2021 challenges, Challenges

2021 Challenges: May Recap

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I am once again delayed in writing my end of month wrap up because I have no concept of time passing. I think generally I’m doing really badly at my challenges, especially since I’ve starting learning to draw which seems to be the only thing I do with my time these days as I’ve got really into it. It’s a lot of fun but it’s not getting any challenges done.

Watch 45 anime

May end total: 7

Progress is so slow on my anime watching, I only watched one show, Love & Lies, through the whole of May. I’m going to do Anime August again this year, and I had a brief thought that August was ages away, but in actual fact it’s really not.

Read 50 complete manga

May end total: 2

I actually haven’t completed any more manga for a really long time. I desperately need to rectify this but I find reading manga such a huge time sink and as I said in the intro I’ve been putting a lot of time into drawing and I just don’t have that much time (or inclination if I’m honest), to do much else.

Watch 30 films

May end total: 7

I did manage to watch a couple of films in May, it’s something I’ve been consciously trying to do more of. I watched Moxie and Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire, both of which I enjoyed (Eurovision more if I’m honest).

Watch 30 anime films

May end total: 4

Like with ‘normal’ movies I’ve been making an effort to try and up the numbers on this one. I managed to watch a couple more – Demon Slayer: Mugen Train (in a cinema and everything!) and Anthem of the Heart. 

Get 35 platinum trophies

May end total: 13

I had a pretty slow month for platinum trophies also, because drawing, so I only added one to my total – Call of The Sea, which I also reviewed if you check out my previous post.

Clear 30 games from my backlog

May end total: 1

*sigh*

Play 12 Switch games

May end total: 0

Oh dear, oh no. I just, don’t have time to do everything. I need to clone myself or something, I swear.

Read 12 books

May end total: 4

After a slow start to reading the Percy Jackson series, I managed to finish the first book in May (and actually the second in June, so I’ve now started the third). They’re a pretty easy read, and I’m enjoying them. I wish I’d read them when I was a teenager as I would have loved them then.

manga, Manga reviews

Review: Blue Lock vol. 1

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Story and art: Story by Muneyuki Kaneshiro and Art by Yusuke Nomura
Genre: Shounen, Sport
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Synopsis: After a disastrous defeat at the 2018 World Cup, Japan’s team struggles to regroup. But what’s missing? An absolute Ace Striker, who can guide them to the win. The Japan Football Union is hell-bent on creating a striker who hungers for goals and thirsts for victory, and who can be the decisive instrument in turning around a losing match…and to do so, they’ve gathered 300 of Japan’s best and brightest youth players. Who will emerge to lead the team…and will they be able to out-muscle and out-ego everyone who stands in their way?
Publication date: 16th March 2021

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free e-copy of this manga in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Disappointed with the state of Japanese football, coach Jinpachi Ego decides to set up the Blue Lock programme. A prestigious programme, Blue Lock puts the top 300 youth strikers through their paces in an intense and hardcore training programme, aiming to separate the wheat from the chaff and ultimately end up crowning one player as the top striker in Japan.

Our protagonist is Yoichi Isagi, who is a well meaning striker on his high school football team. Yoichi costs his school a place in the national tournament due to his hesitation to take a shot at goal and his choice to pass to a teammate who then missed. Yoichi struggles to come to terms with the choice he made, and his whole mindset changes with regards to his feelings towards football. He’s always been very much a team player, but he starts to wonder if he should be more selfish when he’s playing and take the chances for himself.

Yoichi eventually gets recruited into Blue Lock, where playing alongside the best strikers in the world reinvigorates his love for football and makes him want to try as hard as he can to improve. Unfortunately, in comparison to his peers, Yoichi is really not all that. Ego’s vision for Blue Lock is very much to push the players as hard as he can, to breaking point. Everything in Blue Lock is based on rankings – what you eat, where you live, and how long you last in the programme. Yoichi finds himself in the bottom 11 ranked players fighting for his chance to be the best striker in Japan.

