Thursday, August 2, 2018

Kindred Spirits on the Roof is a pretty bland yuri manga (Manga Review)

I'm always excited when a new stand-alone volume of manga comes out. I'm particularly excited when its a yuri manga which is still bottom of the to-be-translated-and-released-in-English hierarchy. But Kindred Spirits on the Roof: The Complete Collection while not bad, isn't very interesting either.

Apparently it's based on a Visual Novel. I am definitely not the intended audience for a Visual Novel. I love manga because I really like the black and white aesthetic. I am mesmerized by screen tones.  I love anime because the characters move and as we know I listen to it subtitled because I love the original voice acting. However, VNs have very little of any of that. They're colored static images with writing that is so stiff and uninteresting, and having to hit the space bar or whatever for each sentence is beyond a chore. I'm just simply not the audience, so I can understand that people who ARE and who loved the VN this manga is based on, may get a lot more out of this volume than I did.

LOTS OF SPOILERS TO FOLLOW (if you can call it a spoiler when you're reading a yuri manga based on a VN - you pretty much know how it's going to end up - it's much more about the journey. Which is the problem here)

The volume is composed of two stories, each running several chapters, making it a hefty book. From what I can tell a different team of artists did each story. In the first story, Girl A runs away when Girl B confesses to her. Two years later, they're in their second year of high-school and still not talking. Girl A gets involved with two other classmates in doing the scenery for a play. Turns out one of those girls is friends with Girl B from the track team. Also turns out EVERYONE IN THIS STORY LOVES GIRLS.

Now that's not a bad thing necessarily. I'd be all about a world without stinky scary men. But it's also not very realistic that everyone the lead character runs into also has a girlfriend (at least three sets that I can clearly pick out from the side characters - including a random set of ghosts that probably had something to do with the VN). Anyway. Girl A eventually makes up with Girl B and decides, despite running away from her after yet another confession, that she actually does want to date Girl B. Sigh. I actually think it might have been more interesting if she wasn't interested in Girl B and they had to figure out how to reform a friendship where one is straight and is one gay and how those complex emotional feelings would play out over time. But no, turns out they dig each other.

Which would ALSO have been fine except that the story ends there and we know NOTHING about Girl B because she's essentially not even in the story at all. So we have no emotional investment in her or in why Girl A is suddenly attracted to her. It just isn't strong writing when we don't really know anything about one of the two supposedly main characters. The story was fine, but emotionally empty and perfunctory in its outcome.

The art was cute. I was actually a big fan of it. And the overall tenor of the story kept reminding me of Morinaga Milk's work. But something was just missing. It didn't have that spark that her work has, that extra little bit of interest, that raw, lustful, silly, extra cute...something that keeps me coming back even though the outcomes of her works are predictable. This story just didn't have it. It was fine, but that was all.

The second story involved Girl A being a fan of watching two girls in love. She's a freshmen in high-school and notices that chemistry between the president and vice president of the trivia club. She signs up for the club just to swoon when they look at each other or touch each others' hands. She didn't count on another girl joining, and for exactly the same reason, Girl B. The whole time they are preparing for the national trivia competition. Turns out the president and vice president aren't dating, but Girl A and Girl B help out when they realize that one of them (I can't remember who is the pres and who the VP) does like the other...with predictably happy results (and the most emotionally boring - both in writing and art - confession and acceptance I've ever seen in yuri - "oh yeah, I like you too" "okay"...what? Where's all my goddamn blushing cheeks!) The newly happy couple then teases Girl A and B about when they'll get together. They blush at each other (finally) and then keep on walking. Maybe they do get together some day, maybe they don't. 

Either way, we learn nothing about the four of them. They're cute. They have some basic personality traits, and four different hair cuts so I can tell them apart (thank you!). But that's all you get. Nothing deep, no emotional investment. The art was less cute and less detailed than the first story. Not bad, but not as immediately fetching either. The backgrounds are simpler, the characters a little more loose from panel to panel.

So my guess is that if you're a fan of the VN and already have a relationships with these characters (and the many others who show up randomly throughout with no obvious introductions or need) that you might love this manga. But as a stand-alone yuri manga, it's only a 6/10 because it's very perfunctory, no depth of character development, no emotional stakes, okay art, and nothing to really say, but nothing objectionable either. You could do a lot worse, but you could also do a lot better. It actually makes me reflect back on just how different the After Hours manga series is by comparison. At least that gives us something different and some complexity (in the same number of chapters so far too). And certainly, if you're new to the genre, there are many yuri masterpieces out there that blow this series away.


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