I Can’t Say No to the Lonely Girl Volume 1 Review

“It was spring during my first year of high school. How did I find myself kissing a girl? I was supposed to have a normal high school life, yet… Somehow, little by little, the gears began to slip.” – Ayaka Sakurai, Chapter 1.

Today’s review is for the new Girls’ Love series I Can’t Say No to the Lonely Girl, published by Kodansha and serving as mangaka Kashikaze’s debut series (both in Japan and here in English). The blurb on the back cover promises us an “uproarious yuri rom-com”, but does it deliver something entertaining? Let’s find out!

The story follows Ayaka Sakurai who was top of the class through middle school and believed she could get into any school of her choosing. Unfortunately, on the day of the entrance exam for her first choice, she ended up failing, due to her anxiety. Now she’s at her backup choice, disappointed not to have been able to follow in her brother’s footsteps and frustrated by letting everyone down who had high expectations for her.

Now settled into her new school, Ayaka has applied to be the class representative – and homeroom teacher Egawa already has a task for her! It just so happens that Ayaka’s class has a student (called Honda) who isn’t attending class and Egawa wants Ayaka to bring her to school before this absence leaves a mark on Egawa’s flawless teaching record. Ayaka worries she’ll be out of her depth and tries to refuse, but the teacher promises to write our heroine a referral for any school of her choosing. This would mean she’d be able to skip the pesky exams that caused her problems for high school…

With an offer she can’t refuse, Ayaka accepts the task and heads straight to Honda’s house and is surprised to find she’s a familiar face from middle school! The two were in different classes, so while they weren’t friends, thanks to Ayaka’s reputation for being smart and athletic, Honda knew all about her.

Despite being encouraged to return to school, there’s no particular indication that Honda intends to do so and Ayaka understands this may be a long process. However, to her surprise, Honda does come to school the next day but also happens to overhear Ayaka and Egawa discussing their deal. Honda promises to keep quiet, but only if Ayaka fulfils a request every day in return – the first of which is to share a kiss!

Our protagonist is left incredibly confused by Honda’s advances, not least because the following requests are for more mundane tasks such as walking home together. Does Honda like her or is she just playing with her? And why does Ayaka find herself thinking about Honda all the time since they shared that first kiss? Perhaps, most importantly of all, what is it that led Honda to stop attending school?

I must confess that I am not a huge fan of the fact Ayaka is being blackmailed not only by Honda but also by Egawa. Unfortunately, the homeroom teacher isn’t satisfied with Honda just returning to class, she also wants her to perform well in class as well so Ayaka gets encouraged to tutor her. Mangaka Kashikaze puts a lot of emphasis on this side of the relationship between Ayaka and Honda due to the daily requests too, which can make the story feel uncomfortable at times. Even if our duo would have fallen in love naturally, now there’s the nagging sense that they’re growing closer because they’ve been forced together. And more than that, it’s strange to me how unbothered Ayaka is about the whole thing. She’s going along with Honda and Egawa with very few reservations once we get beyond Chapter 2, which feels like it takes away from what is usually a more serious concept.

Maybe I wouldn’t feel this way if the two leads were better developed. We know Ayaka’s anxiety caused her to spiral out during the entrance exam, but nowhere else in this volume are we shown Ayaka to be anything but a capable young woman who has her life in order (beyond the blackmail situation). There’s one scene that refers to Ayaka never being able to perform when it counts, but as this is also vaguely in connection to the exam, it’s hard to tell if there’s a pattern. As things stand, there’s not a lot of depth to her character and it feels like she’s being strung along by the plot, which leaves the first volume underwhelming. It’s hard to care about our lead when she’s more of a surrogate for the reader than a character in her own right.

Honda is also quite difficult to get a handle on so far. It’s hinted that she was jealous of Ayaka in middle school and that she misses her parents who got divorced. Her father has disappeared and her mother lives elsewhere to work, so Honda is all by herself. But none of that feels like the core issue, particularly not after she starts attending class and quickly makes friends with Ayaka’s friend group ensuring she’s no longer lonely. However, she does fare better than our protagonist overall since it feels like Kashikaze is drip-feeding us information that will eventually uncover the bigger picture behind her situation and that’s something I’m much more interested in at this stage than the romance.

Being Kashikaze’s debut work is perhaps why it feels as if the story lacks the polish it needs to truly thrive, but I will say that the artwork on display here is good. It’s a very clean line art with a focus on expressing the characters’ feelings through their facial expressions. Everyone has fairly distinct character designs too, even Ayaka’s friends who don’t get a lot of page time until the end. Before this series, Kashikaze was contributing to yuri anthologies and there’s a sense that they understand the genre and what readers want to see from those experiences. It’s just a shame that the rest of it doesn’t quite hold together.

As mentioned I Can’t Say No to the Lonely Girl Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Kodansha. This release has been translated by Diana Taylor with lettering by Belynda Ungurath and it reads well with no problems. The book is in one of Kodansha’s larger formats and comes with colour pages to open as well as some character profiles at the end, which are certainly nice to have!

The series is complete in Japan with six volumes in total. Here in English Kodansha has Volume 2 set to debut in May and #3 in July.

Overall, I Can’t Say No to the Lonely Girl Volume 1 gets the series off to a fairly mediocre start. While Kashikaze’s art is great, the story and especially Ayaka as our protagonist feels underbaked. Hopefully, it can be turned around in #2, but for now, there are better Girls’ Love series for you to spend your time with.

A free preview can be read on Kodansha’s website here.

Our review copy from Kodansha was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK.

6 / 10


When she's not watching anime, reading manga or reviewing, Demelza can generally be found exploring some kind of fantasy world and chasing her dreams of being a hero.

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