We Were There 16

June 28, 2015

Yuuki Obata – Viz – 2013 – 16 volumes

Yay, it’s always so satisfying to read the ending of a shoujo series.  Well, usually.  This ended how I thought it would, so it was nice to see the story wrapped up so nicely and sentimentally.  I’ve held a grudge against Yano for the past several volumes, but I loved seeing Nanami and Yano so happy here.

There’s not much I can say about this.  It ends just about how you would expect it to.  Yano drags his feet about getting back in touch with Nanami, circumstances intervene, a tragedy happens, then things wrap up.

Worth the emotional misery of the last few volumes:  the scene at the end in the field.  It was ADORABLE.  And all the talk between the two about making up for five years of being apart.

Again, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the last several volumes, and I’m still not sure I like Yano, but man, this series is a classic.  Read it with Honey and Clover, Sand Chronicles, Hot Gimmick, Peach Girl, Seiho Boy’s High School, and Paradise Kiss if you want to have your contemporary shoujo socks knocked off.

Please don’t remind me that Peach Girl is old enough to drive.  I will cry.

We Were There 15

June 16, 2015

Yuuki Obata – Viz – 2012 – 16 volumes

Continuing on my recent quest to finish up old favorites, I picked up the last two volumes of We Were There.  I may have let this one languish because, as good as it is (shoujo melodrama doesn’t get much better than this), it’s almost too good at what it does.  It’s a bit uncomfortable to read.  And I hated that Nana had never given up on Yano, who still doesn’t strike me as a good guy.

But everything is just so… sweet and sad here.  Yano and Takeuchi hang out at the beginning of this volume, and it’s clear that Takeuchi, despite being flatly rejected by Nana, seems to still think that Nana is best for Yano.  He just wants to see them happy, because he is a good guy.

And Yano and Nana both… well, Nana, at least, keeps thinking about Yano.  Yano is occupied by Yamamoto’s family troubles, but is still thinking of Nana.  Sometimes.

There is an awesome scene between Yano and Nana’s friend Sengenji.  She basically lays it out for him, because she can somehow read him like a book.

I like that the characters age, and I love the soap.  I really do.  But part of my rapidly maturing and withering heart wishes Nana could have found a better guy after all these years.  On the other hand, then it wouldn’t be the storybook shoujo manga thing anymore.

So here’s hoping for a happy ending in volume 16!  Part of me wonders if that is even possible anymore but then again, it is a shoujo manga.

We Were There 14

May 10, 2012

Yuuki Obata – Viz – 2012 – 15+ volumes

Oh, this series. I still haven’t really gotten over the fact I hate Yano. Regardless of his circumstances (and he explains in this volume that they were more dire than simply not being able to leave Yamamoto by herself), he’s still a complete jerk, and this whole thing where he has to suffer for… something is really annoying.

And yet, I keep coming back to We Were There. It’s very good, even still, and this has been the best volume in a long time. Nana and Yano talk a lot here, and there are things settled between them. There was some closure, and better yet, some direction for the future. While I love and adore the fact the characters grew up and we’re still following their lives, I was having trouble wading through the past few volumes of self-pity and indecision. Drama and melancholy are the dominant traits of this series, but there just aren’t many series that can pull it off as heartbreakingly realistic as We Were There.

Nana and Takeuchi also have more than a couple talks in this volume. Nana is right, in some sense, in that she’s doing the same thing to Takeuchi that Yano is doing to her. But Nana is less of a jerk about it, and can at least admit to Takeuchi’s face that he isn’t the one for her. Takeuchi is nothing if not patient, however, and there’s more to it than that. More than the much-needed conversations with Yano, it’s these delicate and very heartbreaking moments with Takeuchi that made this volume a good read. Takeuchi doesn’t even have that many appearances, or even much dialogue. But he’s still the star of this volume for me, and I feel terrible for him. And really, Nana, if you can’t be with the one you love, honey, love the one you’re with.

We only get one volume of this a year now, and my interest was waning after the past few mopey, directionless volumes. The story was working its way slowly to this, though, and the wait was worth it. It’s great stuff, much deeper than most of what you’ll find in shoujo manga. It’s probably a bit too depressing for some, but it’s good stuff. Even after all these years.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

We Were There 12

January 2, 2012

Yuki Obata – Viz – 2011 – 15+ volumes

One more book I skipped reviewing. Somewhere, there’s a volume of Knights of the Zodiac, too, and when I find it, I’ll write that one up. I also lost a copy of Seiho Boys’ High School 6, if you happen to run across it somewhere, but I already reviewed it here. Obviously I’m doing some sorting and cataloging over my winter holiday.

