Mangaka Anashin had their English debut with Waiting for Spring, an inoffensive and by-the-books shojo series that didn’t set the world on fire but was a worthwhile read. Now the creator returns to the West with a new ongoing series How I Met My Soulmate, but will this one prove more ground-breaking? Let’s find out!
The story follows 20-year-old college student Yuuki, who has moved from the countryside to the big city of Tokyo in hopes of finding her soulmate. But despite having been here for over a year, Yuuki is still on her lonesome without having found a boyfriend or even friends to hang out with. Her only close friend is Sanae who also moved to Tokyo from a rural area, but unlike Yuuki, she’s taken to the big city incredibly quickly.
Now that Yuuki has turned 20, she’s resolved to change her habits and do all the outgoing things Tokyo students usually do. To help her in this endeavour, Sanae suggests that the two of them go clubbing which will surely up their chances of meeting that special someone. Of course, Yuuki has never been inside a club before and is quickly overwhelmed by how chaotic the atmosphere is. And things get worse when she meets Iori, a drunken man with bleached hair and a scary demeanour. Thanks to Sanae getting along with Iori’s friend, Yuuki feels like she can’t escape and spends the rest of the night nursing Iori.
Afterwards, Yuuki looks back upon the night as a total disaster so she’s surprised when Sanae tells her Iori wants to apologise for his behaviour and thank her for looking after him. Reluctantly Yuuki agrees to meet up and from there begins an unlikely friendship, with Iori promising to help Yuuki find her soulmate – but could it be that Iori is the one for her?
In many ways How I Met My Soulmate Volume 1 reminded me of Virgin Love, which I recently reviewed. To us readers it’s clear from the get-go that Iori is probably Yuuki’s soulmate and looking elsewhere is wasting time that could be spent on getting the two of them together. However, unlike Virgin Love where the pair should have just gotten together there and then, here it’s understandable why this story moves in a different direction.
Yuuki is still quite naïve and she’s written off Iori as a love interest due to his troublesome personality (he can be blunt and forthright in the way he communicates). Meanwhile, Iori himself thinks Yuuki is pining for her first love, a high school boy whom she made bentos for every day but never got any closer to him than that. The more time the pair spend together, the closer they get but just before Iori can make a move, that very same boy Yuuki had a crush on makes an appearance! She’s convinced this is fate and ignores the red flags that appear, but Iori isn’t so sure and soon finds himself meddling…
Similar to Anashin’s previous work Waiting for Spring, this series feels like an exercise in box-ticking. There are plenty of your usual shojo staples here and it has to be said that Yuuki’s airheaded, oblivious personality is one of those. Having an older cast of characters almost works against it as it often feels like this level of drama belongs in high school and not with 20-year-olds, but I think for all the issues I have with Yuuki, she’s balanced out relatively well by Iori.
But character concerns aside, I like what How I Met My Soulmate is offering – particularly in the art department. Anashin’s output is polished and good at showing how Iori and Yuuki feel about each other without it being put into words. Backgrounds can be a little bland or empty as the chapters go on, but I’m willing to forgive this as there’s always plenty of detail when it comes to the characters themselves. All of the male characters have very distinct designs as well, which is important, given there are quite a few, even besides Iori and Yuuki’s first crush! Ultimately, you’re left wondering what the future has in store for these characters and provided you don’t dislike their personalities, you’ll certainly be back for Volume 2.
How I Met My Soulmate Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Kodansha and has been translated by Sawa Matsueda Savage with lettering by Lys Blakeslee. The release reads well with no issues to note. There are some translation notes included at the end and to open we’re treated to a colour spread showing the main characters (although Iori has yet another shade of dyed hair here, so you may not recognise him right away).
As mentioned earlier, the series is ongoing in Japan with 4 volumes currently published. Here in English Kodansha has Volume 2 scheduled for early March with #3 following in June and #4 in September. Surprisingly for Kodansha, the series has not been released digitally before coming to print, so there’s no getting around the wait this time!
Overall, How I Met My Soulmate Volume 1 is a fairly by-the-books but still interesting shojo series. Some readers will be attracted to the prospect of having older lead characters, while others will simply stick around to enjoy Anashin’s polished storytelling. This isn’t the best romance manga out there by a long way, but it’s a welcome addition for fans of the genre and delivers exactly what it advertises.
A free preview can be read on Kodansha’s website here.
Our review copy from Kodansha was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK.