This little series makes me so mad.
Oh don’t get me wrong — right off the bat: I highly recommend reading this, it’s one of my favorite manga. That’s the problem. I was greatly entertained and intrigued by this series…yet it is three and a half chapters long. It began as a one-shot, and with every new chapter it felt like it was over for sure. Each release took a great deal of time to come around, and yet even with the spaces between or read all at once, it’s really good. And it’s done. There isn’t any more of it. What the HELL.
As an English reader, the easiest way to find out about this series is to look for the manga titled Out of the Blue! (アウトオフザブルー！). That said, that’s only the title of the initial one-shot/chapter 1. Chapters 2 and 3 were called Fleeing From my Best Friend (逃げたい親友, Nigetai Shinyuu). Finally, there’s an extra story collected along with the others titled Come Home Hungry (お腹をすかせて帰ってくるね, Onaka wo Sukasete Kaettekuru Ne), and the title of the tankoubon in which all of this was bound? The official title of the work? It’s i love you yori aisiteru (愛羅武勇より愛してる, I Love You More than “I Love You”, also I Love You yori Aishiteru or Ai Rabu Yuu yori Aishiteru), which seems like it might be a reference to an old album from the 1970s.
Thanks a lot, Kumichou (くみちょう, the author). Anyway, this is a yuri romance manga that ends very quickly but feels quite full, runs through some fairly unexpected turns, and is very heartfelt while also being regularly and casually humorous. To me, it is BEGGING to be expanded, but it’s over. GRAAAAHHH!!
So, i love you yori aisiteru opens with a transfer student beginning to go to school from an urban environment in the East to a more suburban environment in the West (really simplifying it). She is Takaoka Risa, the girl with glasses in the first two images from this article. She’s smart and fairly good looking, but rather…well, she’s not the sort of character I’d call an “Ice Queen”, necessarily; it’s more like she doesn’t give a fuck about anything. She’s a quiet sort who can’t be bothered with dramatics, and isn’t really interested in making friends. Still: pretty, smart, and aloof = attractive so she gets a lot of admirers. As she gets admirers, she ends up aggravating the more punkish and thuggish girls in her school, who see her as haughty competition. Here is where our first title comes in.
Coming to her rescue is an infamous delinquent classmate of Risa’s, Shinjou Kazumi. I don’t know about you, but I am always instantly drawn toward delinquent main characters, even more so when they’re love interests. After all, they tend to be innocently honest, demonstrating rogueish charm and often a soft heart, and that appeals to me greatly. Kazumi is no exception.
The basis of the series is that Risa, looking to repay the favor for being saved, agrees to help Kazumi out with studying. Unsurprisingly, they get closer over time between studying and occasionally hanging out. Perhaps surprisingly, they don’t both nurture yuri feelings and go doki doki whenever they’re in a room alone. Actually, they only become friends after Risa’s like “hey, why don’t we become friends?” when Kazumi confesses that she was interested in Risa, who she thought was “cool”.
And then…they’re friends. The first chapter is basically about them becoming friends, and there’s a strong feeling of believably in their relationship. It doesn’t have the fluttery, somewhat dramatic feeling I usually get from yuri; they just naturally get closer until a point where their friendship is tested. Partly this test comes about because a teacher got in the way, trying to separate Risa (good reputation) from Kazumi (bad reputation), but more interestingly Kumichou plays with how Risa’s aloofness and general lack of care, while amusing, can be surprisingly mean whether she really intends it or not.
Chapter 1 ultimately culminates with Risa confirming that Kazumi has become a person she really likes. Angry at herself, she goes to Kazumi and reconciles, at which point the first page of this article comes up. In an amusing twist, the “less emotional” of the two characters falls in love with the other and reveals her feelings in an offhand comment. Kazumi, on the other hand, only likes Risa as a friend. This becomes the central issue of the remaining chapters. After this, we swap narrative perspective and view Risa from the outside through Kazumi’s eyes. As it turns out, a Risa in love is a Risa on the hunt.
Most of the series shuffles between relatable friendly moments and Risa’s attempts at pushing forward romance. Both of them haven’t really had friends or love before — Risa reacts by going all out but not being overbearing, while Kazumi simply tries to decide what to do and sort out what their relationship truly is. It’s a nice exploration of the issue and it’s nice how we see the two of them truly become close friends (and perhaps maybe more than friends…?) until the end. I particularly like this series because Risa doesn’t really play by rules I’ve come to expect out of fiction. She carries herself with confidence and is indeed very forward, which isn’t the initial impression I got from her character. Even after you start to get used to her acts as a person in love, she has a few other surprises in store. Meanwhile, Kazumi is always very cute, and the dilemma she feels over her newfound best friend feels quite genuine.
i love you yori aishiteru is a series that just made me feel good. In a yuri context it has a bit of a weird vibe in that it’s not being very standard since one of the two love interests is honestly struggling with where she wants to go with all this. Admittedly this isn’t unique, but I haven’t seen it often and when I do that character doesn’t seem to take long to come to a decision. Technically Kazumi is also quick to decide, but there’s a fair length of time from the start of the series to the end, and each chapter is quite long. It didn’t feel like she took too long or decided too fast and thus I was left mostly satisfied. Mostly. Like I said, I very much wanted more.
Ano Ko ni Kiss to Shirayuri Wo is a yuri manga that feels as if it is artificially holding off on progressing the main characters’ relationship in order to keep the series going (this is something I’ll talk about when I review it). I hold that against it just a little bit, although it ultimately works in a good amount to the series’ favor. However, if I got the length of Ano Ko ni Kiss with the plot and characters of i love you yori aisiteru (not that I’m implying the characters in Ano Ko ni Kiss are subpar or something), I would be ecstatic. I just wanted to see more moments between these characters, more developments, and just more in general to be fully satisfied. I think I’m going to have to settle for keeping an eye on Kumichou’s future works, although it doesn’t seem as though they draw very much in the way of original works. And what’s more, not very much yuri…! Do you understand this frustration I feel? I discovered magic, but there will be little more of it, if any more at all.
Well I love this, though, and am happy to have bought it (and that buying it was even possible).
I also really love Kumichou’s art style. It’s soft… Exceedingly easy on the eyes.
I will continue to read i love you yori aisiteru into the future, I’m sure, because reading it fills me with joy. I’m hoping Kumichou makes more yuri, or just makes more manga. I just noticed they started another title in 2015, Aidore! Green Rhapsody… I’ll have to look into that. If you want to buy this manga, you may do so via Bookwalker (guide), CDJapan, honto (guide), or ebookjapan. Anyway, it’s 1 minute to midnight from where I’m sitting, so technically I actually got this review out on Monday like I promised to myself I would. SCHEDULE KEPT. On Wednesday, I’ll be reviewing another yuri manga, but unlike this one it’s horribly lewd… I debated whether to go ahead and review it, but I have finally decided to bite the bullet. See you then (or not, if you’re pure of heart). Thanks for reading.