Kiss & White Lily for My Dearest Girl, Vols. 1-2

By Canno | Published by Yen Press

I haven’t read a ton of yuri manga, but even I have encountered the “all-girls school with multiple couples” setup before. Kiss & White Lily for My Dearest Girl is another example of the same.

We begin with Ayaka Shiramine and Yurine Kurosawa. Shiramine has always been the perfect student, but she works hard for her grades. Enter Kurosawa, the lazy genius, who shows up and immediately takes the number one spot. Squabbling ensues, with Kurosawa going all sparkly when a furious Shiramine calls her “just a regular person.” It seems she’s been waiting for someone who might beat her. My problem with this couple is that Shiramine is not very likable, even if I sympathize with her frustration. Plus, I ended up comparing her “there’s no way anyone could love me when I’m not perfect” angst with that of Nanami Touko in Bloom into You, where the idea is executed with more depth and originality.

Thankfully, these characters soon rotate into the background as focus shifts onto Shiramine’s cousin, track star Mizuki. Kurosawa also happens to be great at running, and Mizuki is upset when the team manager, Moe, avidly attempts to recruit her. Moe is supposed to watch Mizuki the most, after all. It all turns out to be for a cute reason, and I like the M&M pairing much more.

Volume two introduces still more characters. Ai Uehara doesn’t endear herself to me by whining about the availability of third-year Maya Hoshino—“Mock exams are more important to you than I am!”—and the chapter where she tries to make her friend stay in town rather than going to the university of her dreams and then realizes that this makes her friend sad and then promptly trips and starts blubbering just about had steam coming out of my ears.

But, again, thankfully, we move away from the annoying character to someone more mature. Chiharu Kusakabe is Hoshino’s roommate and is in love with her. Hoshino seems to be aware of this, particularly after a clichéd “locked in the storeroom” incident, but doesn’t return her feelings. While Chiharu is busy pining for a sempai, she encounters a younger girl who begins pining for her. And, again, some cuteness ensues.

I’m definitely on board for volume three, but I wonder… will each volume introduce someone I profoundly dislike in the first half and then give me a couple to really like in the second half? I suppose I can deal with that, and I also want to see more of Mizuki and Chiharu.

Kiss & White Lily for My Dearest Girl is ongoing in Japan, where six volumes have been released so far. The first two volumes are currently available in English; the third will be released in August.

Review copies provided by the publisher.

Several from Seven Seas

In the past couple of months, Seven Seas has published several new releases of interest to me!

Bloom Into You, Vol. 1 by Nakatani Nio
Koito Yuu has just begun her first year of high school. Pressured by her friends to participate in club activities, she ends up assisting the student council, where she meets elegant second-year student Nanami Touko. Yuu has been trying to figure out how to reply to the male friend who confessed his love for her at their middle school graduation, and when she overhears Touko rejecting a confession with the words “I don’t intend to go out with anyone, no matter who asks me,” she thinks she’s found someone who’ll understand how she feels.

Or, rather, doesn’t feel. Yuu wants to experience a soaring, sparkly love like she reads about in manga. She tried, but she couldn’t, and with Touko’s support, she’s finally able to let the guy down. What she isn’t prepared for is for Touko to reveal that they’re not alike after all because “I think I might be falling in love with you.”

At first, I was annoyed by Touko’s declaration. It was too soon; it felt unearned. However, the more we get to know her, as Yuu spends more time with her while working as her campaign manager for student elections, it becomes clear that Touko has devoted a lot of time and effort into projecting an image that isn’t really her. She wanted to be special, and now she must maintain that perfect facade. Around everyone, that is, except Yuu, who is seemingly incapable of finding anyone special. For you see, Yuu doesn’t feel anything when Touko confesses either, nor when the other girl steals her first kiss. She’s not excited, and she’s not upset. She feels nothing. I actually began to wonder… has she suffered some kind of deep, psychological trauma?

I like both Yuu and Touko, I like the Maria-sama ga Miteru sort of atmosphere, I like Yuu’s continued detachment, and I have high hopes for how this story might unfold going forward.

Bloom Into You is ongoing in Japan, where three volumes have been released so far. Volume two comes out in English on May 16th.