Anyway. This series makes it very hard to sympathize with The Other Woman. I’m not exactly sure how that works, though. The story is told from Nanami’s point of view, so we’ve been right there with her as she fell in love and went through all the teenage drama with Yano, and when he made all the promises and disappeared. And we’ve been with her into her adult years as she waited and looked and tried to get over it but couldn’t. So it’s easy to get angry at any other woman that might desire to date Yano.

On the other hand… if Yano doesn’t chose Nanami… isn’t that his choice? It’s less of a shoujo manga that way, and granted, The Other Woman isn’t written to be sympathetic. But she tried just as hard. And she succeeded. My brain is telling me that it doesn’t really matter, but that’s just not how shoujo manga works. It also doesn’t help that Yano is a complete jerk about everything. He always has been, though.

The big thing here is that the story catches up to Yano, and we find out what he’s been up to and how his life has gone once he left Nanami. His reasons are terrible, and it’s really easy to just hate his guts. He doesn’t seem that happy. Nobody does. This is where the shoujo manga logic kicks in again, because someone should be happy here. Not even The Other Woman seems all that pleased with herself. She just succeeded, is all.

Bah. Yano, you jerk. I don’t even know why I care anymore. Well, I do know why I care. This is unparalleled soap opera drama. That the characters have aged and are now doing this crap as adults is a huge bonus, since these stories never follow characters into adulthood, with adult problems like this. This is another reason why We Were There is worth reading. But I must admit, you have to have an awful high tolerance for melodrama (which I totally do) and also forgive the characters a lot of understandable faults in order to enjoy this.

We Were There 13

November 12, 2011

Yuuki Obata – Viz – 2011 – 15+ volumes

I like this series, and I’m happy to see that it’s continued after its hiatus in Japan. But this volume… I was thinking that there wasn’t too much story left to tell, either Nanami would or wouldn’t find Yano. But this volume makes it seem like Nanami and Yano are going to go through all this emotional stuff all over again. We Were There is one of the best at emotional stuff, to be sure. No series captures drama with quite the same degree of melancholy, cutting accuracy. You really feel just how depressed all these characters are. The supporting characters’ concern oozes off the page. And you can taste Yano’s lies in your own mouth.

All the same, we’ve been over all this before. Has the story really circled back around to become about whether Yano loves Nanami enough to be with her? Are we really still dealing with Yamamoto? And I hate that Yano seems to deny himself because he’s surrounded by clingy women he can’t say no to. He’s basically just put his mother, Yamamoto, and her sister Nana all in the same camp, and denies himself because he can’t say no. They’re not strong enough to live without him. Really?

I’m not sure how I feel about the marriage proposal, and how much of the volume was devoted to Nanami. She made many good decisions along the way, and I like that there was no right answer to her problem. Yes, Takeuchi has been there for her all this time. Yes, she shouldn’t marry him if she can’t forget Yano. Yes, she should just forget Yano since he made such a point of dropping off the face of the Earth. She put serious thought into this problem, and whether or not she should let her chance to see Yano pass since he clearly doesn’t want to see her. But this was basically what went on through the entire book. I hated seeing it stretched out over so many pages and situations.

But I can’t overstate how well it’s written. It may be circling itself, and it may be dragging its feet and filling 200 pages with stuff that can be condensed in 50, but I can’t stop reading it. It still really knows how to tug your heartstrings, and that’s what I like best about reading shoujo manga. I can’t give up on Nanami and Yano until they get together as adults. And I still really like the fact this graduated from high school romance into adulthood. It may be circling, but now that Nanami and Yano have full control of their lives, once they’ve made up their minds there won’t be any outside forces to take them apart. I’m in it for the long haul, now.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

We Were There 11

June 11, 2010

Yuki Obata – Viz – 2010 – 13+ volumes

I read this and Sand Chronicles on the same night, because I wanted to see which one I liked better.  It’s hard.  It’s really hard.  Sand Chronicles is more about Ann’s personal problems and her journey through adolescence, problems in early adulthood, and the torch she carries for Daigo and how that and the death of her mother have affected her life.  We Were There is more… well, easy to relate to, at least for me.  The characters are very melodramatic, but their feelings are all sincere, and all the over-the-top things they say seem to reflect the nature of being in love in your teens.

