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.

manga, Manga reviews

Review: Those Not-So-Sweet Boys vol. 1

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Story and art: Yoko Nogiri
Genre: Romance, School, Shoujo
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Synopsis: Midori drops her wallet on her first day of high school, but her new classmate Ichijo swoops in to help. She wants to thank him, but he’s part of a tight-knit trio and none of them are ever in class! Rumour has it that they all got expelled for acting up, and studious Midori’s actually at risk of expulsion, too… In order to help support her family, she has a part-time job, which is against the school rules. When the chairman of the school board catches her leaving work, he says he’ll let it go—but only if she’s up to the task of bringing the three boys back to school. Well, why not? It’ll be a piece of cake…right?
Publication date: 16th 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.

Midori Nanami is your typical shoujo protagonist. She’s sweet, well-meaning and kind of an airhead. On her first day of high school, Midori drops her wallet with her family’s weekly food budget in, only for it to be reclaimed by one of her new classmates, Ichijo. Ichijo and his two friends Ieiri and Goshima keep themselves to themselves, and there are tonnes of rumours swirling round school about them, some true and some not so much. When Midori is caught coming out of her part-time job, the highschool chairman strikes her a deal – get Ichijo and co. to attend school regularly, and he’ll help her find a school-sanctioned job.

I’ve read the mangaka’s other work, Love in Focus and That Wolf-Boy Is Mine!, and Those Not-So Sweet Boys does bear some similarities. This is more obvious with That Wolf-Boy Is Mine! with the inclusion of a group of boys that the protagonist gets close to, some more willingly than others. Those Not-So Sweet Boys isn’t a cut and copy though – for one thing, none of the boys can change into animals, or haven’t done yet anyway! The mangaka’s previous two manga feature wonderful characterisation and deep relationships, and Those Not-So Sweet Boys is no different.

Whilst it certainly feels that Ichijo is being set up to be the canon romance, Ieiri and Goshima are also awarded the same development. Whilst the opening volume admittedly focuses on Ichijo primarily, there’s a lot introduced which will open up Ieiri and Goshima in future volumes, making it more difficult for the reader to decide who to root for.

The title of the manga is an interesting one to me, as none of the boys seem particularly ‘not-so sweet’. Once you know a little about their backstories, they all seem to have their reasons for wanting to isolate themselves, and whilst they act a little distant towards Midori, none of them are outwardly cruel to her.

Midori is very aware of the effect the boys have on her early on, which is interesting to see, as normally it takes shoujo protagonists a long time to realise they have feelings for anyone. I hope that future volumes focus on Midori understanding her feelings, rather than rejecting them, and there’s certainly a lot of promise for romance in Midori’s near future.

Volume 1 of Those Not-So Sweet Boys was a great introduction to the story. It made me really care about all of the characters, and I look forward to continuing the manga in the future. Those Not-So Sweet Boys offers the perfect blend of romance, drama and comedy, and was a joy to read.

4 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.

manga, Manga reviews

Review: Haru’s Curse

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Story and art: Asuka Konishi
Genre: Drama, Romance, Slice of Life, Psychological, Josei
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Synopsis: Natsumi’s little sister Haru was her whole world—and now she’s gone. After the funeral, Natsumi reluctantly agrees to date her sister’s fiancé Togo. But as their relationship develops with the passing seasons, Haru’s memory lingers over them like a curse.
Publication date: 16th 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.

Haru’s Curse is the story of Natsumi following the death of her sister, Haru. Natsumi believes that she will be cursed by Haru because following her funeral, she has started dating Haru’s fiancé, Togo. Natsumi agrees to date Togo on the condition that she wants him to only take her to places that he took Haru, so she can feel closer to Haru after her passing.

Though the manga starts with Haru’s funeral, there are a lot of flashbacks to events prior to the funeral which really help establish the relationships between Haru, Natsumi and Togo. I really liked the change between past and present day, and I felt it worked especially well to show the contrast between Togo and his relationship with each of the sisters.

Haru’s Curse is a very real and raw portrayal of death and grief. As a reader, you see a lot of Natsumi and Togo struggling with their own feelings about Haru’s death, as well as their extended families. Haru’s Curse doesn’t shy away from a serious subject matter, with many serious and often dark subject matters touched on, but in a very respectful way.

As expected, there are a lot of hurdles throughout Haru’s Curse. Not only do Natsumi and Togo have to wrestle with their own guilt and emotions surrounding Haru’s death, but there are also a lot of outside influences interfering in their relationship and

The characters of Natsumi and Togo feel incredibly nuanced, whilst also feeling very realistic. Natsumi is hardworking, excitable and cheerful, but to Togo she seems the total opposite. Togo, who comes from a prestigious family, has his whole life mapped out for him according to his family traditions and expectations. As Natsumi and Togo’s relationship develops, the reader beings to see the effect they each have on each other and how they each change as a result of their relationship.

What I really liked about Haru’s Curse is that characters actually talk to each other. I’ve read a lot of manga where miscommunication is key, or characters bottle things up, but in this there is none of that. This helps all of the characters feel a lot more like the adults they are meant to be, and also a lot more realistic – this is what real people do after all! Well… for the most part anyway.

There’s a lot to like about Haru’s Curse, and it poses really interesting questions about how to honour the dead and how to move on after the death of a loved one. Haru’s Curse does seem to go too far at times – I did feel like it could have been left that Natsumi and Haru’s relationship was just sisterly, but the manga edges slightly further this and Natsumi declares at points that she was in love with Haru. Fortunately, this isn’t really a main area of focus and you can easily move past it and focus on the many great parts of Haru’s Curse. 

4 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.