What if you died and were reborn and remembered all your memories of your former life when you were 10 years old? This is the story of an adorable 11 year old girl who happens to remember her former life, and fate reunites her with her former lover again, who is now 25 years old. Among these memories is a promise which Niina then decides to try and fulfill. But can she really do it? This manga doesn’t get nearly as much attention as it should. These days it gets harder and harder to find new original stories that are actually good. No one wants to a boring bunch of pages that are wasted on shallow story line that has been published over and over. At first I was reluctant to read this manga because of the whole “past life” aspect. However, this manga is extremely beautiful and definitely worth your time. Unlike most shoujo manga, it is not 100% cliche (for example falling onto one another) and the romance is sweet, slow, and subtle.
The story is well constructed. Each chapter ended with something to look forward to in the next, whether it was a cliffhanger or a continuation of a subplot. I actually had to keep myself from reading so quickly just because I wanted it to last longer. I loved the mangaka’s ideas, though, and the way she depicted emotion and feelings was great. Painful memories? You bet. The manga is great at weaving the emotions of the characters throughout the story, exploring the hard question of who suffers more: the one left behind, or the one who left? The story isn’t very complicated and is pretty much what you would predict it to be in the summary, but that doesn’t matter because the focus is on the characters. You can see that the love between Niina and Atsurou is heart-warmingly strong. She tries her best to be there for him while Atsurou is inexplicably drawn towards her even when he is constantly mourning the loss of Chitose.
Personally, I think it’s impossible to not love the characters. There is lots of character development which is where most of my tears formed. I found Niina to be a very enjoyable character. Because of the time that the manga spans, we get to see Niina in many years of her life, and the development in her personality and wisdom is very obvious and close to how a real girl would grow up. Of course, she does have memories from her past life, so she is different in that sense, but the main character must always be special, mustn’t she? She grows from cute and innocent to mature and smart, not a flawless person but a real one, able to come to terms with who she really is. The other characters are also well developed.
As for the male protagonist, we have a man tortured by the death of his girlfriend ever since he was 15 years old. 10 years have passed since her death and he was not able to move on. Still, he did not became a loner or a bitter person to others. He is still kind, and the best of all, he has a deep tenderness and respect for Niina that does not involve second intentions. He even hangs out with Niina´s family. I enjoyed a lot to see the protagonists relationship. An unbreakable bond of friendship, mutual respect and understanding, where both of them try their best to convey their thoughts and feelings to each other with honesty.
The art in this manga also adds a whole ‘other level to the story line. I don’t think many people actually appreciate art in manga as much as they should. Even if you have the best plot and disruptive interesting dialogue it can all be in vain when the pages themselves seem dull and boring. Mangas are about visual storytelling just as much as they are about the word content within. One without the other doesn’t work very well but when you have both perfectly combined you end but with an awesome publication. This manga by all means has perfectly combined the 2 elements resulting in a very easy/enjoyable way to explore the storyline visually and in a more literal way. Even the manga cover is simply beautiful. You can tell that the mangaka’s spends a lot of time drawing from the remarkable details in the hair. Credit to Koyomi Minamori once again.
Hajimari no Niina has a unique plot and heartwarming story. It brought me to tears and even when I think of it now, I feel a hole in my heart. It is definitely not your typical shoujo manga and brings much more meaning and depth. As you can tell if you read thus far, I have immensely enjoyed my time reading this still rather short manga. I highly recommend this as shoujo, romance and for those of you who truly love deep stories that have morals behind them that you can actually take away with you. One thing I would say I learnt from reading this manga would have to be to treasure every moment as it comes as if it was your last. Having regrets can burden you but it’s never too late to make things right until well, it really is too late…