Watashi no Taisetsuna Tomodachi Manga, Volume 2

June 3rd, 2010

In Volume 1 of Watashi no Taisetsuna Tomodachi (わたしの大切なともだち), we met Ebisawa Shouko (Ebi-chan), a geek girl who failed to get into a university and is taking courses at a design trade school in the meantime. We also met Tachibana, a former childhood friend of Ebi-chan’s, who has lost her memory – right down to words and concepts. What’s left, Ebi-chan learns, is a ridiculous superhuman strength and a unending hunger. In Volume 2, we also learn that Tachibana has some lingering memories of her and Ebi-chan’s time together. But, not right away.

First we must deal with the possible professional success of a classmate, wherein we learn that success – and a professional career doing what you enjoy – is a double-edge sword. And we must weather the trauma caused by an apparent meeting with a precocious and vicious child, who turns out to be a new teacher and a popular manga artist. All of the tension built up in these stories explodes when Ebisawa quite accidentally plagiarizes the teacher’s work, to her utter mortification.

Ebi-chan undergoes a significant crisis of identity, finally confronting the low self-esteem we’ve seen from the start. To Ebi-chan’s surprise both her “rival” and Tachibana step up to help her out of her funk. Even more surprising, when Tachibana’s cool friends from high school drop by and beg her to join them at college, Tachibana blows them off, because she remembers a promise she and Ebi-chan made when they were young. Surprised to realize that she has more friends than she realized, and deeply moved by Tachibana’s rare smile, Ebi-chan redeems herself beautifully.

This volume was sort of problematic. The set-up of the story had to take a back seat to the work needed to fix the holes in it, before it could actually work.

Ebi-chan’s little lie – that she and Tachibana were best friends – wasn’t ever a huge issue; it was made huge by the gap between Tachibana’s apparent status as a “cool” girl and Ebi-chan’s low self esteem. Ebi-chan’s worry that Tachibana would remember everything and castigate her was also only significant because she had such a poor image of herself.

But the Tachibana we see is straightforward, a little loopy and obsessed with food. The kind of person who we can see being best friends with in kindergarten, and going out to karaoke with. It’s hard to imagine that she would be outright mean. When her cool friends come by, we can see that she was kind of fun and goofy with them too, so other than her memory loss, we can assume that she hasn’t changed all *that* much.

Ebi-san’s feelings for Tachibana are confused, because they are tied up with her own feelings of inadequacy. And that inadequacy complicates her studies, as well. Frankly, if we didn’t get that cleared up, this manga would remain a series of pretty thin gags. Now that it’s all behind us, and we already know that some of Tachibana’s memories have returned, hopefully we can move on with the story. Yes, we’ve had to give up the original premise, but it was already getting thin after a volume. So, plotwise, this was a good move. Unfortunately, story-wise it was pretty much a bore. I found it really hard to care about someone else’s issues in the middle of Ebi-chan’s crisis du page, and was not amused at the overused “apparent child who is really an adult” gambit.

Nonetheless, we are past what was a pretty big hump and have received Tachibana’s benediction in the form of a smile. So, hopefully volume 3 will be better than this one.

Ratings:

Art – 6
Characters – 6, but there’s hope for better
Story – 6
Yuri – 1
Service – 0

Overall – 6

On the whole, I’m finding Hakamada Mera’s current Yuri Hime and Yuri Hime S stories more enjoyable at the moment, but I’m fascinated by the shift in her story-telling from throwaway shorts to trying to tell something that has some staying power.

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