by Aya Nakahara; adapted by Shaenon K. Garrity
published by Viz; $8.99 US
A couple, friends of main pair Risa and Otani, are facing separation, since she got into college and he didn’t. The relationship of the two seems vulnerable, with all these changes, so another boy, a judo champion, is muscling in on the girl. Otani winds up promising “let’s you and him fight” in a classic sitcom situation of having to train quickly for a competition one’s completely over-matched for.
Thankfully, not a lot of time is spent on the battle and training — the important thing is being willing to fight for the one you love, a message any young romantic will appreciate. The surrounding setup is a bit over the top, which provides the funny, but the underlying emotions are still plausible to readers. The artistic focus on well-drawn faces — eyes, mouths, and eyebrows — makes it easy to keep up with what the characters are thinking and feeling.
After that comes some family conflict, with Risa’s younger brother about to start at her high school, which he’s cranky about. (He wanted to aim higher.) She and her friends try to show him around while acting particularly juvenile, which doesn’t help his impression, but at least they seem like real kids. Brother thinks Otani is the only cool one and so should break up with Risa. This, understandably, doesn’t lead to harmony between the siblings. The real conflict arises, though, when the previously unseen Grandpa decides to set Risa up with someone better suited for her (i.e., taller) while distracting Otani with a professional flirt.
I’m impressed by how Aya Nakahara keeps a very basic premise — tall girl and short boy in love — fresh by introducing different twists and characters as needed. The types may seem familiar, but that just makes it easier to get into situations quickly. At first, the conflicts keeping the two apart were created by themselves: ignorance (of their feelings), then mismatched timing. Now, to keep the story going, the conflicts are external, based on the objections of family members. It’s a movement from the self to the community, although ultimately, it all comes back to trust, an interior virtue.
(A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the publisher.)