I’ve read manga series that have simply faded off the plane of existence with nary a warning. That’s always the worst because it’s not until months later, when you’ve already wiped the series from your mind, that you figure out that yes, that was where the story ended, for some arbitrary reason. However, this manga is the only manga I remember reading that had actually gotten cancelled. And it’s simple enough to understand why it did: there was evidence of tracing within the work. However, I would argue that the premature end of Shou Higashiyama’s Prism is no big loss to the manga scene or the romance genre.
When main character Megu was in grade school, she spent a summer at her grandmother’s. During this time she fell madly and hopelessly in love with a young boy, Hikaru. Her feelings for her first love remained so strong that Megu didn’t allow anyone into her heart during middle school. Now entering high school, Megu has vowed to find love and attempt to wipe the grade school love affair from her mind.
When she arrives at school, a mysterious and beautiful new girl approaches her with more excitement than Megu knows what to do with. Understandably confused, everything becomes clearer when the girl introduces herself as Hikaru. The very same Hikaru from all those years ago.
Megu doesn’t take this very well, at least internally. She feels betrayed by Hikaru and by herself for falling for a boy who was actually a girl. She’s embarrassed for all the time she’s put into romanticizing her first crush, even more-so because she’s told her friends about it. She’s confused and frustrated at the thought that she might be a lesbian. It’s a mess! After spending some more time with Hikaru however, Megu begins reflecting on herself. Her feelings really hadn’t changed this entire time. Boy or girl, she’s still in love with Hikaru. After some conflict between the two—including a kiss that they both try to shrug off and fail to do—they end up dating, despite the hardships that may arise from it.
In general, this story is cute, if predictable and a little boring, but for something being touted as a more realistic portrayed of a lesbian relationship in the real world I would have to disagree. Despite the fantastic moment of introspection on Megu’s part and the conversation the two girls have about whether or not they should keep the relationship secret, I feel like this is too separated from the real world for me to feel particularly invested. And this wouldn’t have been a problem had the tone not been driven in a way that made it seem like the Higashiyama wouldn’t shy away from the very real hazing that real life LGBT* couples go through every day. It’s implied that Hikaru is bullied (for being too beautiful… but I’ll let that slide), so the thought that by being with this woman she loves would lead her to be bullied more is a very raw and tangible conflict. However, after the two start dating, this conflict never comes to a head.
There’s always a looming sense of dread around the relationship, but in terms of prejudice they face, there’s only one moment in the six chapter story where they’re attacked because of their sexuality. They seem to live in a bubble of acceptance, even going so far as to have a teacher (who is bisexual) who goes out of her way to try and get Megu and Hikaru to hook up. In fact, most of the main characters end up being lesbian or bisexual, or implied as such. This is where this story gets into iffy territory for me.
I understand the need to have safe spaces within various media, and I understand the necessity in having the characters in an LGBT* story be accepted or at least have a strong support system in place.
However, when it turns out that either most of the characters aren’t straight and that every conflict is solved with interference or that there wasn’t even a conflict in the first place (in the case of Prism, both of these hold true), it cheapens the story a little bit. Especially when it’s implied that the characters are going to have to deal with some serious societal repercussions to their relationship. There’s a way to make a good, non-heteronormative romance manga with some angst, but it’s not by resolving all the conflict caused by outside parties without the leads learning anything.
That said, if you want to read something a little bit longer and more serious than Like a Cinderella, I’d say to give this story a shot. Claims of tracing aside, the artwork is beautiful and does lend itself to the story well. I will warn you now that the story ends up being more ecchi (lightly pornographic) in the later chapters than the earlier chapters might lead one to believe, so if you’re not entirely cool with hearing talk about boobies getting touched, I might skip Prism. This is definitely not my favorite yuri, but it’s not harmful and that’s really the most important thing.