As a lifelong football fan, Blue Lock is really fun to read. There’s a lot of mentions to real life strikers which makes it really entertaining to compare the tactics and plot to real life occurrences. It’s also really interesting to see how the whole plot of the manga is to train the strikers in Blue Lock to only look out for themselves, and it’s basically the antithesis of any team game where the philosophy is very much based on playing as a team. The Blue Lock programme promotes the idea of ego and, what we’d call in the UK, glory hunting.

Blue Lock is a really interesting premise, and has a lot of potential. There are obviously a lot of potential rival characters for Yoichi to bounce off of, as well as a lot of self discovery ahead of him. Already in the few chapters of volume 1, Yoichi has come to realise that he’s perhaps not as weak as he believes himself to be.

It does feel like not a lot happens in this first volume of Blue Lock, but there’s a lot of set-up for onward plot and action. More and more characters are being introduced outside of the Blue Lock programme, and it’s interesting to see the perspective of outsiders on this very unyielding and unprecedented training programme as well as meeting the players who will undoubtedly make up the rest of the Japanese team with the Blue Lock graduates.

Whilst the first volume feels a little slow, Blue Lock shows a lot of promise, and one not to miss for fans of football.

3 stars

 

 

NetGalley requires users to rate on a star rating of 5, so I have adjusted my star ratings for any reviews for manga reviewed via NetGalley. Non-NetGalley reviews will remain out of 10.

Game Reviews, Games

Review: Call Of The Sea

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Norah is ill, and her husband Harry is missing after having gone searching the world for a cure. After receiving a mysterious package, Norah decides to go to the place Harry was last known to be — an island off the coast of Tahiti. Call of the Sea bills itself as a Lovecraftian mystery game, and whilst the first person adventure puzzler is clearly influenced by the writer’s work, it falls short on the mystery front.

Read my full review at Push Square.cots

2021 challenges, Challenges

2021 Challenges: April Recap

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I was panicking that I was so late with my April recap post, and when I went back to my blog to check something, I realised I didn’t even do a March one! Terrible. All the days are blending into one big blob and I can’t even tell what month it is anymore – if my birthday hadn’t been in April I think I wouldn’t have even realised how far through the year we are. So, apologise for no March update, here’s one to look back on the first third of the year!

Watch 45 anime

April end total: 6

Whilst my total shot up in March and April, I am still way behind on this challenge. Terrible progress is being made and I just don’t ever seem to have the time or inclination to sit down and watch anime. I hope this changes soon, as anime is one of my biggest passions but I don’t want to force it and end up hating it so I’m just sort of letting it go a bit!

Read 50 complete manga

April end total: 2

Absolutely terrible and this is looking less and less likely to be a reality as the year goes on. In addition to Haru’s Curse, I also finished reading That Wolf-Boy Is Mine.

Watch 30 films

April end total: 5

I’m up to 5 films on this challenge, not too bad considering a very slow start. I really need to pick up, much like uhhh…. every other challenge on my list.

Watch 30 anime films

April end total: 2

Good grief, progress is slow! I’ve had Anthem of the Heart out and sitting on my coffee table since New Years Day and I STILL haven’t watched it. But, I have watched the given movie, and Yes, No, Or Maybe?

Get 35 platinum trophies

April end total: 12

Doing suspiciously well at this challenge actually. Not only have I got 12 challenges as of April end, I also have many more in the works and lots of games downloaded and ready to go. I’m quietly confident on this one.

Clear 30 games from my backlog

April end total: 1

God, I am so slow at playing games these days! I finished Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney Trilogy back in March after having it in my backlog for a good couple of years. I really enjoyed it, and I’m looking forward to when the next lot of Phoenix Wright games come to consoles!

Play 12 Switch games

April end total: 0

Still can’t believe I haven’t even finished a Switch game this year, terrible!

Read 12 books

April end total: 3

It took me what felt like an age to read my third book – The Girl Who Could Move Sh*t With Her Mind by Jackson Ford. It’s not that I didn’t like it necessarily, it just felt very average and didn’t grip me. I’m one book behind at the moment, but I’ve moved onto the Percy Jackson series which I’m really enjoying so I’m hoping that I’ll claw it back on this challenge.

