It is time to find a fictional character to date again, before we can start my bachelorette adventure I still need 7 2d girls for me to even be able to host this event. Between running out of suggested anime and trying to follow PreCure I had little time to watch an entire series of Yuri stuff. So I tried something I very rarely do! I read a manga. A manga with a bit of a unimaginative name of Girl Friends! Surely though with such a title I can surely find a girlfriend right?
Romance Yuri, Slice of Life
To find this manga I googled a bit on the term cute Yuri. I don’t like smut so I hoped that by adding the cuteness factor I could eliminate to much carnal and fleshy sheet wrinkling scenes. I was write.. while there are scenes like it, those function a narrative purpose. A source of envy , a first time, a timely escape. You know functional lewdness I guess and even that part was pretty tame. Even for someone like me! I mean I still breezed through as it just is not very satisfying content for me but what happened in terms of soiling the linens was “cute”. A descriptor I’d say fits this entire Manga. Yet off all the series I just saw this was my least liked product yet. It’s cute but something was missing to me. Is it the fact that I am just not that invested in manga as I am in anime? Or is their a deeper issues. It was time to find out.
Consisting out of about 35 chapters across 5 volumes this manga focuses on the blossoming relationship between Mariko and Akiko. Mari as she is better known throughout the manga is your typical egghead girl at first. She is just in class, being seen as nothing more as someone that gets good grades. Akiko who is better known as Akko decides to befriend the Mari and update her image a bit. From here on out they become close friends and not long after even best friends. As the title of the anime already implies it doesn’t even take that long for Mari to realise that she has feelings for Akko that go beyond that of best friends. But how would a love like this work, with a girl that is as popular as Akko?
The first thing I noticed in this anime is how cute the facial expressions of mostly Akko and Mari are, but also that off their friends. These characters show their emotions very well, and the design on the characters is quite cute. Through the majority of the manga we see a focus on four characters. Akko and Mari of course being the lead characters followed by their besties Sugi and Tamanin. I loved the lowbrow adventures of these four. They are such simple girl adventures like buying a dress , make up tests and diets. When the girls move up a year and no longer sit with each other in the same class we are introduced to Tagu and Kuno, two classmates of Akko and Mari who push the pair a bit more outside their comfort zone. Asking them along to Mixer parties where they can hook up with boys! I did not like this pair as much as their designs are fairly similar to Akko’s. At time I had difficulty to distinguish them a bit which led me to grow annoyed with them.
The manga does not do a lot of effort into background work. Most panels have a white background with only some vague details unless it is needed for the plot. The girls do hang out a limited spots as well. School, Mcdonalds, Mr Donut, Akko’s house , Mari’s house and the mall are basically the only real sets we see. Other locations we often see skipped or just imagined as some vague detail. I was surprised how much I did not mind that issue even if I was very aware of it. There is a minimalist approach to everything but the girls which really keeps you focussed on what matters and during the first half or so of the story I was smiling like a baby as I moved through a delightfully breezy story.
Drama for the sake of Drama
Bloom into You , told us a story of a girl that wasn’t romantically active being the subject of interest of a character who is romantically invested in that person. There was this tension and a sense that things could go wrong.. or at least that the character had to go through a major change. In Liz and the Bluebird we had a sense of predetermination a sense of in loss drawing in closer and in Aoi Hana we had complicated love triangles and never a scenario that would make everybody happy. As a result we had some tension, we could wonder what would happen next. With a title like Girl Friends, and the way it is set up.. as a slow burn we already know where the story will go beforehand.
The books clearly show us the chemistry between Akko and Mari so when obstacles appear they don’t feel serious. It’s just an obstacle before the two inevitably come together. At one point Mari take up a boyfriend to get over Akko as she thinks it is an impossible love. We see Akko beginning to get jealous and she realises she is in love with Mari as well, as Mari got jealous when Akko spend time with others, but this whole arc with Mari’s boyfriend lasts very long! Which made me struggle heavily to finish this manga’s second half.
The manga tells us a lot of stuff we already know. This is in part because of how strong the first half is. It really tells us all we need to know trough short and cute stories. Where the manga is really strong is that these dates and events the characters go on are far apart. Throughout five volumes we go to several years in school. A single chapter can be as short as a day but also span an complete diet over the course of a month. As such it really feels like time is spent together and these bonds are deepend. We only get the highlights and lows out of their story which makes those feelings of love that more real.
