Hirayasumi Volume 1: Easy Breezy



Iyashikei, in terms of a literal translation is something along the lines of “healing type”, and is used as a descriptor for a subset of the slice of life genre- an example being Hirayasumi volume 1. I’m sure there’s people that will debate that sentiment, but Hirayasumi, in my eyes, squarely exists within the targets of iyashikei. Using its (nearly) 30 year old main character as a rock to which everything is tied, it explores the daily incrementation of life. Not necessarily the daily experiences, or the “bigger picture”, but the summation of those events as the crystallization of a person. And that, is what I’d like to try and explain with this review (though I’ll inevitably miss the mark).

To better understand that argument, it’s probably quite helpful to have a better understanding of what Hiraysumi volume 1 is. Hiroto Ikuta is a 29-year old man who lives off a part-time job, getting along swimmingly with older ladies but struggling with a crowd closer to him in age. Chief among his favorites is grumpy and lonely retiree Hanae Wada. Within the manga however, Hiroto’s time with Hanae (whom he affectionately calls ‘granny’) is cut short as she passes away with a heart attack. In her passing, Hiroto is gifted her home, and soon after houses his younger cousin and freshman art student Natsumi Kobayashi. From here, Hirayasumi volume 1 details the experiences of their day to day life in a mundane, casual, and simple fashion.

You’d think that with the various speeds of Hirayasumi volume 1 that there’d be a lot more discrepency in terms of how you feel about it as a whole, but Keigo Shinzo expertly uses that to their advantage, painting the feeling of pace as a normal variance in daily life. Sometimes it means nothing happens, other times it means you’ve had a day so full you can’t remember where it starts and stops. It’s a very thoughtful reminder that experience is a two way street, facilitated by the greater world at play and the agency of an individual. I think the best way to explain that dichotomy is with how Hiroto and Natsumi first begin their stories in Hirayasumi. From the moment you set out in the manga, Hiroto is very much a “at his own pace” type of person. Natsumi, on the other hand, feels the pressure of a big city all around her. She feels the need to work hard to make friends, to make a name for herself at school, and to succeed at all costs. Life has other plans however, and that struggling only serves to work against her ideas. It’s only when she begins to listen to the heartbeat of the world (with some vague assistance from Hiroto) and readjusts herself to it, that she finds friends, stories, and cherished memories popping up one after another. In a sense, you could simplify that to mean “just go at your own pace”, but much like Hiroto would (probably) argue, saying it like that is no fun.

Though really, that meaning is just something that I personally have extracted from Hirayasumi volume 1. Keigo Shinzo could very easily create a message and relay it infinitely better than I, but their understanding is so much deeper than “I need to tell readers this through the characters”. In reality, Shinzo cares very little about relaying that message to whoever picks up this manga. Rather, it’s a focus on creating a world that operates within that. The “message” is a narrative vehicle that we the readers construct- in this case to relate to the experiences of characters like Natsumi. Within the world and story though, it doesn’t even register as a facet of it, and the moments that comprise that message coagulate into a single entity that forms the core of each character. So at risk of repeating myself, there’s really no “greater symbol” at play with the characters, it truly is just the formation of them as characters while time goes on. You could simplify Natsumi’s character to its archetype, or anybody else in this first volume, but that squarely misses the point of Hirayasumi, you’d just be missing the forest for the trees. The point isn’t to break apart the characters here, but to continually build them into something different, something new. In a sense, it’s an extremely streamlined story that’s meant to provide for every step along the way for the life of a person. It’s not exposition, it’s not development, it’s purely the experiences that form the person. Because of that, it’s no wonder that Hirayasumi is a series that’s seen so much positive reception during its life.

In receiving so much praise however, it’s rather obvious that Hirayasumi volume can’t just be “vibes” as a story. It’s got it’s fill of narrative and whatnot, but in terms of second place within the experience of this first volume, it’s definitely the art. Which is rather ironic because I feel almost cheated. Not that the art is bad by any means… but oh my goodness that watercolor style just meshes so wonderfully with Shinzo’s art that I feel like it’s a crime that they weren’t able to include it in the majority of pages and panels. The degree of warmth and comfort that it provides is near heavenly, and it feels like Shinzo’s more fluid character designs and sketchy (another manga you should check out) background art were made for it.

In contrast, or maybe in addition, the panelling for Hirayasumi volume 1 is surprisingly understated. The vast majority of the time it’s a very casual experience that feels almost like it’s trying to replicate a live-action version of itself. All of that is in preparation for the more cinematic panels though, making them stand out even more than they might have on their own. It’s really not much of anything to write home about on its own, but within the context of Hirayasumi volume 1, it really just proves Shinzo’s incredible awareness in crafting this story.

Altogether, Hirayasumi volume 1 paints a truly beautiful picture. Every little step, every bit of mundane curiosity or self-indulgence, every major leap- it’s all recorded in what feels like a diary of the lives within this story. Shinzo puts forward their greatest effort to convey that, tweaking every little brush stroke, and every panel & layout to convey that feeling. It’s a very… “obvious” approach, but it’s one that requires an understanding that surpasses a “good” story. Hirayasumi is the kind of feel-good manga you’ll seldom see- even in this vast ocean of content- so all I can really say is you should enjoy it for all its worth.

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