for each Hasebe never does subsist beyond each disappearance. Not only does this contradict the manga's themes, it also prevents Jun from growing as a character and push the story to a resolution.
A crushing experience this whole business must be for Jun, whose efforts and commitment are all but rewarded. His despair is indeed evident, as he is sometimes portrayed metaphorically with his heart ripped out of his chest or his skin falling off his face. Yet, as he bounces back from each loss to seduce the new Hasebe, one cannot help but question his sanity. How can he remain sane going through such turmoil for his love knowing that as soon his desire is realized he shall be completely bereft of all which he has worked for? Rather than being shaped by each of his encounters, he seems to put them all behind and keeps on being driven by the one thing which defines him - his love for the current Hasabe. Little does he care for the fact that in wooing Hasabe she will cease to exist, and little remorse is shown for the ones which he has already caused to disappear. Perhaps he has spiraled into insanity from the strength of his love and the losses he face, but more probably this is an oversight on the author's part. Jun's static and sometimes uncompromising character is the most glaring fault of Undead lovers.
A love story this is, and so emotion is of paramount importance in its presentation. Being a debut work, Yuna Takagi shows surprising flair in accurately illustrating a wide array of emotions. The characters' countenance are wonderfully expressive. While expressions are often exaggerated for dramatic or comedic effect, she also manages to skillfully depict more subtle emotions and inner conflicts. On the other hand, Yuna's lack of experience does show in how she handles visual storytelling. Owing partly to the fast pacing of the manga, there are often excessive amounts of visual and verbal information cramped into little space. This frequently gives rise to intrusive speech bubbles, and works in conjunction with a shifting art-style and an overly dynamic panelling to make Undead Lovers an oftentimes visually taxing read. Yuna's artistic style does mature over time, and the later chapters suffer from these problems to a far lesser extent.
Undead Lovers is not a fulfilling love story. It is a collection of shorter stories, each fulfilling and touching on their own. The protagonist connects these stories; but a weak link he is, leaving much to be desired from the holistic work.
Kouno Jun may not be much of a poet; but if you repeat "I love you" a thousand times, does it not become the most genuine poem?
Fujimi Lovers is a unique take on your standard romance. I've only read three chapters so far, but I've loved every second of it.
From what I've read so far, no questions have been answered yet. However, the romance is well written, and you can really feel the despair the main character faces as he goes on.
I like this particular style of art, but it isn't the best I've ever seen. Characters are drawn well and backgrounds are standard.
The main character is someone who I can really respect. Someone who does actively goes for what he wants and doesn't give up even
when he fails. A fresh take as far as main characters go. The main heroine(s) all have things they want to do, although they aren't as developed as the main character.
I really enjoyed seeing how the main character perseveres and doesn't give up, and seeing the despair as the story progressed.
Solid writing and art and an interesting premise has so far kept my interest in this manga. I really hope the rest of this gets translated soon.