By Milk Morinaga. Released in Japan by Futabasha, serialized in the magazine Comic High!. Released in North America by Seven Seas.
I had reviewed the first digital volume of this series when JManga released it a while back, but it’s always worth revisiting things, especially in print. This omnibus contains the first half of the series, i.e. 2 1/2 volumes. It’s a chunky read, but I think that works to the book’s favor as it helps us really get to know the two heroines before we get to plunge into their new friendship and growing romance.
You’ll note the title is split into two words, and I think that’s for the best, as the author makes it a point to show us Mari and Akko bonding as friends for an entire volume before it really starts getting into the potential yuri romance. Given Mari’s shyness and insecurities, this helps keep things realistic. It also ups the stakes: Akko is Mari’s best friend, and while the romance may take all five volumes to really break out the friendship is close and endearing immediately. Mari is a sweet and sympathetic protagonist. and Akko is outgoing, impulsive and oblivious without it becoming too irritating, as many who read one-sided crushes know can happen easily.
But of course this is a yuri manga, and so Mari’s admiration of Akko soon turns into attraction to Akko. This can be tricky, as there’s a vague line between the sort of close ‘skinship’ friendships that aren’t necessarily sexual, and those what do turn into blooming relationships. Indeed, Akko’s reaction on hearing that Mari kissed her while she was sleeping is ‘oh, girls do that *all the time*’. Of course, when Mari is a little more drunk and a lot more forceful, even Akko manages to notice what’s going on.
These are teenagers, so there’s a lot of puzzlement and ‘is this what love is really like?’ on both sides, as well as yuri’s addition of ‘it will never work out because we are both girls’. Akko has a presumed sexual past with a guy (though we quickly learn that nothing happened, of course – this did run in a seinen magazine) which adds to Mari’s dread that all she’s doing is making herself miserable for something that can’t happen. So she turns to a guy from middle school who happens to like her – and manages to get Akko jealous, though she’s not quite sure why…
This is meant to feel like a fluffy shoujo soap opera, just with two girls as the lead, and that’s mostly what it does. There are also two best friends who are also very touchy-feely with each other but clearly aren’t going to be a couple, which is a relief in a genre that sometimes has everyone pairing off with everyone else. Seven Seas’ omnibus obscures the well-times endings of the first two books (Mari thinking she kissed Akko for Vol. 1, Akko boggling at Kiss #2 in Vol. 2), but that works out fine as it gives the omnibus volume a better cliffhanger, as Mari reveals she went all the way with her new boyfriend. (Does anyone really believe her? Well, except for Akko…)
This isn’t a lights out of compulsively addictive series. But it’s fun, wtih likeable characters and as realistic a yuri romance as you’re going to get in something that’s basically “Story A”, written with little consequence besides ALL THESE FEELINGS… IN MY HEART. I hope the second volume resolves said tortured feelings.