Fantastic, superb, visual manga.
The three manga I’ll be recommending this week, as usual, have a connecting similarity. In this case, all three are phenomenal. The first is Akebi-chan’s Sailor Uniform (明日ちゃんのセーラー服, Akebi-chan no Serafuku) by hiro (博) (notably the mangaka behind Yumekuri), which is in my opinion a truly special manga. As I stated to begin this article, it’s very…visual.
This sequence takes up almost half of the prologue and is essentially how the manga starts. Most of Akebi-chan’s Sailor Uniform has an extreme focus on just looking at things. Wordless, soundless, visual splendor abounds. Putting aside this factor the series has a mostly standard premise, though that doesn’t stop it from being special and incredibly good. It’s a slice of life series about a girl and the friends she makes, with some yuri undertones. Still, its sheer atmosphere and style really captured my attention. Upon reading all of what was available translated, I immediately sought out volume 1 and read the latest untranslated chapters. This series is, simply put, awesome, and I’m quite happy it exists.
Akebi Komichi is an incredibly enthusiastic, tomboyish country girl who has recently been accepted to the middle school her mother went to. It’s prestigious and all that, and despite being in the Japanese countryside the classes will be big because it’s a famous school, but more importantly its students get to wear sailor uniforms. Komichi is infatuated with the idea of wearing a beautiful sailor uniform like her mother’s. This is partly because her mother wore one, and partly due to her wanting to be like her favorite idol, Fukumoto Miki.
Unfortunately for Komichi, she has yet to become fully cognizant of another somewhat large focus of this manga.
Embarrassment. (sound familiar?)
Indeed, although wearing a sailor uniform (a somewhat old style of school uniform) is allowed at Komichi’s new school (though unexpected), they don’t actually…use sailor uniforms (they use blazers). In fact, this scene is something of a gut punch even though you can kind of see it coming, since the prologue is all about how excited Komichi is about her new uniform, and chapter 1 is mostly about how her mother, a dressmaker, selects the materials and creates the uniform that Komichi so dearly wanted.
Although she falls into despair upon coming home, her younger sister, Kao, spanks her back into shape.
After this, Komichi determines to wear the uniform regardless of potential embarrassment, and the series may properly begin. Also, you may have noticed something by now, something I’ve alluded to but for some reason haven’t explicitly mentioned.
This series is…hmm…
How do I put this? It’s somewhat…
This series is extremely, and almost entirely, innocent, yet it’s undoubtable that if a thing about it could be called “perverted” it would be the author himself who definitely focuses on posteriors, unusual eroticism, and a few specifically sexual moments (that are still innocent). I have a thing on this site I call a lewdness warning which I’ll employ for series that have a sexual nature. Specifically, I describe the tag as “the manga may not have fanservice, but I wouldn’t read it at work”. Basically, if a series has regular and noticeable sexual content, I tag it with “lewd” and give it a warning. You’ll notice I haven’t given one to this series.
Well, that’s cause…I really can’t give it such a warning. This is an ecchi manga (in a vein similar to Kine-san no 1-ri de Cinema and Jyoshikausei). I can’t deny that it is a manga that, in some ways, intends to be provocative (though some would deny that; trust me, it absolutely does, and there’s a reason one of the more suggestive scenes is represented on the first volume’s cover). That doesn’t mean it’s sexual, though. This is a series about girls who are young and naive, and even when they’re not-so naive it’s not exactly what I’d call perverted. Nonetheless, if you read this, you should probably expect some “fanservice”, but it’s definitely not normal fanservice.
In the end, it is simply another contributing factor to the manga’s overwhelmingly unique atmosphere and style. Returning to summarizing, with the manga’s second chapter (have I mentioned the chapter numbering for this series is weird because of the “prologue”?) Komichi meets this girl here, Kizaki Erika, who naturally ends up being Komichi’s “best friend” (read: “uh, are these two more than friends?”).
Erika is pretty great. Actually, all the characters introduced so far are pretty great. They’re all quite genuine — genuinely strange and human. Erika, for example, seems at a glance to be perhaps an “ojou” type character, but she’s really just an awkward teenage girl. Her and Komichi’s growing friendship is incredibly nice to see, since it’s not actually immediate and takes a bit of time to cultivate (though they definitely have an immediately fairly good rapport).
Overall, Komichi really wants to make friends. Similarly to her desire to wear a sailor uniform, her reasons behind wanting to make friends are essentially twofold. On one hand, she hasn’t ever really had friends because she lives in the Japanese countryside (notoriously extremely empty), on the other if she can make loads of friends it’s like she can be an idol. Regardless of her reasons, her dedication is very admirable. She devotes study simply to learning her classmates’ names, and she puts in effort to connect with others, get to know them, and hopefully nurture friendship.
Along the way we’ve got several common factors from chapter to chapter. There’s the eroticism, there’s the pure visual focus, there’s slice of life hanging-out sessions, and there’s a lot of embarrassment-focused comedy.
This kind of thing happens quite a lot.
Aside from that, we are also treated to sporadic color pages, which don’t necessarily only come at the start or end of a chapter, but are instead used for significant moments and scenes.
This is something that I’ve only really seen in YKK before, though Akebi’s Sailor Uniform doesn’t have any full-color chapters (yet?). Regardless, that really puts the series in very esteemed company.
And aside from that, if I’m allowed to sound a little lofty, this manga has a regular theme of “strength”. Our introduction to the protagonist is her performing a frankly incredible feat of physical strength (though she messes up at the end, showing off the faux pas factor the series regularly brings up). The next chapter, she shows mental strength by deciding to wear her sailor uniform anyway even though it could bring her a lot of stress (because she wanted to, her mother made it, etc.). Throughout the manga she also shows off a healthy amount of determination and zeal, more than I usually see in “genki” protagonists. She embarrasses herself a lot in the process, but if anything that continues to highlight her strength, pushing beyond those pains (and god, they can be painful).
The series thus has an almost rousing influence despite being part of a traditionally relaxed genre. It can certainly be relaxing, but a lot of the time it’s more like “swelling/emotional”. Not move-to-tears emotional, but it certainly got me feeling warm and fuzzy, happy, and confident. And of course, it’s regularly quite funny.
And…I feel like I have more to say, but I suppose that’s it. Regarding the “yuri” element that I mentioned somewhat jokingly earlier, this author is not unfamiliar with shoujo ai, so I wouldn’t count the possibility firmly out. Anyway that covers all the reasons this manga gets a mega thumbs-up from me. TOTALLY worth reading. If you want to read it raw, it’s an easy read too. Highly recommended manga, one of my new favorites, check it out. The series is available for purchase from CDJapan, bookwalker (guide), honto (guide), ebookjapan. Finally, this series is serialized online, and many of the chapters outside of volumes (prologue chapter aside) are available for free reading! Link is [here].
Next time is another manga I seriously fell in love with. That reminds me, another connection between the three manga this week is that none of them are even close to being up-to-date with translation. But anyway, this next one, It’s very good. Thanks for reading, see you then.