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.
Emotional turmoil is the order of the day with this second omnibus, as our two heroines go through an amazing amount of distress as they try to save their friendship while also dealing with their burgeoning love. Indeed, for Ushio the stress gets so great she has a temper tantrum that ends with her literally breaking her hand. Again, this is unsurprising given the age of the characters, but it can be a bit exhausting to read about, especially given that it’s only at the very end of this book that we see any forward development towards resolution. For the most part, the reader is meant to sympathize with Tomoe, who wishes they’d get it together but wants it to happen on its own.
Since so much of the first omnibus was either from Sumika’s point of view or focused on her, it’s a relief that this second volume gets to give us Ushio’s side more often. Ushio’s immaturity is aggravating, but at the same time we’re shown the background which has led to it. This is not a book that wants to cover itself by saying that it’s just akogare, the Japanese term for a strong emotional bond between young girls (with the subtext that it’s abandoned when they ‘grow up’ and marry men). Ushio being a lesbian is discussed throughout, almost always in a negative manner. We get a flashback showing her budding friendship with Sumika, who at first is trying to draw her into the rest of the class because it’s her duties as class president, but over time they grow closer through the sheer joy of friendship.
It’s the sort of friendship you don’t want to lose, and much of this second volume sees both of them plastering on fake smiles and saying that they don’t want to ruin everything by confessions. The difficulty here is that they’re both such good friends that they can tell when the other person is fake smiling, and so naturally they spend the majority of the time unhappy, wondering why they’re drifting further apart. At the end of the main section of the omnibus (there’s an extra unrelated short story, which was rather dull), Ushio at least seems to have taken the next step in resolving things, but it remains to be seen whether Sumika will follow up on it.
Being an omnibus, there’s a lot more to discuss here. Akemi’s modeling career comes to an ignominious end, in a chapter that is meant to read as incredibly awkward, and does. There’s also some lovely comedy, mostly involving either Kyori and food or one of the minor side characters, who wears her hair back in a tight bun that makes her look comedic, thus disguising the fact that she’s secretly a gorgeous model. Most relevant is the introduction of two new freshman to the karate club, which now has enough members to actually compete. Mayu and Koi are meant to compare and contrast with Sumika and Ushio, and you get the sense that by the time high school finishes they too may come to a realization of just what they mean to each other.
I didn’t notice any egregious typos in this volume, so there’s no real reason whatsoever not to pick this omnibus up. It’s a must for any fans of yuri or even slow-boiling romantic frustration. In the final volume, due out in March, we should get the payoff.