The Girl from the Other Side: Siúil, a Rún, Vol. 1 by Nagabe
It doesn’t happen all that often that I read something and conclude, “This is a five-star manga that everyone should read.” So, please keep that in mind when I say… This is a five-star manga that everyone should read.

The back cover blurb sets up the tone of the series marvelously, so I’m going to quote it. “In a land far away, there were two kingdoms: the Outside, where twisted beasts roamed that could curse with a touch, and the Inside, where humans lived in safety and peace. The girl and the beast should never have met, but when they do, a quiet fairytale begins.”

I knew I’d adore this series the moment a black-as-pitch creature approaches a little girl who’s snoozing unaware and instead of menacing her, he scolds her for wandering off. Indeed, the creature—whom Shiva, the little girl, refers to as “Teacher”—is gentle, gentlemanly, and valiant, protecting Shiva both physically (when paranoid human soldiers think she must be cursed and try to kill her) and mentally (by shielding her from the truth that she has been abandoned). He also possesses medical knowledge but forgot that he told Shiva he’d been a doctor. Was he once human himself? His concern for Shiva radiates from him—I was particularly struck by a panel depicting his fists clenched in worry—and I love him deeply.

While humans and their fear are one threat, we’re introduced to another at the end of the volume, making for a chilling cliffhanger. I can’t wait for volume two of this lovely and captivating series!

The Girl from the Other Side is ongoing in Japan, where three volumes have been released so far. Volume two comes out in English on May 16th.

Kase-san and Morning Glories by Hiromi Takashima
Kase-san and… is a series that is technically comprised of a succession of one-shot stories. This first volume, entitled Kase-san and Morning Glories, includes the title story as well as interludes like “Kase-san and the Bicycle,” “Kase-san and Sneakers,” and “Kase-san and the Spring Breeze.”

Yamada doesn’t fit in with her classmates well. Though she has noticed popular Kase-san, the boyish star of the track team, she never thought she was on the other girl’s radar. But it turns out that Kase-san admired Yamada’s dedication to the thankless task of weeding the school grounds. The girls eventually start hanging out together and it isn’t long before Yamada is having Feelings with a capital “F.” There ensues the typical angst about “but she’s a girl.”

There are a couple of other moments that I’ve seen elsewhere, too—an indirect kiss via a shared thermos, the first real kiss in the nurse’s office—and it’s certainly fluffy and insubstantial, but it’s still really cute. The art style is pleasant, and I wonder whether Yamada’s friend—who warns her about Kase dating girls—might provide some drama down the road. In any case, I’m on board for the next volume.

Kase-san and… is ongoing in Japan, where three volumes have been released so far. The second, Kase-san and Bento, comes out in English on May 23rd.

Kindred Spirits on the Roof: The Complete Collection by Hachi Ito, Aya Fumio, Toitentsu, and Liar-Soft
I was initially under the mistaken impression that the manga version of Kindred Spirits on the Roof was a retelling of the storyline from the yuri visual novel. Instead, it focuses on new girls attending Kokono-Tsuboshi Girls’ Academy of Commerce with some of the original couples returning as side characters or cameos.

In side A, written and illustrated by Hachi Ito, we are introduced to shy Shiina Shiori, who is in the art club. She comes out of her shell a bit while helping to create scenery for the play her class is putting on for the school festival, and by the end of the volume—after much dithering and conversations about “what does it feel like to love someone?”—has decided to stop running away from the feelings of her childhood friend, Kanda Mako. The moment where they become a couple is the only time the original kindred spirits are glimpsed, buy they don’t do or say anything.

Side B, written by Toitensu and illustrated by Aya Fumio, has a little more meat on its bones, but only just. Hase Chiharu and Ichiyama Tokino are fans of “friendly girls,” and decide to join the quiz club so that they can squee over the relationship between their sempai, Tomoe Natsuki and Sasaki Rika. They endeavor to help cool Sasaki admit to her feelings, and there is, of course, the implication that they themselves will form a couple someday. There were very brief glimpses of the girls at their quiz tournaments, but it was very far from being the focus of the story.

Ultimately, I didn’t hate Kindred Spirits on the Roof. It’s sweet and not lecherous. But it’s also a very frothy concoction without much depth. I can’t see myself ever desiring to reread it.

