Amano Shuninta’s Philosophia began its life as a series of doujinshi. I was fortunate enough to get some, but not all, of them, when I attended the 2011 Girls Love Fest event. I was never able to get the entire run so of course was thrilled that Yuri Hime Comics had collected the whole set for me and published it as a single volume.
The story is told from the perspective of a young college student, Ai-chan, who meets and bonds with college sempai Shi over smoking and coffee. Shi is hard to understand or get to know, and Ai resistant to the idea that she might be “interested” in her. But after Shi falls ill, and it’s Ai who gets her to the hospital, it’s impossible for Ai to ignore her feelings, as confused and confounded by Shi as she is.
Shi, who has been very aware of Ai’s interest has made it all but impossible for Ai to get to know anything about her life. In the middle of the series, we learn why. In part it has to do with a complicated love-hate relationship with her family and especially her young stepmother, with whom her relationship is exceptionally complicated.
We also look back at Ai’s relationships and her inability to really understand like or love. She’s mortified at herself for liking, perhaps, loving Shi, when the other woman clearly prefers to remain at an emotional distance.
Shi contacts Ai once more to let her know that she’s going out of the country. Ai finds out when her plane leaves and meets her at the airport. Shi kisses Ai, but it’s clearly because this is “Goodbye.” Shi will never return home.
Ai goes on to become a teacher, but in a new epilogue, she meets a half-sister Shi does not know she has who is a dead ringer for Shi.
To say that this is a series for adults is not an understatement. The feelings here are complex, nuanced, complicated and fundamentally not “happy” or “sad.” Barring the epilogue, this is a story that might very well take place in the real world and, as such, does not have an impetus to end, much less happily ever after. As I say, it’s a book for adult tastes.
The epilogue, which was drawn especially for this volume, posed a unique problem for me. I, not having a twin, but being a common “type” am frequently mistaken for other people. Nonetheless, I’d like to think that I, as a human, have an individual “me”-ness that precludes someone who found me interesting being able to simply transfer those feelings to a simulacrum, which is kind of the set up here. Ai will now have a “new” Shi to get to know, hopefully one unburdened by the complicated life of the other. But…really? Because although this person looks like Shi, what is the likelihood that she is like Shi, but without the baggage? And worse, they meet because they are teacher and student, which ideally puts another layer of emotional distance between them. So, while the meeting is presented as a reboot of a sort, I feel that if Ai and Shi were real people, then it would not make Ai happy to have this Shi-alike in her class, particularly. ^_^;
Shuninta-sensei’s art is already pretty strong in this series, with her characteristic style almost fully developed. And to my recollection, I hadn’t seen any recent Yuri manga in which cigarettes and coffee were such important plot devices, so it was both nostalgic and modern at the same time.
Art – 8
Characters – Complex, real, not tidy at all 10
Story – 8
Yuri – 6
Service – 2
Overall – 8
I very much liked that the characters’ names were incorporated into the title. Ai (Love) + Shi (Wisdom) = Philo + Sophia
An adult read, which went down smoothly and left a strong aftertaste. A refreshing change of pace from featureless characters in Yuri pantomimes.