I’m sure at least some of you have noticed Otsu Hiyori’s absence from Comic Yuri Hime for some time. Well, she’s back, not in Comic Yuri Hime, but in another Ichijinsha magazine, Zero-Sum, with a series that is, according to the book obi “Girl Meets Girl” + “Boy Meets Boy.”
Otomodachi Kara Hajimemashou (お友達からはじめましょう) follows Akira, a young lady with severe issues around social interactions. She’s not a recluse, she’s just awkward and self-conscious about it.
On the first day of school she meets new classmates who integrate her into their conversation, but her eye is drawn by an outspoken girl across the classroom. Akira’s new friends invite her to karaoke, but upon arrival, she panics and runs. The next day, while hiding in the bathroom, Akira overhears her new “friends” talking about her, and the girl from across the room slapping them down verbally for doing so. Akira really wants to thank the outspoken girl, but just has no idea how to go about it. Luckily for her, outspoken Chizu-chan’s friend Ami groks the situation and brings them together. Prickly Chizu-chan, and cheerful Ami-chan are now her friends, but Aki-chan is still awkward. Luckily for her, neither Chizu nor Ami care. Akira finds herself asking her brother Haru if she should grow her hair out. Haru asks if she’s in like and Akira replies, “I don’t know..maybe.” Akira struggles with trying to invite Ami and Chizu out on Sunday, but Ami’s good at picking up on cues (probably from being friends with Chizu), they have random adventures together and as their half of the book ends, Aki and Ami are laughing, while a late Chizu carries their shopping bags a punishment for tardiness.
We then turn towards Haru, who had been a soccer star in his school, until he was hit by a car, ruining his soccer career potential and putting his life on hold. Now, finally, he’s back in school, two years behind. He meets a young guy in class (who we know is Ami’s boyfriend) who wants to start a cooking club. Joining them is an old friend of Haru’s Hayato. Hayato is the typical broody, non-verbal type who is always looking out for Haru. Haru, Kou (Ami’s BF) and Hayato decide to form a cooking club at school, but face opposition from the teacher who would be their advisor. Haru gets so pissed, he becomes determined to make something amazing and blow the teacher away.
Otsu-sensei’s storytelling has always relied on quirky characterization. Akira’s introversion will be instantly familiar to most otaku, while Haru is more extroverted, but not at that “beautiful people” level that is all too often set up to contrast with the introverted sibling. Instead, both Akira and Haru are likable, with their own personalities and complications. What little setup we get for each seems fraught with possibility. And, cleverly, with Ami and Kou in the middle of both potential pairings, we don’t need to feel bad about them – they’ve got each other and are ridiculously cute together. ^_^
Art – 8
Story – 7, with solid potential
Characters – 8
Yuri – 1, BL – 1
Service – 0
Overall – 8
I don’t know if this story is actually going to be “Girl Meets Girl” + “Boy Meets Boy”, but at this point it doesn’t matter, I’m willing to read more and find out. If it does, yay. ^_^ It seems a good bet for the Zero Sum audience, which, like so much of Ichijinsha’s audience, is open to niche stories.