Genre: Shoujo; Comedy-Drama; Romance
Author: Sakisaka Io
Summary: Yoshioka Futaba has a few reasons why she wants to “reset” her image and life as a new high-school student. Because she’s cute, she was ostracized by her female friends in junior high, and because of a misunderstanding, she couldn’t get her feeling across to the one boy she has always liked, Tanaka-kun. Now in high school, she is determined to be as unladylike as possible so that her friends won’t be jealous of her. While living her life this way contentedly, she meets Tanaka-kun again, but he now goes under the name of Mabuchi Kou. He tells her that he felt the same way as she did when they were younger, but now things can never be the same again. Will Futaba be able to continue her love that never even started from three years ago?
Volumes: 9 – (2011 – ongoing)
Anime: Starting July 2014
Komorebi’s rating: ★★★★☆ (4/5)
During my shoujo phase last summer, I stumbled across this gem of a manga and completely fell in love. I’m not generally a manga person, much less a shoujo person, but sometimes you’re just in the mood for a good sweet n’ simple romance. I can tell you that nearly none of the shoujo I read are ever simple, but they are, generally, sweet. I follow quite a number of shoujo series at the moment with Ao Haru Ride being one of them – though the update-frequency leaves much to be desired, but alas, what can you do apart from hunt down the RAWs and, if you’re like me and not fluent in Japanese, spend a good half hour doing your best to read a single chapter.
Futaba is a lovely female lead, with a whole number of insecurities about herself, an unrestrained mouth that gets her into trouble, and an almost altruistic ability to give her heart to someone and hope for his happiness, which is both painful to watch sometimes, especially when it only gets her hurt, but also really beautiful as well. She really is a very human sort of character but strong in relationships in the sense that she takes everything in stride, even when people don’s treat her as well as they should. I have a lot of love for her, from her awkwardness, to her occasionally sharp tongue, to her insecurities and her happiness. She’s a very likeable character in my opinion and I’ve really enjoyed following her story.
Kou is and isn’t your typical angsty teenage boy with just enough flirtatious teasing and cutting remarks to get back. He’s interesting and sharp and hurt in all the right ways that make him a brilliant male lead – even if you find yourself disliking what he does a lot of the time – but he’ also got a lot of insight, selfishness and understanding that make him a little bit more real as a character rather than just a tortured soul who saves and is saved by Futaba. Still, though, his love for her is really sweet and tender when we really get to see him let it loose and some of the best parts of the manga are when he opens up to her and we get to witness something very lovely.
The romance: The relationship that Futaba and Kou share is…not always healthy. There’s a good dose of laughter and comedy, but there is an underlying darkness to it as well and more often than not, that’s Kou’s fault. While Futaba is thick-skinned and tough in a lot of ways, Kou does hurt her in the things he says and does, even when Futaba’s only desire is to be friends with him and learn from him. That moulds her, though, and changes her, and I think in a way it makes her less susceptible to consciously changing herself to please people. While I do believe that their relationship is going to be the endgame, once they’ve both grown enough and learnt to stop hurting each other, they’ve both got a whole load of challenges and new things to discover about life, love, and themselves before they can truly be ready for one another. However, there really is something very tender about their relationship and their interaction with each other and I often feel like they’re both filled with so much affection for one another that neither of them know what to do with it. There are some really beautiful moments between them and they’re definitely something to look forward to.
The other characters:
1. Kikuchi Touma: A love interest of Futaba, and an outwardly innocent-looking boy, but he’s got a whole load of cunning and sneakiness, which I can definitely appreciate. A lot of people are either on the fence about him or absolutely dislike him. I adore this guy. He’s not one of those overtly jealous guys that he takes it out on the girl, but neither is he complacent in his affections and really works hard not only to one-up Kou, but also to make Futaba happy. A+ for this boy. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’s going to be in the anime adaptation, which is a huge shame, but if they do decide to have a second season, I’m going to be so excited to see which seiyuu is going to play him.
2. Makita Yuki: A cute girl who hides a very strong interior and, like Futaba, knows what it’s like to be hated by other girls for her looks. While I personally don’t think Futaba is as gorgeous as the manga makes her out to be, Yuki actually is very cute. Now…I used to be on the fence about her; I didn’t really enjoy her as a rival for Kou’s affections, even though she and Futaba are really close friends. Now I do like her but…eh, she’s not my favourite. So yeah, I suppose all I can say at this point is that I don’t dislike her. What I do like about her, though, is that she’s a really supportive friend and loves her girls a whole bunch, which is always sweet to see.
3. Murao Shuuko: Love love love her. Beautiful, stoic, deadpan and protective of her two girlfriends once she’s learnt how to be friends with other girls, having been betrayed by them in the past. She’s got a crush on Kou’s older brother, who’s also a teacher at their school, which results in a whole load of drama, but learns to get over it and move past it.
4. Kominato Aya: I think he’s hilarious; he’s got an easygoing and gung ho facade but does have his own insecurities, especially in anything that concerns Shuuko, whom he’s got the biggest, unrequited crush on. While he initially hates Kou because of his relationship with his brother, they two become friends over time and their bro-bonding can be some of the most hilarious moments in the manga.
The anime: I…am SO excited about this, I can’t even express myself. We’ve got an awesome cast ahead of us, with Uchida Maaya (Noragami) playing Futaba and Kaji Yuki (Shingeki no Kyoujin; Noragami) playing Kou. We’ve also got to look forward to KENN (Kyoukai no Kanata) and Kayano Ai (Nagi no Asukara), both of whom I adore. I’ve watched the trailer quite a few times already as I can’t get enough of the lovely art and the pretty music. Really looking forward to this come summer and I hope it doesn’t disappoint!