by Yuki Obata; adapted by Nancy Thistlethwaite
published by Viz; $8.99 US
Nanami has just entered high school at the age of 15. Like so many shojo heroines, she hopes to make new friends in this new environment, but her plans don’t work out. Left alone by the girls, she winds up talking with the super-popular Yano, although he sets her up for failure and makes fun of her.
Yano has a past, already: his previous girlfriend died the year before. Although most readers know this coming in, the book reveals how Nanami learns it in a reasonable, measured fashion. I’m used to feeling like I know more than a manga heroine, but here, the contrast brings a potent edge to comments between her and Yano. They have multiple meanings, and the narration reminds us that she would only know what he really meant later.
When I described the premise to a bookstore clerk recently, about coping with the memory of a dead girlfriend, she responded, “Yeah, that’s a Shojo Beat title.” (She preferred Del Rey’s books.) And I suppose it does sound like a soapy high school story. The reason I like it, though, is how honestly the emotions come across to the reader. Nanami doesn’t quite know why she doesn’t fit into the other groups of chatting girls; she just knows that somehow, subtly, she missed out. Her falling in love with Yano is a little fast, but we see it develop, in spite of their early missteps.
He follows his own path; without his background, he’d come across as lazy and self-centered, but with his emotional excuse, of grief and surviving loss at a young age, he instead reads as unconcerned with the usual social niceties that have no real purpose. He no longer has patience with doing things the “right” way. I like him more than her, actually, and I wish we saw more inside his feelings. That’s the flip side disadvantage of a slow build.
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)