Because the manga moves more slowly than the anime, there is more detail that we saw with the anime. In particular, internal monologues and thoughts were restored, and several scenes that were switched around in the anime (mostly because the third novel’s arc was moved to late in the season) have been put back in their rightful place. (For the record, the Drama CDs seem to have a smidgen more detail…and, obviously, the novels would contain the full story, something I’ll cover next entry.)
The character designs are not the same as the anime, but the characters don’t differ wildly from their animated counterparts. Of them, Sei looks the most unlike her anime avatar, and personally I’m inclined to think the anime version is better. But they are all recognizably themselves. The tankubon also have silly incidental art, like dress-up pictures of the various cracters, (Sei as a cowboy, Eriko as a waitress, etc,) that make the manga volumes a fun purchase.
Right now, Margaret magazine has just completed the first half of the Ibara no Mori: Forest of Thorns arc, in which a novel of the same name causes rumors to fly around Lillian Academy, that Sei, Rosa Gigantea, may have been the author. Yumi ultimately learns *why* the rumors exist at all, how accurate they were, who the real author is, and her little secret, all culminating on Christmas Eve.
When Yumi comes across the Yamayurikai, she learns that they are preparing a Christmas party. Notable in this scene is Youko, happily decorating a Christmas tree inappropriately with tanabata wishes, wearing a crown on her head. It’s utterably adorable. ^_^
In the final scene of this first half of the story, we get something completely left out of the anime. Sachiko gives Yumi one of her embroidered silk handkerchiefs as a Christmas present (you all remember that in Japan presents are usually exchanged between lovers, right?) Yumi is miserable, because she has nothing for Sachiko. Sachiko sees that Yumi looks like she’s about to cry, and makes her soeur a deal. In exchange, Sachiko will take one of Yumi’s hair ribbons for her present. She unties Yumi’s hair, takes the ribbon and ties it into her own hair, and they walk away hand in hand. It’s all very touching and romantic.
Things are different from the anime in the manga. The mood is more solemn, the pace slower, the emotions run higher. When Sei confesses to Yoshino and Yumi that the rumors aren’t that far from the truth, there’s more of sense of intensity in the scene…Yumi even comments that Sei is burning for her past love. Sei herself is more remote-seeming than the anime Sei…but that may be me having 20/20 hindsight. ^_^
The next half of the Ibara no Mori manga begins in October, and of course, I can’t wait. I’m *dying* to see how they portray Shiori (one of the things that was noticeable about her anime image was that she wasn’t *really* attractive – I liked that, and I wonder if it is intentional, part of the character description, or just a whim)…and the interaction between Sei and Youko, when they were en bouton. And I wait with bated breath to see what the manga image of the former Rosa Gigantea is. ^_^
The manga definitely has more of the “the pleats on our skirts shouldn’t be out of order, we should walk slowly” feel than the anime did. If I had read the novels first, I think that I too, would have been driven crazy by the rushed anime, and only marginally mollified by the manga. But, fortuitously, I’ve done it the other way around, so I can enjoy the story all over again, each time I encounter it, with more detail.
I won’t rate the Ibara no Mori manga yet, until I see the conclusion (an 80-page spectacular, or so they say) and I’ll report back on the tankubon and Drama CD, which go on sale in October as well! Banner month for Sei fans, huh? ^_^
Next up – notes on the first novel.