Monday, June 3, 2019

Futaribeya - A Room For Two - Volume 1 (manga review)

Futaribeya Vol. 1 - 6.5/10 or 9/10 YMMV ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Sakurako x Kasumi

This will be a simple review for a simple story. If you love comedy moe 4-koma manga, then Futaribeya (Tokyo Pop) is likely to top your list of best series this year. If you tend to like deeper stories and more complex emotional ranges, then you might find this lacking in depth (as in totally). For what it is, it is well done.

Volume 1 is the story of two high-school 1st years, Sakurako Kawawa and Kasumi Yamabuki, who share a room in the local boarding house near their school. Sakurako is very good at school without trying, loves to cook, is dependable, but easygoing. Kasumi is drop-dead gorgeous but doesn't care at all, bad at school, always cold, and always hungry. The volume covers much of their first year, what they eat, where they shop, how they sleep, and many other random assorted moments. 

As is the norm for most 4-koma, this is a gag manga. Each "strip" ends with some sort of humorous moment, mostly silly, sweet, cute, or goofy. But all very very light. There is no service to speak of (which is great). It's basically two nice teens going about their day, but doing so in a cutely funny way. Like I said, if this is your thing, then this is really well done!

I tend to want more depth in my manga, even in comedy ones, and so I don't typically read 4-koma which by its very structure doesn't lead to much depth. I had similar feelings reading Futaribeya as I did reading Tomo-chan Is a Girl! It was cute, but not really my thing. 

However, I did find myself still interested in these two girls' lives even though it isn't the style I most enjoy. Those who know me well know that I LOVE the Sakura Trick anime (even though I don't normally like moe and it has WAYYYYY too much and totally unnecessary service). I haven't read the manga its based on, so I wonder if Futaribeya would similarly benefit from the expanded storytelling power of anime? (Yes, I am a feminist and yes I still love Sakura Trick, it's called cognitive dissonance folks! But I also think it would be defensible if anyone wanted to talk about it.)

The art in Futaribeya is well done for this style, with more attention to detail and shading than is typical of many 4-koma. A bit too much of the time, the characters are drawn superdeformed for emotional (read: "silly") emphasis. But when Yukiko-sensei goes into normal (but still moe) mode, they really show their artistic ability. It may be moe, but it's well done. 

Now, for the big question. Is this a yuri manga? Wikipedia says it is. But I'm thinking, not really. At least for volume 1, we only get the very slightest moments of possibly maybe hints that something might somewhere in the distant future become maybe yuri-ish. But the truth is, any yuri that exists, exists only in your mind (or some of the extra images between chapters) because there isn't anything textual to suggest it (except maybe there when Sakurako gets a bit jealous of her younger sister's attention on Kasumi). There certainly isn't even the slightest bit of overt relationship beyond normal friendship though. But we'll have to see. It certainly could go the yuri direction or it might just stay where it is and let people read into it or "ship" the characters if they want.

Do you like moe teen girl light comedy with no service (sort of like K-On! but without that anime's TOTAL AMAZINGNESS)? If so, this is well done, a strong 9/10. If you like shoujo/josei manga with any substance, nuance, emotional depth, or realism then you'll find this wanting (it's also considered a seinen manga). However there is something to the characters that might make you come back for more, so it gets a 6.5/10 for fans of more intricate stories. You make up your own mind, you know yourself better than I do! As for me, I will probably keep buying it, but it won't be first on my limited expense list each week.


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