I’m moving out of my school apartment shortly, and I don’t have any manga lying around because I’ve already sent them all home and out of the way. So this week, I took a page out of Lady Bacula’s book, went to a random manga-hosting website, and hit the ‘surprise me’ button.
Kono Sora ni Hibike (literally, “let’s resound to this sky”) is a three-chapter story, followed by two unrelated one-shots, Cat Lover and Love Warriors.
The first story follows Nene and her friends, brothers Ryou and Hajime, who are members of their school’s tiny marching band club. When the principal decides to merge the mediocre marching band with the school’s prestigious wind band, the three friends have to band (haha, no pun intended) together to keep their club alive.
This is a pretty cute but tremendously average shoujo story. Of course, because it’s a cutesy shoujo, both brothers also have a crush on Nene. For some reason both boys see the stressful two week period between the announcement that the club may be disbanded and their make-it-or-break-it performance as the perfect time to make their love confessions. This obviously places more stress on the girl, but all is eventually resolved. Does she get with the sweet, gentle older brother or the tsundere, rebellious younger brother? That’s for you to read and find out. My question is more along the lines of: why is it a given that she has to get with someone at all?
Nene loves marching band because, through it, she can still feel connected to her mother, a teacher and the band’s original sponsor who died when Nene was very young. What is it with inspirational dead moms in shoujo? Tohru’s mom in Furuba, Haruhi’s mom in Ouran, Tsukimi’s mom in Kuragehime—all of these women existed and died solely to inspire the main character’s growth in the present.
The second story, Cat Lover, raised my ire more than anything else I read in this collection. If you’re not a fan of stories like Hot Gimmick, where an older and more powerful male sempai is constantly hurtful to his younger love interest and it’s shown as romantic nonetheless, you won’t like this at all. Tamako wants to befriend Saeki, but he only seems to care about his cat Tama-chan. Tamako, eager to be cared for, opts to become Saeki’s “cat” as well, allowing him to treat her as though she were at least his personal servant if not his pet. At the end of the story it’s revealed that he really does care about Tamako and he stops considering her as his pet and rather as his girlfriend, but the story up till that point left an unpleasant taste in my mouth.
The last story is basically cute, but rather forgettable. Love Warriors is a very brief story about a basketball-playing freshman named Manami who’s just gotten her shot to play on the varsity team. She practices hard with a male friend, but because of a prank played by some jealous upperclassmen, she ends up with a fever. She plays the game anyway, but she’s too sick to play well and they end up losing. Despite all that, she comes out on top—the boy asks her out, the upperclassmen apologize, and the coach continues to have faith in her despite her terrible performance. I did like that Manami was shown as a serious athlete—she mentions at one point that she’s been practicing her whole life for the opportunity to play—which is a category that not many manga heroines fall into.
All in all, reading this series wasn’t a bad way to spend an hour or two on a Saturday afternoon, but it’s not winning any awards for most interesting or most feminist story anytime soon. I won’t tell you not to read it—just don’t go in expecting anything besides some cutesy, romantic shoujo fun.