I Am Here!, Vol. 2

By Ema Toyama. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Nakayoshi. Released in North America by Kodansha Comics.

I’m pleased to see that we’re getting the second and final omnibus of this quiet, down-to-earth shoujo series from Kodansha. It has a satisfying conclusion, though I admit that I think I liked it better when the series was focusing on Sumino trying to open up and make new friends. This final volume deals more with Sumino’s romantic love triangle, and it’s simply not as interesting.

We left off with the manga trying to confuse us more about the two online friends in Sumino’s blog, and whether one or both of them were the two guys at her high school. It should come as no surprise to learn that one of them is, nor should it be too much of a surprise to find it’s a bit of a role reversal. I was rather surprised to find that the other online friend was completely unrelated to Sumino’s life in every way, and in fact lives in Osaka. It was a reasonable fakeout that I appreciated. (It also led to a mostly boring side story at the end, but hey, can’t have everything.)

We do also see Sumino clash with the schoolgirl bully who hounded her in Volume 1, Aya. I liked this as well, if only for a look at the mentality of this sort of person. Aya’s already been ostracized by her classmates, and has pretty much already ‘lost’. But she’s bullying Sumino, because, well, that’s what she does. And there’s still these unresolved feelings inside her that need to come out somewhere. The resolution of their fight was cliched, but still rather heartwarming. Although I will admit I could have done without ‘the sunflower in my heart isn’t bent!’. There’s cheesy and then there’s just corny.

But the majority of the volume is dealing with which guy Sumino is going to choose – Hinata, the sweet, caring boy that she’s already grown close to, or Teru, the harsher but sexier type whose words gave her more encouragement? Needless to say, this also leads to a rift between the two boys, who are now after the same girl. I found this more interesting for Teru’s backstory than anything else – he’s a certain type of shoujo boy that if this were a title for teens rather than young girls might be the lead – a jerkass sort who tries to encourage the heroine in an oblique way. Hinata, unfortunately, comes off as rather bland in comparison, though he did get more attention last volume.

Overall, it’s a nice, sweet manga, but it’s still hard not to compare this with Kimi Ni Todoke and find it wanting. No new ground is broken, and after a first volume focusing on broadening our heroine’s world, it all comes down to the standard love triangle. It doesn’t really put a foot wrong, and if you like this sort of genre it’s an easy title to recommend. But you might want to grade it on a bit of a curve.

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