Tokyo Tarareba Girls Manga Volume 4 Review

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What are you willing to give up when it comes to making a relationship work? When does a compromise start to affect your values or sense of self? Volume four of Tokyo Tarareba Girls digs into these questions among many others, using the character’s relationships as a frame to examine some pretty tough questions about love and relationships. The series was recently nominated for and then won the award for “Best US Edition of International Material – Asia” during the Eisner Awards this year. Honestly, I definitely think it’s well-deserved considering the scope and gravity of some of the things this series talks about and they way Higashimura uses comedy to address serious topics. I wanted to revisit this series this week both because of the recent Eisner win and because the series is very soon coming to a close with its 9th volume next month. Higashimura has given us so many great manga series with Princess Jellyfish and now her autobiography Blank Canvas, which is currently on volume two, that I really think this hilarious Josei series deserves to sit equally next to her other series.

Volume four picks up with the story as Rinko continues with her relationship to her current cinephile, bartender boyfriend. But something is nagging at Rinko about their relationship, particularly his insistence that she change her hairstyle to match that of his favorite actress. Even as she dreams of marrying this man, she begins to question how much change is too much to ask for in a relationship and how much she’s willing to overlook for the man she wants to marry. With the 2020 Olympic deadline for marriage still looming on the horizon, all three women scramble to balance relationships and careers. Continue reading

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Fruits Basket Manga Read-Through: Collector’s Edition Volume Twelve [Final]

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“Love isn’t just about loving what’s in front of you. The past, the future, maybe it’s about holding all of them close to your heart.” I think this quote by Kyo in this volume is really emblematic of the kind of ending we see for the series. Fruits Basket has been a series about hardship, emotional and physical abuse, parental abandonment, and family secrets. But most of all its been about growth. Growth in character, relationships, and maturity. Facing the hardships and difficult emotions that come with them are a key aspect of the series and almost all the characters learn some way to grow and move past them. Volume twelve is the final look at how our characters we’ve grown so attached to over the series have matured and faced the issues of their pasts. We see this most clearly with Kyo, Akito, and Rin as they all struggle to find a new place for themselves after the curse is broken, dealing with the memories and fall-out of Akito’s past actions.

Volume twelve brings us back to the Sohma household where all the members of the zodiac have been called in to meet with Akito. It’s here that she reveals the fact that she has been a woman the entire time and attempts to apologize for her actions.  We also get to see the final wrap-up of each character’s stories as they finish off high school and move on to bigger and better things. Kyo and Tohru head off to places far away as Kyo studies to take over Sensei’s doujo. Uo still plans on joining Kureno wherever he is after graduation. Then there’s Yuki and Machi who are planning a slightly long-distance relationship as Yuki heads off to college. Shigure quits being a writer and moves back to the main house to be with Akito, and lives move on and grow from there. Continue reading

That Blue Sky Feeling Manga Volume One Review

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What does it mean to like someone? How does someone know when a person becomes special to them? What does it mean to be in a relationship? These are all questions fundamental to the romance genre no matter the age, though usually found in those stories centering around a younger age group. How a person understands and interacts with the people closest to them is an important part of growing up and maturing as a human being. High school romance stories often focus on this key period of development as the main characters come to understand and discover both themselves and their relationships with those around them. That Blue Sky Feeling combines the self-discovery of youth with the queer story-lines of realizing and coming to terms with being gay. Volume one of this three-volume series is not only a great introduction into these concepts but also can act as a great first step into the boys love genre for anyone interested.

That Blue Sky Feeling focuses on the life of transfer student Noshiro Dai who meets the loner Sanada after coming to his new school. He doesn’t seem to have friends or really want any. And then there’s the rumor permeating the school that Sanada is gay that makes the other boys keep their distance from him. But that doesn’t seem to deter Noshiro who decides to embark on a campaign to win Sanada over and become his friend. The manga was adapted from an original webcomic by Okura with artist Coma Hashii collaborating for the adaptation. It’s currently licensed for English release by Viz Media. Continue reading

Fruits Basket Manga Read-Through: Collector’s Edition Volume Eleven

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Let’s face it, growing up is hard. Becoming an adult comes with a lot of responsibilities, one of which is owning up to your own mistakes or realizing when your actions are negatively affecting other people. Fruits Basket has taken us on a wild journey from kooky supernatural comedy to a story of self discovery and emotional maturation for all its characters. The character growth we’ve seen so far has been so fulfilling, and volume eleven takes its characters to their satisfying conclusion with one last round of profound growth before the final volume 12 and its wrap-up of the story. Kyo, Akito, Tohru, Momiji, Kureno, and Uotani all see their lives change and grow with their relationship to each other and specifically to Akito changing drastically at the end of this volume. Like I said, it’s a wild ride, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Natsuki Takaya has succeeded in taking us deep into the psyche and shadows of the dysfunctional and toxic Sohma family while seriously talking about issues like grief, depression, suicide, love, family, abuse, ad growing up.

