Mangaka: Yuki Fumino (@fuminoyuki)
Publisher: One Peace Books (@1peacebooks)
WHAT IS IT?
I Hear the Sunspot is a coming-of-age, slice-of-life manga about two polar opposite university students who must navigate adulthood and romance in the world of the hard-of-hearing.
Think Classmates meets A Silent Voice.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Taichi is outspoken, cheery, and perpetually hungry. Kohei is a quiet introvert who is often misunderstood due to his hearing loss. When Taichi accidentally tumbles into Kohei’s life (literally) the loudmouthed extrovert offers to take class notes in exchange for lunches. This simple choice leads them on a path of unexpected camaraderie.
Their budding friendship is disrupted when classmates trash talk Kohei behind his back and Tacihi reacts with his fists – an act that shocks and confuses the reserved loner. The closed-off Kohei is taken aback by Taichi’s fearless way of living and finds himself unable to push this loud new companion (and the strange feelings that are swelling inside of him) away.
For the first time in his life, he feels like someone truly sees him and they quickly discover that this friendship turned romance has forever changed the course of their lives. As they broaden their horizons, Kohei and Taichi begin to see the world from new perspectives. With the friends they meet along the way, the two decide to shape a kinder future for everyone.
Fumino has crafted a moving narrative focused on difficulties the hard-of-hearing and deaf communities have in their day-to-day lives. The series plays out like a lengthy drama with a natural sense of progression and development, and the overarching plot is both touching and gripping. It’s a real tear-jerker that takes readers on a rollercoaster of emotion with every volume.
The art style is soft. Opting for lighter shades of gray and simple textures, while limiting the amount of stark black, she channels a simplicity that enhances the real-world setting of the story. Everything from the character design to their movements to the settings feels delicate, romantic, and intentional.
There are differences in the fonts used for speech, thought bubbles, and narration that are subtle. It allows for an organic flow of change that is recognizable but continues with the soft stylings of the series and does not disrupt the reader’s flow.
Fumino notes that she educated herself by speaking with her friends and acquaintances who are hard-of-hearing and deaf and visited a sign language school while writing the script, so great care was put into ensuring the story, themes, and JSL* were accurate.
The usage of JSL is an incredibly gorgeous part of the manga. The illustrations of the character’s hands look fluid and portray movement. I honestly wished it was utilized more but, due to Kohei’s choice in the story to not participate in JSL usage, it is not a prominent piece. Nonetheless, it is a highlight of the series.
The relationship between Kohei and Taichi is well-developed and rewarding. It isn’t rushed, it takes its time and is paced in a way that continues to captivate readers across each volume without being stretched thin. They deal with real struggles, miscommunications, and moments of doubt that lend themselves to the authenticity and relatability of their story, as well as enhances the moments of happiness and resolution.
Time truly does feel like it is moving onward from volume to volume. The characters' fashion and hairstyles shift, their personalities develop, and relationships change in ways that feel like months have passed by quicker than they do in real life. It helps the reader engage with the journey.
There is a rare sense of education to the series. For many who do not have friends/family in the hard-of-hearing and deaf communities, the three sides of the story – those in the midst of it, those close to them, and those on the outside – can be eye-opening. It will make you aware of the challenges present in our modern society and allow you to be a more cognizant ally going forward.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
CW: Some mild language, schoolyard violence/bullying.
Non-speech lettering on dark backgrounds can be hard to read, since the drop-shadows are very light and the lettering is on the small side.
It is an incredibly text-heavy series. Two of the volumes break 300 pages and, while it’s an engaging and worthwhile read, it does drag in a few places which might be a turn-off for some readers (these spots are mostly segments that are in the educational segments such as seminars or retreats).
Due to the series being originally released in 2014, as well as being created in Japan, some of the terms used (i.e. hearing impaired) might be outdated/no longer used in today's western cultures. It is in no way meant to be offensive. Fumino worked incredibly hard to be as accurate and authentic as she could while writing this story, so please remember that terms constantly change with time.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Touching and poignant, I Hear the Sunspot delves into the lives of various individuals and their loved ones in the hard-of-hearing and deaf communities as they try to make the world a more accessible and understanding place. Kohei’s struggles to integrate into university life and the burdensome feeling he suffers from is raw and honest, while Taichi’s desire to learn and frustration in teaching others showcases both sides in honest and compelling ways.
Spanning five stunning volumes** with over thirteen hundred pages, the well-developed narrative helps bring an authenticity and awareness to the challenges of life in a world that is not necessarily kind to those who cannot hear. With beautifully illustrated pages and tenderly written moments of understanding, the series is as beautiful as it is impactful. The cast is lovely, diverse in personality, and each one (no matter how minor) has a strong arc of development that is written with care.
A powerful story that captivates and moves you, it is both eye-opening for those who are unfamiliar with the day-to-day struggles of the hard-of-hearing and deaf communities and relatable for those of us who understand it. Fumino has done an incredible job of capturing the anxiety and discomfort of missing a conversation or the passive judgment one may receive when asking to repeat themself. On the flip side, she also expertly crafts the worry and aggravation of trying to make impactful changes when no one else wants to be involved. You feel their exhaustion and wear radiate off of the pages, as well as the relief and joy when someone is patient and understanding.
Like watching your favorite drama, I Hear the Sunspot has a satisfactory pacing with plenty of cliffhangers (that don’t completely destroy you), slow emotional builds, and plenty of will they/won’t they teases. It’s a wholesome series that grounds itself in reality and offers a sweet respite that you can return to again and again.
WHAT DO I READ NEXT?
If you like the writing:
Seven Days by Venio Tachibana and Rihito Takarai
There Are Things I Can’t Tell You by Edako Mofumofu
Given by Natsuki Kizu
If you like the art:
My Summer of You by Nagisa Furuya
I Cannot Reach You by Mika
Seaside Stranger by Kii Kanna
ABOUT THE CREATOR
Fumino’s debut manga series was I Hear the Sunspot. It was originally created for a BL (Boy’s love) magazine called Canna that was then compiled into a standalone volume and later serialized into a series (as well as a feature film).
She has since published other manga such as Saraba, Yoki Hi under the name Yuki Akaneda (none of her other series are currently in English).
HOW DO I BUY IT?
The image(s) used in this article are from a comic strip, webcomic or the cover or interior of a comic book. The copyright for this image(s) is likely owned by either the publisher of the comic, the writer(s) and/or artist(s) who produced the comic. It is believed that the use of this image(s) qualifies as fair use under the United States copyright law. The image is used in a limited fashion in an educational manner in order to illustrate the points of the author and not for the purpose of entertainment or substituting the original work. It is believed the use of this image has had no impact on the market value of the original work.
All Yuki Fumino characters and the distinctive likeness(es) thereof are trademarks of and copyright Yuki Fumino or their respective owners. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
**The series’ titles make it a bit confusing to decipher the correct order. The correct order is; I Hear the Sunspot, I Hear the Sunspot: The Theory of Happiness, followed by I Hear the Sunspot: Limit 1-3.