Anime

Anime Preview: Spring 2021

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I definitely took on too many Winter seasonal shows, and I found it really overwhelming to keep up (spoiler: I definitely didn’t keep up at all). Have I learnt my lesson? Absolutely not. I really enjoyed writing up my Winter 2021 Preview post, so I wanted to do it again for the Spring seasonal shows. I’m hoping that I will manage to finish the bulk of my Winter shows before Spring kicks off properly, otherwise it’s going to be a mess of me watching anime on an infinite loop. Again, I’ll try to avoid going over plot points and just focus on my feelings towards the opener for each show. This season, aside from the sequels I’ll be watching, I know nothing about any of the shows at all, so I’m going in totally blind.

Tokyo Revengers

tokyo revengersloved the first episode of Tokyo Revengers. It had everything I love in an anime – it was really suspenseful, it made me laugh a lot, and the cliffhanger at the end of the episode definitely left me wanting more. I got some real Erased vibes from Tokyo Revengers, which is definitely not a bad thing as it’s definitely up there in one of my favourite shows.

 

 

 

To Your Eternity

tyeWow. I don’t think I’ve ever cried so much at a show since Banana Fish, and this was only the first episode! To Your Eternity was beautifully animated, it felt so cinematic, and honestly just heartbreaking. The first episode was an incredible opener, and I’m so invested in it already.

 

 

 

 

Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro

nagatoroI was really looking forward to Don’t Toy With Me, Miss Nagatoro because I’d seen screenshots floating around on Twitter and I thought the character design for Nagatoro was really cool and that she looked really cute. Unfortunately, I don’t really have anything good to say about it. It was a really uncomfortable watch from start to finish, as Nagatoro relentlessly bullies her senpai – who is so bland I’ve forgotten his name entirely. It’s not even in a lighthearted making fun of someone because you like them kind of way, it’s just out and out bullying and not something I’m interested in watching.

 

Fairy Ranmaru

fairyThere is a lot going on in Fairy Ranmaru, and honestly it just felt like a total mess. It starts off as a kind of isekai as the fairy characters are sent to the human world, then there’s a sort of magical boy element, and then it turns into a musical with a song halfway through. I honestly felt like I had whiplash watching this show, it just was all over the place. Its saving grace was that the male characters were quite interesting, otherwise it doesn’t have a lot going for it.

 

 

Farewell, My Dear Cramer

cramerI don’t think I’ve ever watched a girl’s sports anime, but Farewell, My Dear Cramer looked really cute so I thought I’d give it a go. It’s about girl’s high school football (I will not succumb and call it soccer!), and the first episode was mostly about the girls joining from their various middle schools and joining the club. It was a really interesting episode as it gives you some backstory about the kinds of players the main girls are, and sets up the premise for the series nicely.

 

 

Koikimo

koikimoI’m a little bit sceptical of this one. Playboy business man falls in love with and pursues his high-school sister’s best friend. I’m sure you’ll understand my reservations. That aside, I did actually really enjoy Koikimo. I thought it was really nicely animated and it made me laugh quite a lot. I’ll still hold onto my scepticism for now, but I was pleasantly surprised.

 

 

 

Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved And Took In A High School Runaway

higehiroAnother seasonal show with a huge age difference! Again, like with Koikimo I went into Higehiro totally wary and ready to bail at any moment, and honestly, I almost did. Yoshida is a 26 year old salaryman who takes in teenaged Sayu after seeing her on the street under a lamppost. She quickly propositions him and tells him she’ll sleep with him if she can stay which is how she has been managing to find places to stay. Yoshida rejects Sayu, which is the only reason I kept watching, but instead he offers to have her live with him in exchange for doing the household chores. Again, like with Koikimo, I’ll remain skeptical as I feel like there’s definitely potential for this to cross some boundaries. I’d really love it if Yoshida and Sayu’s relationship developed into more of a brother/sister one, but I fear that will not be the case.

Oddtaxi

oddtaxiI definitely didn’t expect a show about anthropomorphic animals to be so dark and mysterious. I’m so intrigued by where Oddtaxi is going, I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

 

 

 

 

Those Snow White Notes

snow whiteThose Snow White Notes totally took me by surprise. I thought I’d be getting some sort of high school music club situation, and this is far from that. It’s actually quite dark and deals with some pretty serious themes. I was really pleasantly surprised to be wrong, and it’s definitely one I’ll try to keep up with.