Volume eleven continues after Kyo’s reveal that he not only knew Tohru’s mother but was there the day that she died, harboring a tremendous amount of survivor’s guilt over her death. In his highly emotional state Kyo tells Tohru he’s “disillusioned” by their relationship and runs off, leaving Tohru questioning whether or not he actually loves her. At the same time, Akito is at her breaking point after more of the zodiac member’s curses have broken and has gone in search of Tohru to confront her for her perceived role in ruining her future of eternal happiness. But their confrontation and almost reconciliation is cut short when the ground falls away and Tohru plummets down a cliff and is rushed to the hospital. What follows is the culmination and resolution of the last ten volumes worth of story. Continue reading

Kase-san and Morning Glories Manga Volume One Review

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In the Victorian language of flowers, morning glories are known as representations of love, affection, and mortality because they bloom and die in one day. Kase-san and Morning Glories definitely adopts many of these meanings for this flower to use in the background of this manga, with budding romance and affection being the forefront of this series. If you’re looking for a sweet yuri romance for Pride Month this June, then look no further than this series. While I will say it feels very typical of a high school, shoujo romance when it comes to story, characters, and certain plot elements, but it is also a great starting point for people looking to get into the yuri genre. I don’t have much experience with the yuri genre myself, and have been very critical in the past of popular series like Citrus, so it was nice to pick up a yuri series like this with a calmer and more wholesome atmosphere. After this first volume I can see myself picking up the next four in the series.

Kase-san and Morning Glories follows the life of Yamada, a shy and clumsy high school girl who spends her time tending the gardens at school as part of the Greenery Committee. But watering the flowers out by track bring her to the attention of Kase-san, the star of the track team. Though both of them don’t seem to have much in common, their friendship blossoms quickly and starts to turn into something more. The boyish and athletic Kase-san and the small and shy Yamada now have to figure out how to make their budding relationship work. The story and art for this manga is by Hiromi Takashima and it’s currently being localized in English by Seven Seas. Continue reading

Fruits Basket Manga Read-Through: Collector’s Edition Volume Ten

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Grief and how one deals with the loss of a close loved one has always been a major theme running in the background of this series, often brought to the foreground as characters are forced to make decisions that put them face to face with their own memories and loss. We see this the most in the characters of Kyo, Tohru, and Akito as all three of them are forced to come to terms with their grief and the guilt and turmoiled emotions that surround it. But I think Fruits Basket is primarily a manga that centers around how life moves on and how people’s feelings, grief especially, change over time as we grow older. I like to think that this is one of the core messages Natsuki Takaya was trying to write about when she made this series. There are so many different stories, threads of overcoming loss, guilt, and the fear of being left behind that all fit so well into this overarching theme of growth and forward progress.

Volume ten continues where we left off with Tohru desperately trying to hide and push aside her feelings for Kyo as graduation gets ever closer and the curse hasn’t been broken yet. Shigure is claiming the curse will break on its own eventually, but eventually isn’t soon enough for Kyo who will be locked away for life after graduation and seems to be resigned to this fact. But has Tohru becomes ever more desperate, she can’t deny her feelings for Kyo any longer and they begin to bubble to the surface despite her best efforts. However, it looks like the death of Kyoko has touched more people than just Tohru, with Kyo and Kakeru both feeling the lingering effects of her passing. Back at the Sohma main house, Akito is having her own battle with grief, a battle between her mother and her for the soul of her deceased father, Akira, as well as the very real possibility that this may be the last zodiac banquet as one by one the curse begins to break. Continue reading

Fruits Basket Manga Read-Through: Collector’s Edition Volume Nine

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The last couple volumes that we’ve read have all been about seeing the kinds of scars children can develop when they’re abandoned by their parents and how they can slowly begin to recover through the support of loving friends and found family. Volume nine continues this theme but in a different direction, showing the kind of destructive mental and emotional issues that can arise from poor parenting and lack of emotional support. We’re shown these kind of life progressions through the lens of Akito and Machi’s differing ways of reacting to the pressure and issues that arise from their parents lack of support. Their two very different stories, but in a way tell a similar narrative of stunted emotional growth and destructive tendencies. There’s always so much to talk about with this series, and with every volume I feel like I find some new psychological concept to really dig into. I’m really hoping you all are enjoying what are turning out to be short almost essays of Fruits Basket. We’ve got three volumes left and the story is starting to move fast towards the conclusion.

