Hirono Tsukiko’s Hakugin Gymnasium, (白銀ギムナジウム 上) is a non-linear tale of love and loss, betrayal and redemption. You know, like pretty much every other romance ever written. ^_^
In this first part of two, we meet Fiona and Eimi, two girls who reside at the Hakugin Gymnasium, an orphanage/ boarding school. Eimi was abandoned by her parents but somewhere out there, they still exist, while Fiona has no idea if her parents are alive or dead. Since the two of them were left at the Gymnasium on the same day, they are inseparable. But, when Eimi’s real parents reach out to her to bring her home, there’s nothing Fiona can do. And so, her beloved Eimi leaves her behind. As soon as she’s old enough, Fiona leaves the Gymnasium, walking away to create a solitary life for herself without the person she loves most in the world.
Time passes and Toutou and Eris, two younger students who admired Eimi and Fiona and their closeness, have now grown up to be about the same age Fiona and Eimi were when Eimi left. Toutou is increasingly aware of feeling for Eris, but instead of turning towards her, Eris is falling for a guy. A guy who is 100% clear about Toutou’s feelings and is pleased with himself for stealing her love.
More and more, Toutou finds herself thinking about Fiona, and wondering if the ache she feels in her chest now is similar to Fiona’s when Eimi left. Toutou goes through a crisis in which she finds herself about to harm Eris, and breaks down. To her surprise, she learns that her feelings are fully returned. Outside the room, Miss Maria, the head teacher, cries at the pain that awaits them
In the final chapter of this volume we learn something we had not previously known. Although we knew all along that Fiona’s feelings for Eimi went beyond friendship, in a short flashback we now can see that Eimi’s feeling were the same. And again, we see Miss Maria trying desperately to protect them from what appears to be inevitable unhappiness.
While in Japan in October at Toranoana’s Yuri section, I saw this book and it’s sequel. (Yay for technology. I wasn’t sure if I had ordered this book through Amazon JP yet, so pulled out my phone, checked my orders online and voila! knew I hadn’t gotten them.) So I picked up this volume. That night I flipped through it and realized that I really needed both volumes. The narrative was slightly too non-linear – and it wasn’t looking happy there by the end.
Never in my life have I been so happy that I waited until I had both books to read a series.
You’re going to want to have Volume 2 right there when you read Volume 1. Trust me on this.
The name of the orphanage is interesting. Hakugin (which means “white silver”) Gymnasium, (where Gynmasium is pronounced with a hard ‘g’. Gim-na-zhi-um) is set in somewhere in the Europe of the imagination, where girls wear long skirts, high laced boots, and poor orphanage/boarding schools have a grand piano. It’s quite likely a reference to Moto Hagio‘s early BL work Juichigatsu no Gymnasium (11月のギムナジウム), which famously, she has said she originally considered centering around girls, but instead chose to make about love between boys.
The art is a style I very much like. Like the title, it hearkens back to an earlier time. More like Himitsu no Kaidan (another classic boarding school story, reviewed here on Okazu: Volume 1 | Volume 2). I found the whole thing an attractive and compelling read, if maybe not the cheerfulest thing I’ve read this month. ^_^;
Art – 9
Story – 7 very non-linear. No adherence to Aristotelian principles here.
Characters – 8 Surprisingly very well developed
Yuri – 8
Service – 3 Partial nudity
Overall – 8
So here, in sometime, someplace Europeanish, we’re getting a story about love between girls. Two stories, in fact – one apparently happy, one apparently tragic. But we have a volume yet to go.