I’m sure it can’t reach him. This feeling that’s not admiration or nostalgia…this ache.
Kakeru and Yamato have known each other since childhood. Yamato is tall, good-looking and a good all-rounder too. Kakeru regards himself as average – probably worse than average in class, given his recent dire results. “Aren’t you two complete opposites?” says one of their classmates as they witness a girl confessing her feelings to Yamato. “Like your personalities…your grades…and your looks?”
Yamato turns the girl down.
The two boys are in the second year of high school and even though they still hang out together and go to and from school together, something unspoken hovers in the air between them. When one of Kakeru’s friends suggests they make up the numbers at a mixer, Kakeru agrees for the both of them – but is then confused when Yamato doesn’t seem at all keen. Kakeru also isn’t that keen but thinks it’s a good idea to go along (it’s that good ol’ ice-breaker, karaoke). Yet the minute Yamato shows up, all the girls become interested in him and Kakeru, thinking he’s doing this for Yamato’s sake, encourages him, talks him up enthusiastically, generally tries too hard – yet all the while, aware of a nagging inner voice that’s telling him to stop. (Was I annoying, maybe!? Too pushy? Too obvious!?) So, when he overhears Yamato telling the girls that his type is, “I guess a childhood friend I’ve known forever…?” only the timely arrival of some assorted snacks stops the conversation grinding to a complete halt and covers Kakeru’s embarrassment.
In many stories about childhood friends becoming lovers, this kind of public confession would lead to another and another – but not so for Kakeru and Yamato. Kakeru is both oblivious and in denial as to what he feels and Yamato, the more mature of the two, is unable to find the moment or the courage to confess. Time and again, they seem on the verge of admitting how they feel to each other – but even a glancing touch of hands or reaching out to catch the other’s arm on a darkened street is always interrupted by the sudden appearance of other people. To add to the misunderstandings, Kakeru has stayed in touch with Akane-chan, the girl he met at the mixer. He’s not sure if there’s any great significance in her texting him but, to his surprise, Yamato interprets it differently. And now there’s yet another contender for Kakeru’s affections: Mikoto, Yamato’s younger sister. “It’s not like he belongs to you,” she tells her brother, “so I can do whatever I want with him.” Sisters, huh? Is there any hope for this relationship to blossom – or is it doomed to fizzle out, extinguished by insurmountable communication problems?
This is Mika’s first manga to be published in English and, like several other recent manga picked up by US publishers, Gene Pixiv (Media Factory) (Sasaki and Miyano, (A Man and His Cat, Manly Appetites, Cherry Magic) it’s yet another series that started out as a web comic and caught readers’ attentions online. Mika’s art is attractive, although not very distinctive in character designs – yet skilled when focusing on character reactions and the comic timing of scenes in which Kakeru (yet again) says or does something immature and then immediately regrets it. Yet because of the way Mika is framing the story (mostly from Kakeru’s point of view until the last pages) this is not so much inviting the reader to laugh at Kakeru and his tendency to shoot himself in the foot, but to sympathize with his toe-curling embarrassment. The attractive cover deserves special mention with its subtle use of colour and the four colour plates at the beginning (one two-page spread) are also very easy on the eye.
The translation for Yen Press is by Jan Mitsuko Cash and captures the easy chatter of the two main characters and their friends well, as well as their more troubled inner voices. This is helped and reinforced by the expert variety of lettering employed by Alexis Eckerman, bringing many different techniques into use to put across a wide range of feelings. There are also two brief entries in the Translator’s Notes as well as the usual ‘use of honorifics’ explanation.
There are some yonkoma at the end of the book as well as a small extra chapter: Popsicle and the mangaka’s Afterword which says, “I’d be so happy if we could meet again in Volume 2.” Luckily for us, Yen Press have this scheduled to be released in June (2021).