Volume nine continues the story of the previous volume with the examination of Kureno’s relationship with Akito and the fall-out surrounding him finally watching the DVD of Uo in the school play. The story takes us into their past and present relationship and the reasons why Kureno feels like he can never leave as well as a look at the tension that exists between Kureno and Shigure, all revolving around Akito. But in Tohru and the younger Sohma’s world, graduation is fast approaching for all the third years at the school which means a flurry of preparations, many of which centered around the student council. In the background of all of this, Tohru can’t help but have a bad feeling because she hasn’t seen Rin in a while and no one seems to know where she is. Continue reading

Fruits Basket Manga Read-Through: Collector’s Edition Volume Eight

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In the first volume, Fruits Basket presents itself as this semi-wacky comedy shoujo about a girl who discovers that the family she’s living with can all turn into animals, but as the story progresses we begin to see this for what it truly is: a mask, a facade if you will. Fruits Basket’s true story lies within the family’s it follows. The shame, guilt, and abuse that sometimes hides behind closed doors, or in some cases is right out in the open. But it also speaks to us about the families and relationships between people who care and have cultivated a space of love through struggle and personal growth. I talked about this a bit last volume in how Yuki and Rin’s family dynamics shaped their current personalities and character growth arcs. Yuki especially we see yearning for any kind of parental and motherly love to the point of gravitating towards Tohru, seeing her as someone who can fulfill this emotional hole in himself. In volume eight, we see a bit of a continuation of this, but with more of a focus on the steps he’s taking to grow past it. We also delve deeper into both Kyo and Tohru’s past by taking a look at Tohru’s mother, Kyoko.

Volume eight continues where we left off last time with Yuki recounting and remembering his childhood and relationship with Tohru to Kakeru. We see more of his nonexistent relationship with his mother, the abuse he faced from Akito, and finally the mystery of the baseball cap Tohru keeps with her is solved. In true shoujo fashion, the story moves on to feature the activities of the culture festival, with a play performed by Tohru and gang to the sort-of story of Cinderella. With Kyo as Prince, Tohru as evil step-sister, and Hana as Cinderella, it manages to be both amusing and entirely relevant to the story and characters. For the rest of the volume, we get a look at Kyoko’s past and how Kyo winds up knowing her and then the beginnings of a look into Machi and Yuki’s slowly growing relationship. Continue reading

Fruits Basket Manga Read-Through: Collector’s Edition Volume Seven

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How do children relate to their parents? What do they look for, want, or need from a family? What happens when that dynamic breaks down, when children no longer have someone to look up to or a stable place to call home? I think in a way, Fruits Basket has been slowly exploring these questions throughout the story, leading further and further into the worst possible scenarios. But it’s also a series that focuses heavily on recovery from trauma and the search for stable relationships. And it’s in this exploration and character growth that I think we get to see some of the most interesting aspects of the story. Volume seven takes us closer to exploring these questions, pulling out the family histories of Yuki and Rin into the forefront of discussion. In Yuki especially I think we begin to see his slow progress to maturity.

Volume seven picks up where we left off in the parent-teacher conferences at the end of the last volume. This time it’s Yuki’s turn to face both his future and his mother who thinks she has everything planned out for him already. But Yuki has his own ideas as the story moves on to his experiences with the Student Council and the kind of rag-tag family he’s been developing there. The volume then switches to Tohru’s quest to get in contact with Kureno for Uo’s sake and her run-in with Momo, Momiji’s younger sister who has no clue about their relationship. The other large story this volume centers on Rin and her struggle to find a way to break the curse and her personal struggle with physical and mental illness. We get a full introduction to her past and how her relationship with Haru came to an end. Continue reading

Our Dreams at Dusk (Shimanami Tasogare) Manga Volume One Review

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I’ve been seeing this manga floating around Twitter for awhile with some very high recommendations from people who either read it before it came out in North America or from people who got early copies of the manga before it released earlier this week. Well it finally came out on Tuesday and I figured with all the talk around this title, it must be worth trying out. I have to say, everyone was right. Our Dreams at Dusk is a fantastic Boys Love title worth all the hype I’ve seen surrounding it so far. The art and page layouts are visually appealing and often break the mold in multiple places. The story is one of adolescent sexual discovery with some deep emotions and questions being asked about the acceptance of gay and queer people in Japan and the kind of emotional distress and mental illness that can come from having this dissonance between public and private persona and identity. I highly recommend this manga and I really do think I won’t be able to do it justice here in this short of a space, so definitely pick up a copy if it seems up your alley.

Our Dreams at Dusk follows high school boy Tasuku who may just have been outed at school for being gay, one of the worst things that could happen to him. Faced with the jeering of him peers for being a “homo,” Tasuku tries hard to deny everything. But standing on the edge of bridge later that day, he feels his way of life was ended in that moment and contemplates jumping. Before he can do the unthinkable, Tasuku meets a mysterious woman who leads him to a group of people dealing with problems similar to his own. The manga is created by Yuhki Kamatani (creator of Nabari no Ou) and is published in English by Seven Seas. Continue reading