Yeah, we don’t really talk about lesbians, do we? What? Well, we don’t! How many reviews have I done about love between two men? That’s right, practically all of them. I don’t know, I might be overcompensating.
Back in my comic class (“Graphic Novel 1” if you will), the professor announced that our next topic would be manga, and I just shot my mouth off, for some unknown reason bringing up boy’s love and girl’s love. One girl called me out on it, calling it porn. And I was wounded, deeply and uncontrollably, which is fascinating because prior to that day I only read literally one yuri, and it focused on a girl who used to be a guy who has to choose between two girls and a spaceship.
And no, it’s not “hot,” yuri. Let’s be clear: The very notion of anyone, regardless of sexual identification, being in love, sickens me. But yuri is the worst of the worst. Always holding hands and blushing, like the kind of realistic couple you might see. It’s much better in yaoi, where guys don’t usually act like human beings. I’m only partially joking. I’ve only read three yuri titles ever, and if one like “Whispered Words” doesn’t frighten me with notions of romance and drama, what will?
Here’s my problem: The back cover is amazing. Just… I believed it. I had no reason to believe it would lie, stab me in the back, shove me off a cliff made of broken hearts and spleens. It says that this manga focuses on two girls, yes, but also a boy dressed as a cute girl! And… it does, ish.
Plot? Plot. Kazama is a high school girl who likes cute girls, exclusively. Her friend, Sumika, is in love with her, but doesn’t tell Kazama a thing because friendship and obvious rejection and Japan’s taboo doesn’t extend to comics, apparently. THAT’S THE PLOT.
So where’s the crossdressing guy? Around. He’s around. Lemme explain. We have these two girls. Sumika loves Kazama. Kazama loves cute girls. Hmm, not exactly a shape. One more line, maybe? OH! Kazama loves Masaki, but only as a girl! And Masaki loves Sumika! Love Triangle! Right? WRONG. The problem is that Masaki appears sporadically, which never gives us time to care about him. I think after he was found out by Sumika, he had, like, one story focused on him, then he was bullied in a few panels every other other other story.
Look, I was really hoping this would have been a manga about the love triangle. But yes, it isn’t. See, while Masaki doesn’t have a proper recurring role, there’s almost always a triangle. Masaki’s gone, but an otaku girl replaces him! She loves Sumika. Then the otaku vanishes, but we get a German girl who Kazama loves for five seconds, until German voice. She loves-ish Sumika. So basically, we have love triangles, but they vary, from isosceles, acute, obtuse, scalene, but never equilateral. Ironic, considering how easy it would be to pull off here.
Ah, before Masaki fades from my mind, I should mention what the circumstance of his women’s attire is. No, it’s not a “trapped in a man’s body” deal, sadly, but another run-of-the-mill, “forced to by someone and hates it” plot. Huge cliche in manga, no joke. I found it extremely jarring when I found a manga that had a character “trapped in a man’s body”. And… gone.
Aside from… someone? Well, there’s other characters who serve little purpose. The girls have a friend who doesn’t know that Sumika likes girls, shows up late to the chapter, causes trouble just because of her presence, and in the last chapter on volume one, one of the characters wises up and draws a fake food poster that gets rid of her. I… I feel like she’s a leftover relic from the first chapter, like it was too late to dispose of her once the series got rolling. Don’t get me wrong, she serves a purpose, but it’s pretty low-key and could be written alternatively if she wasn’t there.
Also, the otaku girl vanished after a while. Hmm. I only read volume one, but the German girl is so far present. This is nine volumes, and this volume is thick, so take from that what you will.
There’s other “main” characters, a lesbian couple in the school. Th… they kind of fade from the focus. That’s my main issue. The leads are written realistically, but they outshine everything else. I think it’s hard to focus on the main plot when there’s so many characters come and go.
Oh, the main characters. Huuuuuuuuh. Okay. I hate Kazama. Like, she doesn’t know that Sumika likes her, and that’s not her fault. But she never expresses her emotions to Sumika. Actually, that’s not true. There’s no definitive emotions she has for Sumika. She’s huffy when she hears Sumika with another girl, and when SPOILERS INVOLVING VOLUME ONE Sumika tearfully confesses to Kazama that she loves her, nothing. Like, Kazama visits her at her house and takes care of her, but not a word is mentioned. And Kazama says nothing in the following chapter when Sumika visits her. Really? Although she never really said “I love you,” it was more “I’ll never be small and cute,” so Kazama might be confused.
Sumika, however, is fantastic. The tearful confession was heartbreaking, and she can put on a level head and a brave face. Like when she’s helping the otaku Azusa Aoi, that’s her name, when Azusa is freaking out that her mother spilled drinks on some papers, Sumika calms her down. Her father wanted her to join his dojo, but when Sumika met Kazama, that nixed it. But she realized later how much her karate meant to her neighbors and family, and (non-literally) she says, “Aw, screw women!” and gets back on the saddle! Loving this character!
The whole manga has a great balance of humor and drama, but it has a lousy translation. Just… awful, awful. One Peace Books isn’t exactly a manga company. They translate Crayon-Shin-Chan or whatever, and one or two other manga, but the rest is books. The main problem is that the translation is bad. The breakdown of that totally generic statement is not just writing “tbig” instead of “big”, but breaki-
ng lines up weird and cutting off certain words because they didn’t just shift the text down a bit.
I think the romance aspect is great (the couple has a very nice relationship), and this title entertains without a ton of gimmicks. Ish. Honestly, if Kazama were a guy who only liked cute girls, the dynamic would retain its form, albeit without the “Japan condones lesbianism only in books” cloud overhead. Sumika has over-the-top fantasies about Kazama and all that typical stuff, but it’s nice to see it done differently. I say if you’re looking for a romance, read Apollo’s Song first and you’ll never want to be in love after reading it. Or you can just check this out, I guess. It’s cool.