Kindred Spirits on the Roof is complete in two volumes.

Review copies for Kase-san and Morning Glories and Kindred Spirits on the Roof provided by the publisher.

The Last Uniform 2 by Mera Hakamada: C+

From the back cover:
They might be in an all-girls dormitory, but their days are still brimming with feelings of love. For Ai and Fuuko, Beniko and Tsumugi, and even Kisaragi and Anzu, it seems that just about everyone at the Tsubakigaoka Girls’ Dorm has a crush on someone else. Whether sleeping in the same futon or modeling nude for artistic purposes, it seems like no one is able to make the first move. But the passing seasons begin to push them inexorably closer in the second volume of this charming yuri romance story!

Review:
The short vignette form began to get on my nerves in this volume. There’s just not much that can get accomplished in a mere 14 pages when the story is as episodic as this one. Sometimes the chapters were pretty cute, like a couple that focused on Kisaragi, a girl with an unrequited crush on Beniko. But often they were rather blah, particularly those featuring Ai and Fuuko.

The best part of the volume was a two-chapter story that actually had absolutely no yuri content whatsoever. One of the girls at school, Kimiko, had a male penpal, and when he wrote to inform her he’d gotten a girlfriend, Tsumugi and Beniko cheered her up. Later, Tsumugi decked the guy when she happened to overhear him telling his buddies that he ditched Kimiko because he thought she was ugly. It’s not that this storyline was stellar or anything, but I liked that the author took the time to show the characters being supportive friends.

So, this volume wasn’t really that great. I really do like Tsumugi and Beniko, though, so I’ll probably keep reading just for them.

The Last Uniform 1 by Mera Hakamada: B

From the back cover:
Each girl at the Tsubakigaoka Girls’ Dorm is paired with a roommate. Tsumugi with Beniko, and Ai with Fuuko. Yet the girls each have their own crushes on each other, and it’s making it impossible for them to stay “just friends.” But can one girl really love another?

A charming tale of yuri romance that deals with the perennial question “who’s going to hook up with who” with a twist.

Review:
Er… “who’s going to hook up with who” is a perennial question?

This introductory volume was pretty cute, though I was initially mixing up the longer-haired girls because the couple with prominence on the cover is not the one featured in the first two chapters.

There’s no plot, per se, just little vignettes in which the girls somehow realize their feelings for one another. A seemingly-annoying girl rescues her roommate from the rain, a stern-seeming girl rescues another from a flasher, a couple of cute boyish girls compete in a marathon to try to impress the refined classmate they both fancy, etc.

The couple of Tsumugi and Beniko is much more interesting to me than Ai and Fuuko. They kind of remind me of Suoh and Nokoru from CLAMP Campus Detectives. Tsumugi is the serious one who can easily get flustered and Beniko is the accomplished one who’s also a bit mischievous.

Those looking for anything steamy should look elsewhere. It’s certainly not the most well-written thing I’ve ever seen, but it does at least try to tell a story rather than simply titillate. I’ll be continuing with the series.

Blue by Kiriko Nananan: A

From the inside flap:
Kayako Kirishima and Masami Endo are about to discover that their recent friendship is turning into obsessive love. But when today’s hopes and yesterday’s dreams meet tomorrow’s problems, will they be able to continue?

Review:
Blue is a one-volume title in nice binding and printed on glossy paper that happens to cost $24. I read it in the store today, but it should carry some weight to say that, even though I now technically don’t need to buy it, I intend to shell out for it someday just the same.

Just yesterday I began to watch the UK TV series Sugar Rush, and it’s interesting to note a number of similarities here. Masami would be in the Sugar role, a girl who’s already been in some trouble and is a little notorious because of it. Kayako is pretty quiet, but her actions are always believable and her motivations always well-portrayed. I shan’t give the plot away, but I thought that the events unfolded realistically. I was especially glad that there was no fan-service. This is not shoujo-ai for the drooly fanboy contingent.

The one critique I could make is that the art style makes it hard to tell what’s happening in a few panels, and it took a bit of time to get used to who was who, since some of the characters look fairly similar. I liked that she would shift the vantage point on a scene around and show it from different angels. It livened up the panels in a subtle way, and served the story without becoming a distracting display of skill for its own sake.