 

 

 

86: Eighty Six

86Maybe I’m stupid, but I found 86 really hard to follow. I think by the end of the episode I’d sort of got the gist, but all the way through the episode I just felt baffled. It’s hard to say whether I enjoyed the episode as for a lot of it I felt totally lost, but I think by the end I can say I liked it. I’ll definitely give it another few episodes.

 

 

 

Backflip!!

backflipI love a sports anime, we all know it. Backflip!! is about men’s rhythm gymnastics. I’ve always enjoyed watching men’s and women’s rhythm gymnastics at the Olympics and such, so it’s cool to see an anime version! The plot hasn’t really kicked off yet, with most sports anime, this first episode was really just about the protagonist joining the club, but it looks to be quite promising. The animation of the performances looked really nice too, I was worried it might go full CG like in an idol anime dance, and whilst I think there was an element of CG it still looked pretty cool.

 

Burning Kabaddi

kabaddiAnother sports anime! This time one for a sport that I was entirely convinced was totally made up until I Googled it after the episode, and was shocked to realise that this contact sport version of tag is real. That aside, Burning Kabaddi was totally unique and chaotic, but in a good way. The protagonist doesn’t even want to be in the club, for one, but he’s basically blackmailed into joining. It made me laugh a lot and I’m really intrigued to see where it goes and how actual matches of this weird sport work.

 

 

Let’s Make A Mug Too

mugThis is a totally wholesome school club anime about a pottery club. Episodes are short, which is just as well because not a lot happens, and they’re surprisingly informative about the Japanese pottery scene. I’ll keep watching it because it’s quite sweet, but I can’t envisage it being a standout for the season.

 

 

 

The Pretty Boy Detective Club

pbdcI’d seen a lot of people hyping up The Pretty Boy Detective Club online so it felt like one I wanted to watch – who doesn’t like pretty anime boys, anyway? I’m not sure how I feel about it after the first airing, I like the premise of a detective club filled with pretty boys, but they all felt very shallow and there didn’t feel like there was a lot of substance to the plot, feeling almost like a knock-off Ouran. The animation choices were really interesting though, and there were some beautiful moments.

 

 

Sequels-wise, I’ll be watching the new seasons of My Hero Academia, Moriarty the Patriot, Zombieland Saga and Fruits Basket. What a great season!

Games, Platinum Review

Platinum Review Rework

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I’ve been a bit inactive lately, but I’ve always got the blog on my mind! I’ve been thinking up new features, and how to refresh old features. The first thing I want to implement is a change to how I do my Platinum Reviews.

Up until this point, I have been doing separate Platinum Reviews to normal game reviews, meaning each game I do a Platinum Review for gets two articles. I’m changing this so the review is within the same article. This means each Platinum Review will be a bit more substantial and will include my thoughts on the game as a whole as well as how I found the process for getting the platinum trophy. I’ll include links as usual to any walkthroughs I followed.

Scoring wise, each Platinum Review will have a usual game review rating out of 10, and a score on how difficult I found the platinum, also out of 10. I’ll try to quantify how long it took me, but some games don’t have in-game timers, so this might be a bit hit and miss.

I hope you like what I plan to do!

Film Reviews, Films

Review: Yes, No, Or Maybe?

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Yes, No, Or Maybe? is a fairly short film – standing at 53 minutes. There’s a lot packed into the short run time, and for the most part it’s a joy to watch. This review will contain spoilers for the end, but I’ll warn you before it’s about to be mentioned, so read with caution.

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The focus of Yes, No, Or Maybe? is Kei Kunieda, a friendly newscaster with a sunny disposition. Kei has a secret – he’s actually pretty grouchy and is pretty much constantly inwardly cursing at other people. This is done to great effect throughout the film showing Kei’s inner thoughts as a little chibi figure on screen, so whilst IRL Kei might be thanking someone profusely, chibi Kei will be cursing them up a storm. It’s a really funny juxtaposition that works really well, and is much more effective than just having a voiceover show Kei’s inner thoughts.