Both series flash forward to show that the heroine is being held back (at least in her love life, it doesn’t really seem to affect Takahashi in this series) by the boy they dated in high school.  In the case of We Were There, Takahashi hasn’t been looking and seems relatively content at her job, whereas Ann had been looking, had been shot down very badly at least once, and wasn’t in a good place in her life.

The personal journey in Sand Chronicles wound up being excellent in the end, despite my misgivings about the see-saw nature of Ann’s feelings during some of the middle volumes.  We Were There is making up for the positive feelings of Takahashi by making Motoharu’s life as lousy as possible.  He’s in a new town, and very sad because not only is he away from his girlfriend, but his mother is fighting cancer.  He dotes on Takahashi, but doesn’t tell her about his mother’s cancer or about the fact he needs to work two part-time jobs while going to school to support his household,  He doesn’t want Takahashi to worry, because she is his last bastion of happiness, and not even the persistent girl at school can crack his devotion to her.  As things with his mother deteriorate and his real father’s wife shows up to try and claim him, things get increasingly terrible, then the absolute worst thing in the world happens.

The series doesn’t comment much on it, aside from giving a reason he simply gave up his old life the way he did.  I assume we’ll see Yano’s thoughts, as he seems ready to reappear in the present in the next volume, but even after this downer of a flashback, in the present, Takahashi is doing well.  She’s happy, if a little overworked, and things between her and Yano’s former best friend are doing well, too.  Two things are set to happen next volume, both involve men and Takahashi, and both have been in the making for at least two volumes now, so I’m very much looking forward to seeing how the pieces in the happy present fall out.

One thing:  After Motoharu’s mom begins cracking up mentally, he has a phone conversation with Takahashi on his birthday.  While talking, they play an imagination game together, and it was so cheesy and over the top beautiful that it made me tear up a little bit and want to call my currently absent roommate very badly at, like, one in the morning.

So the verdict is basically that Sand Chronicles and We Were There are very different series, despite having similar and very sincere characters, drama-heavy, light on humor, aimed at a slightly older audience (I don’t care what magazine they ran in, they are), and told in the form of a flashback.  They’re both very good, but Ann and Takahashi are too different to compare, and that’s what makes the series dissimilar.  That also speaks to how well the characters are written in both series.

Sand Chronicles is over, but We Were There still has a couple volumes to go to catch up with Japan, and then we must wait for more to come out.  Still, its worth the wait, because drama-heavy shoujo (borderline josei, at this point) is hard to come by, and We Were There has been consistently good, if melodramatic, all the way through.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.

We Were There 10

April 8, 2010

Yuki Obata – Viz – 2010 – 13+ volumes

As much as I love this series, I think I will dread reading every new volume after the things we learned in the last one.  This volume starts what is at least a 2-volume flashback telling Yano’s story while he was in high school.  I know it doesn’t go anywhere I want it to.  I keep thinking that the information we received in the last volume won’t be what I think it is, but… yeah.  The end of this volume leaves very little room for doubt.

To be fair, I like the technique, in retrospect.  We are learning Yano’s side of the story firsthand, so we can see just how badly things went for him in Tokyo.  We aren’t tainted by Nanami’s feelings or anything like that… we are just seeing things how they happen.  I also like the way Sengenji is being handled, too.  She’s sympathetic, and nothing she does is particularly underhand or even mean-spirited, it’s just how any normal, nice high school girl with a crush would act.  It’s hard to hate her in Yano’s version of the story, as you inevitably would if we were learning things from Nana’s side.

The dread I felt in reading this, knowing it was going into a slow crash-and-burn, was nothing compared to what was happening to Yano.  The bad feelings just stacked up as his mother began having money problems, he began working whenever he wasn’t at school and letting his studies slide, and then something terrible happened to his mother.  Even the good things he tries to call to himself, like Lalami, just aren’t working for him.

How depressing.  On one hand, I think the next volume will be more uplifting because Sengenji will be there for him.  On the other hand, the Sengenji issue could have been avoided if he would only open up to Nanami more.  Yano isn’t exactly a sympathetic character.  At all.  Actually, yes, there’s even more Yamamoto abuse in this volume, although I just… hate her role.  I hate how both she and Yano act, and Yano finally makes things clear between them.

Depressing, but still an excellent read.  Probably still at the very top of my good, non-trashy shoujo stack, although I have to admit the downers in every volume do wear on you after awhile.  That’s just what it does, though.

This was a review copy provided by Viz.