July 5, 2015
Takashi Ikeda – One Peace Books – 2014 – 9 volumes
this is an omnibus containing vols. 1-3
I read the first volume of Citrus the other day, so I thought it was only fair to give Whispered Words a try. I’ve got a few other yuri-ish series as well (Kisses Sighs and Cherry Blossoms Pink, Sweet Blue Flowers, and maybe the second volume of Maka Maka somewhere…), but Whispered Words seemed like the best choice. These volumes are HUGE.
The premise is the usual romance manga set-up. Sumiko has a huge crush on her best friend Ushio. Ushio is a lesbian, but only likes cute girls, who Sumiko is not. Not wanting to ruin their friendship, Sumiko says nothing, but it kills her to watch Ushio chase cute girls and get her heart broken regularly.
I liked this series a lot, actually. It was quiet, subtle… read a lot more like real life than the usual rom-com. I liked the character of Sumiko in particular. Tall, very athletic, and very smart, she believes there’s nothing cute about her. Normally such characters are popular savants, but in this case, all these things make Sumiko (allegedly) less desirable to Ushio. And Ushio is clueless to Sumiko’s feelings pretty much all the way to the end of the omnibus here, though things are changing towards the end.
There’s a lot of fun characters that pass in and out of the story here, too. Sumiko and Ushio gain a lot of friends along the way. They have a third background-ish friend at the beginning of the series, and later a pair of lesbians start hanging out with them, as Ushio wishes for like-minded ladies to help her land a girlfriend. The couple sees through Sumiko’s struggle, and try to help her out with the clueless Ushio. Though not in the usual romcom manga way. They do legitimately helpful things that don’t backfire, like helping their groups split up so that Sumiko and Ushio will be together, pushing one or the other into a situation, et cetera. It’s cute.
At one point, there’s a cute boy with a crush on Sumiko. He also likes (?) to dress in women’s clothes, and in his female persona, he’s cute enough that Ushio is wild for her. It’s not clear if he’s trans, or merely likes women’s fashion, but later he does point out his gender doesn’t really make a difference, since Sumiko is the one he loves, and she loves someone else.
Sumiko picks up another admirer later, a lover of yuri romance novels who has never had a friend before. Her story is legitimately sad, and I loved that Sumiko made a friend out of her over the course of a couple chapters. Later, Lotte, the adorable German exchange student, latches on to Sumiko as a (wo)manly role model, which drives Ushio up the wall since Lotte is a cute girl who refuses to do anything cute.
There’s a couple of downsides. One is that it moves SLOWLY. This is a by-product of its realistic, slice-of-life nature, but as much as I like the characters… it feels like not a whole lot changes in this first omnibus… then it starts to change really fast in the last third. Which is good, I tore through the last part of it. But it took me several days to work my way through the first 2/3rds. The other problem with it being slow is that it does All The Manga Things. Chapters start moving through the usual tropes: the beach, the water park, the sports festival, the new exchange student coming between them… I’ve read too much manga, because these things in succession are painful to read if not done right, and this series is just a little too ponderous to pull them off.
And there are rom-com elements. Maid outfits are out in full force. There’s some outright gags thrown in from time to time, and some characters make a habit of being loud and clueless. But it’s toned way down from the usual romcom manga, which I appreciated.
But I did like it better than Citrus. I thought it was a better, more sensitive romance, and I loved the characters. Sumiko is a likable heroine, and she’s easy to root for (though I liked the boy from the beginning of the series). I’m happy that we get three huge omnibus volumes that cover the entire series in English. No waiting, thanks One Peace Books!