One day, Kei is asked to interview Ushio Tsuzuki, a stop-motion animator. Following the interview, an off-duty and disguised Kei bumps into Ushio (quite literally) outside a convenience store, and after unleashing a barrage of abuse at Ushio reluctantly agrees to help him with his work after injuring him.

What follows is a back and forth between Kei and Ushio as Kei interacts with Ushio both using his work persona and his true self, and struggles to reconcile his feelings with who he truly is as a person. Being a shounen ai, there’s obviously a romantic undertone and typically of a BL anime, there’s some struggle as Kei deals with his romantic thoughts towards another man.

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Yes, No, Or Maybe? presents two really well written characters. Kei and Ushio are both really well developed and each have their own nuances and motivations. I really related to Kei having his private and public personas, as I feel like often I’m very different publicly to how I am privately, and as I said before, the way the film presents this is really effective.

I really liked the animation of Yes, No, Or Maybe?, it felt really soft and natural, with a pretty realistic colour palette, which added to the romantic tone of the movie. Whilst Yes, No, Or Maybe? is primarily a drama, it does have some really funny moments, especially between Kei’s private persona and his inner thoughts. 

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Whilst I wouldn’t want to get into spoiler territory, I feel it’s worth mentioning the end as it could be a huge trigger for viewers and could be the difference between someone watching it or not. If you don’t want to know spoilers, don’t read the next paragraph and just know that I really disliked the final scenes of Yes, No, or Maybe?

The end scene is really hard to bear and features the worst of all BL tropes – dubious consent. Except, it’s really not dubious, it’s pretty clear and repeatedly said that it’s a firm no. It’s a real shame, because up until this point, the movie was golden and the whole scene just sours the wholesome and romantic vibe of Yes, No, or Maybe? up until that point. I’m really interested to pick up the light novel to see how that compares to the film, I would hope that it isn’t so non-consensual but my experience with BL makes me think otherwise.

8 stars

Game Reviews, Games

Review: Kaze and the Wild Masks

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Kaze and the Wild Masks is a 2D platformer described by developers PixelHive as ’90s inspired’. This is definitely accurate, as there’s a majorly nostalgic vibe, from the slightly retro feeling artwork and music to the lack of dialogue. It simultaneously feels years old and brand new.

Read my full review at Push Square.

kaze

Anime, Anime Reviews

Review: Given Movie

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The following review contains spoilers for the Given Movie and the anime series. 

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The Given movie is the 59 minute follow-up to 2019’s smash anime series of the same name. Adapted from an ongoing manga series, Given centres around a band of boys – two highschoolers and two college students – as they fall in love with playing music together, and with each other.

Of course, the anime left off with Mafuyu and Uenoyama getting together after some mutual pining and dealing with some underlying trauma. The focus of this movie shifts to their bandmates Akihiko and Haruki. We discovered in the series that Haruki has been in love with Akihiko for some time, whereas Akihiko seems to be a lot more of a playboy and has a different girl on his arm constantly.

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Having read the manga past this story arc, I was a little hesitant to watch the film. There was a lot I didn’t like about the arc portrayed in the film when I read it in the manga. That’s not to say it’s not good, it’s just very raw and a little bit darker but this shouldn’t be a surprise with the content from the first series of the show in mind.

Throughout the movie, it’s very clear that Akihiko has a very toxic relationship with his live-in lover Ugetsu. Neither of them seem to really want to give the other up, but they’re absolutely no good for each other. This is pretty clear throughout the whole movie. Akihiko’s behaviour ends up spiralling as a result and he acts in a truly despicable way. There’s an interesting juxtaposition between Akihiko’s behaviour when he’s influenced by interactions with Ugetsu, and those with Haruki which further cements the toxicity of Akihiko’s relationship.

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Throughout the movie there’s a multitude of levels to the characterisation. At first glance, Akihiko and Ugetsu seem like thoroughly despicable characters, both only looking out for themselves, and whilst there certainly seems to remain an element of this, there’s also a lot of depth to their relationship which becomes uncovered and you can begin to kind of see why they act the way they do. There’s also a undertone of not being able to let your first love go, which I think a lot of people can relate to.

