This review will contain spoilers for the manga and anime series Snow Fairy. While the manga may vary slightly from all other forms of media, it may have similar story elements and could be considered spoilers.
Trigger Warning: There may be references to a devastating car accident, death, and depression, as it appears in the manga.
Haruki has been living alone in snowy Hokkaido since the death of his parents years back. His life is very routine and ordinary. He helps his elderly neighbors clear their driveways, makes deliveries around the small town, cares for his grandmother next door, and maintains the house his parents left behind. His existence is a lonely one, but one that he enjoys. He never plans to change his lifestyle until he finds an abandoned, snow-covered car on the side of the road. Worried for the driver, he stops and gets out, only to find a strange photographer in the middle of the snow.
Narumi is an animal photographer, and he's traveled to Hokkaido to capture images of an animal called a snow fairy. Unfortunately, he has nowhere to stay but no plans to leave. If nothing else, he'll stay in a tent until he can photograph his elusive snow fairies. Haruki can't bring himself to leave Narumi out in the snow, so he offers him a place to stay in his empty house.
Narumi has no qualms about taking Haruki up on this offer. The routine life Haruki has built for himself is flipped upside down by the boisterous Narumi. Yet, Haruki's not sure that he minds all that much.
The art in this is near perfection. It's stunning, especially when paired with the beauty of the animals and the scenery. There are some panels in this that I would love to hang on my wall because they are gorgeous. Haruki is absolutely adorable, while Narumi is daddy material. They make a lovely pair of opposing values, looks, and the like. I'd say this is worth buying just for the art because it is lovely.
Where this really shines, though, is in the premise. With Narumi being a photographer and Haruki's father being a hobbyist when it comes to photography, it sets up a lovely subplot where Narumi teaches Haruki how to take photographs. Throughout their time together, Haruki learns how to “pour his love” into his subject, which is almost always Narumi. Meanwhile, Narumi is doing his best to hide that Haruki has been the subject of all his photos, too. It's such a cute awkward dynamic that culminates in these two people who are hopelessly in love with each other but are skirting around the topic because they fear their feelings won't be reciprocated. It's painfully cute, and I love it so, so much.
It is worth noting, since I am a degenerate, and some of you may assume this is another one of my fun, smut-filled romps, that this is not the case here. That's not to say I wouldn't enjoy some sexy time in this, but this story is very pure, lovey-dovey. There is some kissing, but it doesn't go beyond that, which is just fine. The emotional journey is the most crucial part here, and watching Haruki grow from his trauma and loss into someone willing to open his heart to someone new is beautiful.
However, I was surprised to find this was also a story of growth for Narumi. He's very flighty as a person. He doesn't want to lay roots anywhere and finds staying in one place forever dull. However, Haruki shows him another side of that life. There is a joy to be found in the mundane. There is comfort in routine, and there's nothing better than going on a long journey only to return to the arms of someone waiting for you. I loved that both characters got to see another kind of life, and while they don't change for the other person, they are able to adore each other for their differences and look forward to sharing their lifestyles. It's perfection in terms of character development for me.
To say I loved this story is an understatement. It's wholesome, sweet, romantic, and sometimes sad, but it is all worth seeing the beautiful ending to it all. I have actually pre-ordered the physical edition because I loved it so much if that tells you anything. This is a wonderful palate cleanser for other degenerates like me. But even beyond a palate cleanser, this is such a beautiful story that I think you'd be doing yourself a huge disservice if you don't read it just because it is missing that sweet smut.
Have you read Snow Fairy? If so, what do you think? Do you agree with my assessment? Do you not? Let me know, and comment below!