"Promise" is the name of a weird little comic book by Keiko Nishi published by Viz. It was bound like a paperback, but more the size and thickness of a standard comic book. It included two chapters:

"Promise", the book's namesake, is the tale of a quiet high school girl who, with some help, discovers that loneliness is not the only human condition.

"Since You've Been Gone" is about a man who, in the middle of an affair, realizes who really matters in his life.

Both stories are beautiful, delicately-told tales. They are magical, in the most profound sense - I think Keiko Nishi must understand mono no aware extremely well. This books is very hard to find, so if you spot it, you should probably buy it. If you're into this sort of thing. I believe the two stories in Promise were collected into a longer book, "Four Shoujo Stories", also now out-of-print.

For the record, Matt Thorn did the excellent translations.

Book Writeup Confidence Index: 5


I GREW a rose within a garden fair,
And, tending it with more than loving care,
I thought how, with the glory of its bloom,
I should the darkness of my life illume;

And, watching, ever smiled to see the lusty bud
Drink freely in the summer sun to tinct its blood.

My rose began to open, and its hue
Was sweet to me as to it sun and dew;
I watched it taking on its ruddy flame
Until the day of perfect blooming came,
Then hasted I with smiles to find it blushing red --
Too late! Some thoughtless child had plucked my rose and fled!

-from Lyrics of Lowly Life, Paul Laurence Dunbar (1869)

What exactly is a promise?

I remember years ago, not long after graduating from high school, I was romantically involved with someone and we were convinced we would always be together. She offered me her high school ring, but under a condition. "You must promise me that you will always wear it." Perhaps it was my rampant pragmaticism or sense of realism, but I rejected her condition. After all, if I had made that promise and kept it I would still be wearing the high school ring of someone I haven't seen or talked to in fifteen years. My wife would probably find that slightly disturbing. At the height of passion or when you are in the midst of feeling like this is the be all and end all, some things sound like a great promise to make. Yet, that day I began to serious wonder.

What exactly is a promise?

A promise is an oath you make on your honor that you will hold yourself to. There is the sworn promise and then there is the perceived promise. The nature of a perceived promise is when the other party accepts your "Sure, I'd love to come" as a promise. "But you promised!" The sworn promise involves you actually vowing to do what you promise. The blurring of the lines between perception and true promises are part of the problem. The problem is that the promise is being watered down.

What exactly is a promise?

Friends and relatives often ask if I will be able to attend functions or make visits for the holidays. My response is always "I will see what is happening closer to the date, it is hard to tell right now." To commit before you are certain of your ability to attend a function or make a trip puts you in the position of making a perceived promise and then possibly breaking it. The perceived promise is on the very edge of the true promise. When the words "I promise" trip out from between your lips, it should mean something. However, for many people their promises are up for re-interpretation at any given moment. They make excuses for breaking promises based on their lack of foresight at the time. They use the promise to lure an associate into their bed. They make promises to entice a friend to loan them money, or their car, or their weed whacker. Whatever works at the moment to get them what they want at the time is fair game to them. They violate the sanctity of the promise.

"Your promise means nothing."

I listened the other day as a co-worker of mine said this to another co-worker. The co-worker being doubted was the type of person who often says "I promise I'll get to that today" and then finds himself so swamped with work that he completely forgets to do what he has promised. He uses the word "promise" too frequently and too easily. For him it is a matter not only of syntax, but of learned behavior. He told me that he always says he promises to do things because "it makes people go away faster." So, a promise, which is supposed to be a sworn oath becomes merely a convenient way of convincing people you will do something merely to get them out of your hair.

"In general, a declaration, written or verbal, made by one person to another, which binds the person who makes it to do, or to forbear to do, a specified act; a declaration which gives to the person to whom it is made a right to expect or to claim the performance or forbearance of a specified act."
--Webster 1913

So according to your friend and mine, Mr. Webster, a promise binds the promise maker to do what is promised and also gives the promise accepter the right to expect that the promise be honored. For those who throw around their promises too lightly, I have a simple solution. The next time one of those promises you really aren't 100% sure you'll keep begins to trip off your tongue, try saying this instead:

"I promise I will try."

And then we'll find a Promise Breakers Twelve Step Program for you. Don't worry, it will be okay. You are not alone.

Prom"ise (?), a. [F. promesse, L. promissum, fr. promittere, promissum, to put forth, foretell, promise; pro forward, for + mittere to send. See Mission. ]


In general, a declaration, written or verbal, made by one person to another, which binds the person who makes it to do, or to forbear to do, a specified act; a declaration which gives to the person to whom it is made a right to expect or to claim the performance or forbearance of a specified act.

For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise. Gal. iii. 18.

2. Law

An engagement by one person to another, either in words or in writing, but properly not under seal, for the performance or nonperformance of some particular thing. The word promise is used to denote the mere engagement of a person, without regard to the consideration for it, or the corresponding duty of the party to whom it is made.

Chitty. Parsons. Burrill.


That which causes hope, expectation, or assurance; especially, that which affords expectation of future distinction; as, a youth of great promise.


My native country was full of youthful promise. W. Irving.


Bestowal, fulfillment, or grant of what is promised.

He . . . commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father. Acts i. 4.


© Webster 1913.

Prom"ise, v. t. [imp. & p. p. Promised (?); p. pr. & vb. n. Promising.]


To engage to do, give, make, or to refrain from doing, giving, or making, or the like; to covenant; to engage; as, to promise a visit; to promise a cessation of hostilities; to promise the payment of money.

"To promise aid."



To afford reason to expect; to cause hope or assurance of; as, the clouds promise rain.



To make declaration of or give assurance of, as some benefit to be conferred; to pledge or engage to bestow; as, the proprietors promised large tracts of land; the city promised a reward.

Promised land. See Land of promise, under Land. -- To promise one's self. (a) To resolve; to determine; to vow. (b) To be assured; to have strong confidence.

I dare promise myself you will attest the truth of all I have advanced. Rambler.


© Webster 1913.

Prom"ise, v. i.


To give assurance by a promise, or binding declaration.


To afford hopes or expectation; to give ground to expect good; rarely, to give reason to expect evil.

Will not the ladies be afeard of the lion? I fear it, I promise you. Shak.


© Webster 1913.

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