However as soon as Mari start seeing this old classmate she gave chocolate once it feels like we stagnate.Her reactions feel odd, and as if the Milk .. (I love that name) just added a few more chapters to be dramatic and to highlight both love each other..but we did not need that spelled out. We see Akko subconsciously feels that same way through ample other actions. It is as if we play a Sonic game zooming trough our adventure and in the middle we have to stop dead in our tracks to play a fishing minigame… no one would ever do that because it just feels wrong.
I hated the third volume of this Manga it nearly made me quit! But I had to find a Waifu. Up until the third part i thought I would choose to end up Mari. Akko is your typical girly girl, who has make-up tips looks pretty, she is your typical popular girl. In the first two volumes she can come across as fairly shallow and ditzy without much care in the world.
Mari is the opposite, she is news to this world of having friends and being girly. She is looking for meaning in things and deeper tries to find deeper messages in shallow acts. On paper I would pick a girl like Mari. anyday normally. Yet as we moved into the second half I began to like Mari less and less. At first I see a strong woman who knows what she wants .. but later I see a woman who hides what she wants. Someone who adapts. Akko stays Akko throughout the show, she makes some realisations about herself but she is consistently written and a lot less shallow than she pretends to be.
During the closing volume Akko and Mari get intimate for the first time together, a scene which was quite cute, neither turn to have much experience. Akko tried to be with boys before but something never felt right. Things didn’t work out for her when it came to boys and she doesn’t really seem interested in them. As a result this situation is new to her without it being entirely new. Mari had no experience and the two of them together results in a adorable but realistic first timey experience. Yet also in this I love the role of Akko more. She can be really mature about her situation.
Akko is a type of person who does want she wants, when she wants it and will take responsibility for what she does. She loves going to McDonalds for example and will go on a diet to lose that weight .. time and time again. She doesn’t quit McDonalds or Mister Donut though because she wants that as well. If eating her favorite donut a few times each year means she have to diet in some places she is willing to do it and I can respect that. Mari decides on a different career path.. she wants to become a nutritionist so she can give her girlfriend a more balanced way of living. However that isn’t her .. that is her reacting to something.. and that is what put me off for Mari in this series.
Mari is a recreational character, when she kisses Akko (twice) she doesn’t own up to it.. in fact she starts to see negative outcomes and just tries to ignore the situation. She is constantly trying to do what seems “least harmful” to her and her environment. It is a trait I find rather obnoxious , even more so since she so oftenly jumps to a very wrong conclusion. A few of her actions, like replacing her phone strap (why are those such a thing anyway) feel spiteful, even if she doesn’t intend it and has her reasons it still doesn’t feel justified.
I never had that feeling with Akko, she has flaws but they are never used wrong… Akko is Akko. Mari is several incarnations of herself, which is fine and somewhat real .. but it is not something I like in a person. So my date from this series is Akko.
As a manga this series is not something I can fully recommend. It’s a cute read but there are a few flaws that hold it back. The manga holds a bit to many panels per pages for my taste and there can be a lit of girls bickering on a single panel. That does indeed feel very girly but it can be a tad difficult to follow. Mari takes a turn for the worse midway the series and if you are used to how awesome she is that can sting a bit. That being said though it tells a very cute and realistic tale of girls in high school. Doing the typical teenage live. It has a very western feeling to it. Aside from Tamanin , who is a closet Otaku, all the girls care for is going out, cute clothes, alcohol and more things that would be on a “normal” girl’s mind.
It is nice to see a story from Manga that is more grounded and less floaty. It is an enjoyable Manga you really need to be in the mood for. You know how this story will end and the road towards the destination is necessarily bumpy. Yet to relive your childhood, or if you want a snackish little romance manga, just expecting a romance .and taking it at face value this Manga is a super cute past time! Compare it to a girl’s pajama party. You feel all happy and dreamy, yet at one point you are gonna ask yourself how much longer do you need to stay up. The day after.. you do not have any epic stories to tell as nothing really happened..but you had a swell evening all the same.
Now my return to Manga wasn’t stellar but I still had a good enough time! Plus some sweet innocent dreams. Have you read this one? Do you have any recommendations for me to read? Do you perhaps think I should have picked Mari? I really want Akko because I am really bad at painting my nails and she could give me tips. Anyway no matter what girl I will pick remember that I love you all, keep positive and stay smiling