Whispered Words, Vol. 3

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.

In this final omnibus of Whispered Words, both Sumika and Ushio have come to terms with their feelings for the other, but Sumika realizes that there’s also other aspects to life besides love, and that staying together forever is not necessarily something easy to achieve. The rest of the cast watches the two of them struggle as they march towards graduation. And their own struggles and successes are also seen throughout, as we watch Mayu’s burgeoning crush and social ineptness come together in a horrible way, Akemiya being clueless about his love life but finding that he enjoys his newfound career, and Kyori being blissfully ignorant of everything.


As the cover might suggest, everything really does work out in the end. There’s a certain amount of angst on Sumika’s part, though, as she has to content with realizing that Ushio really does love her back, her family’s expectations for her “taking over the dojo” (meaning siring an heir), what she plans to do for a career (sports medicine? she’s not sure), and the fact that they aren’t in school anymore so she may not be seeing Ushio on a regular basis. Last volume we had a major Ushio breakdown, this time it’s Suminka who does the crying, as she realizes that she may have realized everything too late to do something about it. Ushio, meanwhile, has matured after her experiences in the last volume, and really comes into her own here, especially after being voted Student Council President. Admittedly, she and her brother are still playing “I can sacrifice my happiness for my sibling better than you”, but luckily neither of them succeeds.

A lot of this volume is told in a non-straightforward manner, which seems oddly fitting. There are flashbacks and present-day panels mixed together so that you really have to pay attention to the black borders to realize where you are. There’s lots of wordless dialogue, including whole pages where we see the characters dealing with fallout (usually caused by Mayu), but don’t hear them. We get the story of Ushio’s brother and his ex-girlfriend, who still have feelings for each other, mostly in the one-page ‘extras’ after each chapter. Oh yes, and Cooking Papa shows up towards the end, for reasons I can’t quite figure out.

In the end, the happiness outweighs the angst, and we get an unabashedly happy ending. Sumika and Ushio are openly together, and while some of the school mutters about it most seem to accept it. Akemiya becomes a famous model, and seems to be friends with Lotte, who has gained about 3 feet in height and 3 cup sizes as she hits puberty like a truck. Kyori finally finds out what’s been going on, and after some brief worry that she was in the way (which she totally was), she gets over it. Food helps. Mayu and Koi finally finish their ‘we are Sumika and Ushio two grades lower’ dance around each other. And our main couple is happily holding hands, as their brother, at his wedding, suggests they can’t get married now but maybe someday?

That someday is now, actually, and I’d like to think Sumika and Ushio are taking a trip to Tokyo Disneyland in their future. In the meantime, this was a great end to an excellent yuri story, and I think it worked very well in the omnibus format. A fantastic release from One Peace Books.

Whispered Words, Vol. 2

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.

Whispered Words, Vol. 1

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.