Tears of a Lamb 3 by Banri Hidaka: B

The greatest strength of this series is the relationship between its two lead characters. After getting off to a rough start—with Kei badgering Kanzaki to allow her access to his apartment so she can search for a lost ring—it has developed into a solid friendship, with each able to confide in the other about their problems. I particularly like how Kanzaki’s consideration of Kei is shown through his actions rather than told in mere words. The best scenes are when they are engaged in heartfelt conversation.

Unfortunately, such moments do not happen often in this third installment of the series. The standout chapter actually focuses on the school doctor and her own experiences in high school. A nice character piece, it also provides a glimpse of the mysterious Suwa, the older man upon whom Kei is fixated and the owner of the ring for which she is searching.

Hidaka’s art is cute (I love the fleecy lambs sprinkled throughout) but my enjoyment is marred by the continual reliance on violence as a source of humor. Poor Kanzaki takes a pounding on practically every page and it’s really beginning to disturb me. If you can get past that, however, Tears of a Lamb definitely has something unique to offer.

ETA: As I read the galley copy in preparation for the review above, I noticed quite a few instances of dialogue appearing in an incorrect bubble (and thusly being attributed to the wrong character). I didn’t mention it then in the hopes that it would be corrected in the official release. Having just obtained said release, however, I am sad to see that they have not been corrected. Does nobody read the galley with an eye for mistakes? Isn’t that what it’s for? Did it not strike anyone as strange that the character jumping in the air jubilantly is not the one whose dialogue reads, ‘Yay!!’?! Grumble grumble.

Review copy provided by the publisher. Review originally published at Manga Recon.

Tears of a Lamb 2 by Banri Hidaka: B+

From the back cover:
It’s “Sports Day” at school! Coincidentally, it’s also the last day Kanzaki has a chance to make it onto the basketball team. He faces an old rival who knows about his past failures, and when an accident puts his ability to play in jeopardy, it shakes up his confidence even more. It’s up to Kei to pump him up and help him get his game face back on.

Usually, I find school events like festivals or sports days to be a bit of a cop-out story-wise, but in this case, its approach was actually mentioned in the first volume, and there’d been enough build up that it actually had some narrative importance.

Kanzaki hadn’t played basketball since near-blindness in his left eye caused him to commit an error that cost his junior high team an important game. He’d been avoiding the game since. With the help of Kei and others, he finally realized that he’d forgotten the fun that could be had in simply playing, versus the attitude that winning is everything. This might sound kind of lame, but it was really handled pretty well over the course of several chapters. I swear I got kind of verklempt at one point.

The main goodness, however, was the growing friendship between Kei and Kanzaki. I especially liked how Kanzaki was sensitive to her eating disorder (she’s a recovering anorexic) and didn’t put her in situations where she’d feel compelled to accept food. He did this completely nonchalantly, and it was an excellent way to show (not tell) his caring side. In return, she bolstered him when his confidence flagged. I’m very pleased that this relationship is shown with such a firm foundation of regard and consideration and isn’t based on love-at-first-sight theatrics.

The not so good stuff:
* The over-the-top humor from the last volume was toned down slightly, though I was annoyed when Kanzaki’s overbearing sisters visited and one had fun smacking him around. I’ve encountered that from time to time (like in Boys Over Flowers) and I dislike it thoroughly.
* There were further errors in overlays, mostly with the original not being completely removed before the translation was applied atop it. I noticed a couple of typos and weird symbols, too.

Add some mystery about Kei’s past (and one panel that hints to something in Kanzaki’s, as well) and the second volume of Tears of a Lamb works out to be a satisfying read.

Tears of a Lamb 1 by Banri Hidaka: B

From the back cover:
Freshman Kei has one thing on her mind: getting into fellow classmate Kanzaki’s apartment. She won’t tell him why at first, but she’s searching for something that she lost in there two tenants ago. Starting with this strange connection, a friendship grows between two students who have each suffered their own separate trauma. Can Kei and Kanzaki help each other get over the secrets that are tearing them apart?

At first, I was pretty bored by Tears of a Lamb. There wasn’t anything obviously wrong with it, but neither was there anything really special. Additionally, the main characters reminded me of some in Fruits Basket: Kei was kind of like Tohru, with a never-give-up attitude and an ability to understand others’ problems; Kanzaki was kind of like Kyo, gruff on the outside but caring within; and Takama-sensei (who’s also Kei’s cousin) was kind of like Shigure, with a silly/playful side as well as a more serious one. I have no idea which series came first, but these similarities made the setup here seem awfully familiar.

In one of her columns, Hidaka-sensei mentioned that, when she conceived of the tale, she was eager to introduce a character from Kei’s past and wasn’t dwelling a lot on the introductory bits with Kei and Kanzaki at school. The difference showed, as when the story delved into the more serious territory of Kei’s past, my enjoyment of it markedly increased. The personalities of Kei and Kanzaki were fleshed out more and there were some really nice scenes between them as they very slowly started to become friends and to confide in each other about their problems. The progression of the relationship was well done, especially in comparison to some shoujo I’ve recently read, where love declarations came after only a few pages.

I was less enamored of the “funny” parts of the story, since I didn’t find them particularly humorous. I guess some folks might enjoy spazzing older brothers who hurl forks at boys who criticize their sisters, but not me. Honorifics were maintained, which I appreciated, but there were a couple of other problems in the translation. At one point, Kanzaki was referred to with an incorrect first name, and there were other small things like weird symbols where apostrophes should be and odd placement of overlays. Hidaka’s art is clean and cute; in fact, that’s what initially attracted me to her works.

After a slow start, Tears of a Lamb wound up finding an original story after all. I’ll be continuing with the series.