In Volume 1 of Hakamada Mera‘s Watashi no Taisestuna Tomodachi (わたしの大切なともだち), we met Ebisawa Shouko, an otaku girl with low self esteem who is repudiated by an old childhood friend. When that friend, Tachibana, loses her memory, Ebi-san inserts herself back into her life with a little white lie, that they were the best of friends. Tachibana joins Ebi-san at a design school that was meant as a stop-gap measure during Ebi’s ronin year.
In Volume 2, Ebi-san and Tachibana are swirled up in the more demanding requirements of their friend Waka, and her famous manga artist sister Hiako.
Volume 3 picks up in the middle of summer vacation, and during a deadline crisis for Hiako-sensei. Ebi-san and her classmates are roped in by Waka to assist her sister. At the end, Ebi-sawa has shown such dedication and talent, that Hiako asks her to be her assistant…and protege. The first is a positive thing for Ebisawa, but the second is life changing. Ebisawa starts to lay her self-esteem issues to rest.
However, at this point, Tachibana has been relegated to the position of supporting character. She’s seen and heard repeatedly obsessing over ice cream, but there’s barely any interaction between her and Ebisawa.
And when the next arc – masterwork projects for the school festival OMG! – begins, it’s *still* not about Tachibana and Ebisawa. This time, it’s Waka, driven, focused, imperious and demanding, who is the center of the story. Waka alienates her classmates, who feel as if she doesn’t understand how *hard* they have to work to get half as far as she does on sheer talent. Offended to the core, because she feels that she works twice as hard as everyone else, Waka stalks off. In the meantime, everyone else struggles to work on their own projects.
Waka comes to a realization that her project is, in fact, not *her* project, but *their* project, and she returns with abject apology, and an offer that all six of them will have their names on the project. Fences mended, we all produce award-winning work. Ebisawa’s project is the prototype for a manga she wants to draw about her “most important friend.” Tachibana’s project is also a manga, the story of how she lost her memory when she was hit by a meteor.
When the school festival draws to a close, Tachibana apologizes to Ebisawa for dissing her that day. “I’m sorry I killed Tanabata,” she says, referring to the nickname she had before she lost her memory.
The next chapter covers Ebisawa and Tachibana’s story from Tachibana’s point of view. How, even as she said what she said, she knew it was hurtful but couldn’t stop herself. Her memories returning, she realizes that she and Ebisawa *were* best friends for so many years and it’s up to her to reclaim that – but now she feels she has no right to do so.
They graduate. A year passes, but Tachibana does not attend the friendly get-togethers the classmates have…nor has she seen or spoken to Ebisawa in all that time.
Tachibana’s two highschool friends from the first scene are still friendly with the new, formerly slightly addle-brained, now increasingly-depressed Tachibana. Ebisawa has gone on to some reknown as the creator of her manga which, the two say, is like a love letter. When the two visit, they can see that Tachibana’s bumming about not speaking to Ebi-san, so they decide to interfere. They email Ebi-san a link to Tachibana’s blog.
Ebi-san reads the blog, which Tachibana writes, she says, because she lost her memories once and she doesn’t want that to happen again…so she writes everything down so even if she loses her memories, she has them somewhere. Honestly, movingly, she tells the story of how she hurt and repudiated a good friend and how much she regrets what she said. Ebisawa, tears running down her face, runs out to see Tachibana. Tachibana is miserable, brooding over the loss of Ebi-san, and thinking “it’s not like she’s going to come running around the corner,” when Ebi-san comes running around the corner. They reconcile, with tears.
As the epilogue dawns, it appears that Tachibana and Ebiasawa are now living together. Their friends from design school are dropping by and the resulting gag was predictable, but amusing.
And the books ends.
I had hoped for much more from this story, to be honest. The digression into the “exhausting life of a mangaka” was interesting (and a trend I’m seeing more and more in manga as artists attempt to explain to their readers just what they go through to get the work out there…) but I feel as if the main plot basically happened as an afterthought, or off scene, while all this other stuff was going on.
The ending read very subtexty to me, but gosh darn I really would have liked to see it be a little more overt texty. I don’t live with all my friends, but I do live with one…the one who is *my* most important friend. And Ebisawa’s manga was “like a love letter.” So…yes, I think this was Yuri, but only by implication. While the author took a volume and a half having us watch something else, could Ebi-san and Tachibana not have had a second to think, “Damn I miss her…and want to hold her and…”? Meh. That’s what I think.
Art – 6
Characters – 7
Story – 6
Yuri – 2
Service – 0
Overall – 6
By the end, everyone was very real, but the story was only marginally satisfying.