Mangaka Monika Kaname may have already made their English debut with Demoted to a Teacher, The Strongest Sage Raises an Unbeatable Class (available on MANGA UP!) but as this manga was based on a light novel, the creator was only responsible for the artwork. However, now we’re seeing an original work all of their own as Yen Press has released the first volume of Sunbeams in the Sky. Does it prove interesting? Let’s find out!
The story follows twin sisters Himari and Mio Akeno, who after spending every moment at each other’s sides have chosen to attend different high schools. Mio is initially upset by this, but Himari promises to meet and talk to her once a week (she’ll be living in a dorm so she won’t be at home) and Mio understands deep down that this is the right decision for her sister.
One day, Himari is confessed to by a fellow student but wishing to focus on her studies Himari decides to turn him down. Unfortunately, this leads to him hiring a group of thugs to attack her and the next thing Himari knows, she’s waking up in a hospital bed. Thereafter she becomes a shut-in, but she still dreams of being able to attend school and living out ordinary days as her sister does.
Mio wants to make Himari’s dreams come true, particularly now that a few months have passed since the incident. And she thinks she has the perfect plan. One morning she begs Mio to go to school in her place as she’s caught a cold, but instead of calling in sick, she figures Himari could just pretend to be her! Plus most importantly, her crush Asaka has a basketball game that day and Mio wants Himari to cheer for him and take pictures.
Reluctantly Himari agrees to the plan and heads to school where she runs into Mio’s seatmate Tsukiyono (who she initially mistakes for Asaka as he’s quite handsome). She ends up relying on him to get through the day, partly because she quickly discovers Mio didn’t pack any of her textbooks! Later, when she attends the boy’s basketball game, Tsukiyono protects her from being hit by a stray basketball but being so close to a boy so suddenly gives Himari flashbacks to her attack and she roughly shoves Tsukiyono away before running off.
Once back home, Himari asks Mio to apologise for her, but Mio reasons that she shouldn’t be apologising for things that have nothing to do with her and tells Himari she should just attend school in her place again tomorrow and fix things herself. Reluctantly Himari does go to school again the next day and after that as well, but she knows this can’t last forever. so what will happen when it all ends?
Despite looking the same, Himari and Mio are very different in terms of their personalities and Mio’s best friend (who is told about the swap) is quick to warn Himari that her mature and quiet attitude is likely to appear odd compared to Mio who’s ditzy and constantly pestering Asaka for attention. So it’s too risky to keep this up for long, particularly as Tsukiyono is beginning to notice a difference between the twins.
But Volume 1 of this series doesn’t get far enough to deal with any of that, so for now we’re left wondering when and how it’s all going to come tumbling down. This series is already complete in Japan with three volumes, so there’s not a lot of room to develop the story which may prove a blessing and a curse. Right now mangaka Monika Kaname is clearly trying to focus on the romance, with Himari falling for Tsukiyono and whatever is going on between Mio and Asaka and that’s fine but it doesn’t tie back to Himari’s incident and desire to return to school. And because it doesn’t focus on her fears, that part of the plot just doesn’t fit very well.
It’s disappointing to see Himari’s attack put aside as nothing but a device to get her in a position where she could swap places with Mio. Likewise, her fear of men only creeps to the surface when the story needs to move along. After all, on her first day sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with Tsukiyono, there were no problems. It’s an inconsistency at best, and actively frustrating at worst, depending on what you’re looking for from the series.
As far as the romance goes, it’s difficult to get invested in Mio and Asaka as he comes off completely indifferent to her existence. With Himari it’s easy to see why she’s falling for Tsukiyono, given his kindness on her first day, but as this whole story started with her turning down a boy to focus on her studies, it’s again inconsistent.
I’m hoping some of these problems will smooth out as the series goes on, although there’s not a lot of time for that. It’s a shame the manga has gotten off on the wrong foot too as Kaname’s art is attractive and clean, while also offering plenty of detail. Although it is technically a shonen series due to running in GFantasy, the style of the art is more akin to shojo and will surely attract readers of both demographics.
As previously mentioned, Sunbeams in the Sky Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Yen Press and has been translated by Julie Goniwich with lettering by Rochelle Gancio. The release reads well with no issues to note. There are some translation notes included but these are oddly placed before the final chapter, so you could easily miss them. Also of note is the fact that there’s a colour page at the beginning.
Volume 2 of the series is due for an English release in August. However, the third and final book has yet to be scheduled, meaning there could be quite a gap which is a shame when it’s the end.
Overall, Sunbeams in the Sky Volume 1 gets off to a bumpy start as it fails to stay consistent with its narrative nor keep the beginning relevant. However, if it smooths out those issues going forward, then there’s potential for this short series to be charming. Your mileage will vary a lot based on what you want from this one and that’s okay.