With Ugetsu in mind, I’m really pleased at how he has been portrayed. I think it would have been really easy for him to be vilified as the mean man who is keeping Akihiko and Haruki apart, but there’s actually a really soft side to him and he is characterised really well. His interactions with Mafuyu are especially touching, as we see him helping Mafuyu to write a new song and eventually learning to trust him enough to talk about his feelings with him.

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As you’d expect from a film centred around the lives of musicians, the music in Given is impeccable. From Ugetsu’s classical violin playing, to the rock stylings of the band, the music throughout is evocative and emotional. The music always really adds to the emotion of any scene, and perfectly encapsulates the feeling of the moment.

A lot is packed into the Given movie’s short run-time, which can kind of leave your head reeling, but there are some really sweet and tender moments in amongst all of the angst. The Given movie is a near perfect continuation of a series which was so beloved, and won’t disappoint fans.

9 stars

manga, Manga reviews

Review: A Sign of Affection vol. 1

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Story and art: suu Morishita
Genre: Romance, Shoujo
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Synopsis: Yuki, who’s always been deaf, is used to communicating with sign language and her phone. But she’s not used to English, so when a tourist from overseas asks for directions, she nearly panics…until a handsome stranger steps in to help. His name is Itsuomi, and it turns out he’s a friend of a friend. A charismatic globetrotter, Itsuomi speaks three languages, but he’s never had a deaf friend. The two feel drawn to each other and plan a date on a romantic winter’s night…but Yuki’s friend is afraid that she might be setting herself up to get hurt. Could this be something real? Or will these feelings melt away with the snow?
Publication date: 23rd February 2021

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Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for a free e-copy of this manga in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Protagonist Yuki is deaf, and struggles her way through a hearing world. When a foreign stranger asks her for directions on the train, she panics and a nearby Itsuomi steps in to assist. Yuki is pretty entranced from the get go, and discovers that her path crosses with Itsuomi’s a lot more than she anticipated.

Yuki thinks a lot about how she wants her relationship with Itsuomi to be defined, and what love means to her. She has a few close friends, a girl named Rin who she goes to college with and her male childhood friend named Oushi. Other than Yuki, Oushi is the only other person who can speak sign language.

Itsuomi is the polar opposite of Yuki. Whereas Yuki seems content with her small world, and has resigned herself to the fact there’s a lot she can’t do, Itsuomi throws himself into experience after experience. It’s introduced early on that he has a passion for travelling and learning languages. Over the course of just the first volume through her blossoming relationship with Itsuomi it occurs to Yuki that the world is a lot bigger than she realises and she starts to yearn for more experiences, which is really sweet to see as Yuki accepts she can have the same experiences as everyone else.

Yuki is also a very sweet and seemingly naive girl, where Itsuomi comes across at least initially as a bit of a playboy. As a reader there’s a real urge to want to protect Yuki, and make sure Itsuomi is legitimate and not messing with her feelings, which I think is a real testament to how well the characters in A Sign of Affection are written that after only a few chapters of the first volume, I cared that much about Yuki.

It would be remiss to talk about A Sign of Affection and not mention the portrayal of deafness throughout the manga. As someone who is losing their hearing, a lot of the challenges Yuki faces are things I’ve thought about and considered for down the road in my own life. Though I am losing my hearing, I am not deaf by any means, and I don’t currently use any hearing aids. That said, I think Yuki’s deafness is portrayed really well. Different fonts are used for conversations Yuki is lipreading, and the sign language is really nicely illustrated as well.

This first volume of A Sign of Affection is a charming beginning to the start of Yuki’s story. There’s a lot of potential for drama, and the wonderful characterisation throughout the manga has you really rooting for Yuki and hoping she succeeds in all of her pursuits. 5 stars

 

NetGalley requires users to rate on a star rating of 5, so I have adjusted my star ratings for any reviews for manga reviewed via NetGalley. Non-NetGalley reviews will remain out of 10.