By Takashi Ikeda. Released in Japan in three separate volumes as “Sasameki Koto” by Media Factory, serialized in the magazine Comic Alive. Released in North America by One Peace Books.
This was one of those licenses I’d been waiting for for quite some time. Along with Aoi Hana, Sasameki Koto (released here as Whispered Words) was one of the big yuri manga of the last few years or so. It will seem quite familiar to those who read the genre. The tall, strong, dark-haired girl who does karate and her smaller, more feminine and gorgeous friend. Unrequited love out the wazoo. A cast of eccentric side characters there to help the main couple grow and change. And piles and piles of angst. Does it read well as an omnibus?
Actually, I’d argue that the omnibus format was the best way for this series to succeed, as there are a lot of issues with it as it starts off. It’s clearly meant to be more comedic, with Sumika’s crush being portrayed as genuine but subordinate to getting her into awkward situations. More to the point, Ushio can be very hard to like in the first part of this series. And then there’s Akemiya, who’s nice enough, but whose plotline feels like it belongs in another manga, and whose sister is easily the most aggravating character in the series. Were this not an omnibus, I can see a lot of folks giving up after Vol. 2 (which is also where the anime ended, as it didn’t want to overtake the manga).
About halfway through the third section, though, you sense the manga starting to take a more serious and character driven turn. I suspect the writer might have ended things with the folk dance, but was told the series was popular enough to continue, and so started to think about how to take things in a deeper, more fulfilling direction. This starts off oddly, with the addition of Lotte, a tiny German foreign exchange student who idolizes Sumika. But it really points out Sumika’s issues with who she is, and how Ushio has been unthinkingly making those issues harder and harder to overcome. The emotional high point to this volume is really high – Ushio getting upset at Sumika for allowing Lotte to push herself too hard in karate training, and Sumika just losing it and screaming how Lotte likes her for being big and strong – unlike Ushio, the subtext says.
And Ushio gets this, to be fair. A lot of the setup of Whispered Words is of a somewhat shallow, ditzy girl who gloms onto anything cute. A flashback at the end shows that this is pretty much a mask, and Ushio, caring for Sumika after running outside in the rain makes her get a cold (never let it be said this manga doesn’t use manga cliches 100%), starts to wonder what her feelings for her best friend are really like. Is this going to be the moment when the two of them finally get together?
Highly unlikely, we’ve got 6 more volumes (2 more omnibuses) to go. In the meantime, this is a decently translated volume with good reproduction. Sadly, the publisher is tiny, and apparently their budget could not stretch to a copy editor, as there are some bad, BAD typos. They will make you cringe. But I hope that doesn’t stop you from getting this series. The tone is changing to a more serious work by the end of this first omnibus, and I hope that it continues along those lines and we continue to see Sumika and Ushio suffer for their love (in a good way, of course.)
Also, this manga has Kyori, who is perfect. That is all.