As romance manga has often taught us, first love is often doomed to fail. In Kodansha’s new debut Run Away With Me, Girl Volume 1, we find out what happens when two people are reunited as adults and still have a spark between them, despite the high school romance not working out. Now in very different positions in life, will love finally prevail?
Our story follows Maki, who attended an all-girls high school and was dating classmate Midori. Although the two were happy with their relationship, when graduation rolled around Midori suddenly asked to break up, saying that they were too old to be fooling around dating girls. The two didn’t even stay friends and Midori disappeared from Maki’s life immediately afterwards.
Now ten years have passed and Maki still thinks about Midori and the days they spent together while her friends and coworkers are talking about getting married and settling down. They’re also keen to see Maki consider marriage too, something she complains about to her friend Komari (who also happens to know the full story about her and Midori).
One day Maki happens to run into Midori, who’s excited to see her old friend and talks to her like they haven’t been apart for a whole decade. However, while they might be able to talk like old times, Midori soon reveals that she’s now engaged which shows she moved on from Maki with no trouble while our protagonist stays rooted in the past. Midori is keen not to lose touch with Maki again and they exchange numbers with Midori quickly inviting Maki to her place so they can spend more time catching up.
It’s when Maki makes this trip to Midori’s apartment that she quickly realises things aren’t as great as Midori’s been making out. When her soon-to-be-husband Tazune arrives home early from work and Maki has dinner with them, something about how he treats Midori sends alarm bells ringing. He’s charming enough but makes pointed comments that shake Midori’s self-confidence and belittle her. Maki can’t help but have a bad feeling about their relationship despite Midori’s happy laughter and excuses for his behaviour. Maki even begins to wonder if her former girlfriend wouldn’t be happier if she just ran away from it all, preferably with Maki by her side.
The first half of this volume is told from Maki’s perspective, while the second half alternates between her, Midori and Tazune which gives us a better idea of what’s going on here. Without going into specific details, I will say creator Battan has done a good job of fleshing each character out and their reasons for where they find themselves in the world. Although the mangaka has other titles to their name in Japanese, this is their English debut and I think it’s an excellent one to start with.
Kodansha’s marketing has recommended this one for fans of How Do We Relationship? or Even Though We’re Adults, an assessment I more or less agree with. While this is a romance series, it’s not about the romance so much as the path each character walks and having them figure out their desires and identities. For example, while Midori may have dismissed her relationship with Maki in high school as “fooling around”, it’s clear that she wasn’t repulsed by the idea of being gay or dating a woman. Even after reuniting with Maki, she’s immediately touchy with her former lover. They hold hands regularly and even share a goodbye kiss at one point. She wishes to return to simpler times and whether that’s because she genuinely still has romantic feelings for Maki or is wishing for an escape from her present-day problems is yet to be seen, but it’s certainly a compelling part of the story either way.
Maki meanwhile just wants what’s best for Midori, but while everyone has been going on about marriage this reunion is proving a good distraction. She, too, can feel like she’s back in the past where the world sparkled simply because Midori was by her side. I confess, Maki is the character I feel the sorriest for in all this since she’ll be the one irreversibly hurt should something happen to Midori or if she gets left by the wayside and forgotten about like ten years ago.
So, the story is a good one, but what about the artwork? I hear you ask. Well, Battan delivers in this department as well. While backgrounds are often quite simple or not used, Battan is good at depicting the emotions of the two main characters – both the ones they’re openly expressing and thoughts left unsaid. There’s not too much dialogue from page to page, so you’re given the time to let a scene sink in and admire the art. That’s something that works well in a series as emotionally charged as this one can be.
As previously mentioned Run Away With Me, Girl Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Kodansha where it has been translated by Kevin Steinbach with lettering by Jennifer Skarupa. The translation reads well and there are helpful translation notes at the back of the book, one of which explains a line that loses a little bit of nuance in the transition from Japanese to English since it revolves around Tazune using ‘ore’ instead of ‘boku’ to refer to himself, something he’s seemingly doing to be more assertive in that situation and is difficult to convey in English.
The series is complete in Japan with four volumes digitally and three in print (I think they just combined the last two volumes for print). Here in English, it looks like Kodansha are following the three-volume approach, with Volume 2 scheduled for a release in February and #3 following in May. This release includes some colour pages, but for some reason, they’re at the back of the book instead of the front so they act as a post-read treat, I suppose.
Overall Run Away With Me, Girl Volume 1 is off to an excellent start. This is a story about adult characters with adult problems, which is difficult to find in the manga market let alone in the niche Girls’ Love genre. As long as you’re okay with the heavier elements of the plot (like domestic abuse) this is a highly recommendable read.
A free preview can be read on the publisher’s website here.