Wednesday, November 20, 2019

A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow vol. 1 was an unexpectedly pleasant surprise (Yuri Manga Review)

two teen girls hold hands, gaze into each others eyes, surrounded by a field of water and fish as though they were in or near an aquarium
A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow vol. 1- 8/10

Published by Viz (not Shojo Beat/Viz) and looking from the cover like it would be fairly pandering to the male yuri fandom, I can't say I was expecting much from A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow vol. 1. But boy howdy was I wrong. This was an unexpectedly sweet, slightly unique, and promising start to the series. I'm awfully excited for the next volume.

Konatsu's dad has to travel overseas for work and so she moves in with her aunt on a small rural island. Wandering around on her first day, she sees a weekend aquarium event at her highschool. It turns out that the aquarium club puts on a community event monthly, and it's actually pretty well done. There, she meets Koyuki who runs the club. They become friends and Konatsu joins the club. Konatsu is also befriended by Kaede, a strong, confident, and outgoing girl in her class. The volume ends with Konatsu helping out at her first monthly aquarium event.

My first impression of Konatsu, in the opening pages, was that we were going to get yet another generic, sweet, nice, pretty, soft-spoken, and bland lead heroine. Thankfully, even in just one volume, she's written a bit more interestingly than that. Yes she's nice, and all the rest. But what I loved is that the author gave her some dialogue that made her feel like a real teen, rather than an idealized one. Lines like: "What's there to like? This tank is empty so it's just weird," or "Don't act like my mother! I'm not a child!" both said to her (I'm presuming) eventual love interest Koyuki. This is awesome. She actually has a personality and it comes through in the writing of her dialogue. She isn't perfect, she speaks her mind and says not-perfect stuff.

Second, it seems like Koyuki, who in any other context would be written as the strong, self-assured character, is actually the one who's hurting more. It's clear she is idolized by classmates but actually alone because of it. She's deemed so proper that peers won't even invite her to hang out with them after school because it's against the rules and they assume she's a rule follower.

Where in most yuri manga, the lighter-haired, traditionally feminine character (Konatsu) would normally be the sweet, perfect, innocent one, and the taller, darker haired, more "mature" one (Koyuki) would be the cool prince - here, they're almost reversed in their tropes. Konatsu speaks her mind and is confident; Koyuki is wounded and insecure. Love it!

Further, we get a strong hint that Konatsu's friend Kaede may actually like Konatsu. There's some unfortunate service where Kaede grabs Konatsu from behind (I hate service). Aside from that, there are enough other moments between them to at least evoke doubt and maybe jealousy from Koyuki towards Kaede. However, there are also hints that maybe Kaede knows that Konatsu would be good for Koyuki and vice versa and might actually want them together. It also seems as though Koyuki might be aware of her own feelings for Konatsu already. It is an interesting dynamic between the three of them and I'm a sucker for good secondary characters like Kaede.

So this is yuri, at least I'm assuming, and there is one good solid line that shows that somewhere in the future Koyuki and Konatsu will get together. Given the strong beginning, I have a feeling that this will be an actual relationship yuri manga and not just an ambiguous are they just friends or more-than-friends manga. Of recent ones, the Kase-san series set the bar for how to combine cute but earnest yuri alongside an honest to goodness romantic and sexual relationship between teen girls - elegantly blending yuri with LGBTQ+ manga. I actually think this series might be in a similar vein.

The art is cutesy and on the moe side. Not my preferred style, but definitely the style that is defining yuri lately. It's consistently and competently drawn though, so that's good. Screentones are pretty much only used for gray-scale, so there isn't much sparkle or texture, but at least it isn't all black and white. The regular use of varying shades of gray does give each panel more depth than other more moe style art often does, so that's something too.

Overall, this was unexpectedly a quality yuri manga. The characters, in just a single 4 chapter volume, already have unique qualities and we care about them. The story seems like it will give us a true romantic/sexual relationship down the road, rather than ambiguous queer-baiting. The art is good, even if it isn't my style. And the overall writing seems strong. This was far more than I could have hoped for and now I'm genuinely excited for the next volume. A Tropic Fish Yearns for Snow volume 1 gets a strong 8/10.


Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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