Friday, November 29, 2019

Our Wonderful Days volume 1 is...weirdly bland (Manga Review)

Two high school girls on a train, one asleep on the others shoulder
Our Wonderful Days vol. 1 - 6.5/10

There were so many yuri manga series that started publication this month. Sadly, Our Wonderful Days volume 1 (Seven Seas) was the most bland of them all. It wasn't that it was bad, but it was just so weirdly not-memorable as to be somewhat useless. It wasn't without any value, and I'm a bit curious how one character (and the side characters) might evolve. But there isn't much to this volume either.

Koharu and Mafuyu were friends when they were little. Mafuyu moved to Tokyo. Now she's back and they meet on the first day of school. They become friends again and also hang out with two of Koharu's other friends. There isn't actually much between Mafuyu and Koharu that suggests where the series will go other than that it's a yuri series, so it's a foregone conclusion. It's actually their friends Nana and Minori that are the most interesting. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

This is a yuri manga set in a high-school so you pretty much know what you're gonna get. It doesn't present itself as any sort of deep emotional tale (Marimite), nor a more honest yuri (Sweet Blue Flowers), and certainly not as an LGBTQ+ manga (Our Dreams at Dusk). It's going to be slightly sweet, slightly funny, and sort of slice-of-lifey.

Koharu seems like the slow, dimwitted, short, cute, but really nice girl. All those are true, except she's actually really really good at school. But otherwise, she's awfully bland, and falls into that overall archetype. Mafuyu is slightly more interesting in that she's from Tokyo and they present her as being a bit stuck-up. She also has a slightly ass-holeish streak. She's not the cool, tall, dark haired archetype (although in some ways she is visually). Instead, she's slightly mouthy - more like an actual teen girl. That's something at least. I'm curious where her personality goes, but at least it keeps her from being completely boring like Koharu.

And honestly, they don't do much in this volume, even though they are the lead characters and will surely either get together, or something similar, because it's a yuri. It's mostly an introduction volume, so we're just meeting them and we get a few obligatory moments of hand holding or glances meant to foreshadow bigger things to come.

But I do want to talk about Nana and Minori. They are friends who are also living together in an apartment. In many ways, they sort of act like a couple, and there are real hints that Minori (warning, I might have their names backwards - so she's the lighter haired one) might have real feelings for Nana (the one with dark twin-tails). I'm not sure if the author is hinting that they might ultimately get together, or if it's just plain old queer baiting so we ship them (it'll all depend on whether they ultimately canonically get together or not). Either way, they both have much more complex personalities and a back history that informs their relationship and the way they interact with each other. At least at this point, I wish they were the main couple, because both are more interesting internally and in their actions towards each other. Thankfully, they are a big part of this volume.

The manga goes a bit further with Nana too. While she doesn't seem aware of Minori's potential feelings for her, she does seem to have her own crush on a female PE teacher. It's also not clear she has identified this as a romantic crush. Again, my hope (and this could be the queer baiting at work), is that her crush on the PE teacher is used to help her realize she likes girls, and then ultimately to realize that she likes Minori back. All this would be a fun read since they both Nana and Minori have interesting personalities and I want them together already.

There isn't much else to say about the plot, because there really isn't one. It's basically a slice-of-life and meeting-the-four-characters type volume. And that is the problem with this volume. We don't have much going on, and our lead characters Mafuyu and Koharu are pretty boring and bland. But we do get Nana and Minori who are promising as individuals and as a potential couple. Maybe the series will end up being balanced between both couples? Maybe the series will allow Mafuyu's mouthy streak to evolve into a complex personality. Maybe Koharu won't just be the bland, nice doormat archetype? Or maybe not. It's just hard to tell after one volume.

So far it sets up the main characters as a by-the-numbers school girl yuri story. But with the side characters, we have some potential. This volume is a nice but bland 6.5/10 (it was raised up a bit by Nana and Minori) and I will keep checking the series out to see how it evolves.


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