Translation/Adaptation: Abby Lerkhe
What They Say
Shy Miwa has always dreamed of finding love, but living in small-town Japan made finding the right match difficult—especially since she likes girls! Even going away to college didn’t seem to increase her romantic odds until one day her outgoing classmate Saeko suggests they might as well start dating each other since it’s not like either of them have other options. At first, it seems like things won’t work out as their personalities clash and misunderstandings abound. But when their casual friendship starts to become something more Miwa begins to wonder—can a pragmatic proposal lead to true love?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Relationship stories are my jam. I watch a lot of romantic comedies and dramas on TV and in the movies. I’ve spent plenty of time reading romance novels and Harlequin stuff over the years. I enjoy a good run of adult material where in the manga world it tends to involve relationships in a big way. But manga, at least that’s brought over in English, that focuses on a real relationship story are few and far between for what I look for. This series from Tamifull came across like a breath of fresh air, starting off by making it clear this relationship isn’t just about the will-they-or-won’t-they when it comes to even kissing as so many properties do. This one makes it clear from the start, this is about a real relationship and then gets right into the thick of it.
The focus of it is on two college first-years with Miwa and Saeko. The two ended up meeting while trying to navigate the deluge of clubs trying to sign people and it was a meet-cute of the best order with Miwa bending over and Saeko unable to do anything but exclaim about how great her rack is. Saeko’s smitten. She sees this shy girl and is just drawn to her. This shy girl that’s stunningly beautiful but doesn’t know it and is withdrawn into herself because of it. For Miwa, she’s just taken aback by how out loud and alive Saeko is, saying what she thinks, aggressively making lots of friends, and making Miwa one of them from that instant. Going so far as to sign them up for a band club where they’ll form a group with a trio of other guys. Not that Miwa knows how to sing or play an instrument and neither does Saeko. But it looks fun and Saeko’s set to live her best life here at college and she already knows she wants Miwa to be a part of it in some form.
Now, the book doesn’t open on that scene. No, it opens a couple of months down the line in their relationship where they’re in bed together, playful, sexual, loving, and engaging over it. The kind of piece that makes you smile because it’s exactly what you want/have in your life and seeing it represented so beautifully just brightens you up. That’s what Tamifull accomplishes here. She places us into this as we see the two young woman who are commuting to school and dealing with this big new life begin to realize that they have feelings for each other. It’s a slow burn over the first few chapters because a lot of it focuses on the band side, the awkwardness with one of the guys instantly wanting to date Miwa, and just the internal dynamics that both women are dealing with. Honestly, the band stuff I could have done without and wish that Tamifull had gone with another kind of club so that it wasn’t just so familiar and awkward.
But the core of the series with Miwa and Saeko is fantastic. This opening volume, which almost had me doing chapter by chapter reviews so I could really talk in more detail about it, really explores the basics of what become very well-realized characters. Miwa’s shyness and uncertainty about dating women comes from a bad sexual experience with a guy in high school but it’s more that she knew she wasn’t interested in boys and just felt compelled to go that route for societal reasons. But that’s colored her perceptions of sex and has her very hesitant when it comes toward Saeko as they start dating and have very different views and expectations of it, especially since Miwa hasn’t really dated or even kissed before. For Saeko, she’s been more out since middle school but suffered a lot of emotional abuse over it because of how a former girlfriend was treated. That has her wanting to live her life out proudly – but on her terms. She’s not telling everyone, just those who matter. It’s her business to share it and it doesn’t mean the whole world. But at the same time, she has no real issues being seen holding hands and being happy with Miwa, which in turn helps to give Miwa confidence.
There are layers beyond this as well and you get some of the usual misunderstandings, but even those are cleared up sometimes within the same page. Both women are understanding because Saeko knows she has a bit more experience and – quite frankly, she’s so attracted to Miwa she’s more than willing to wait to “get at those tiddies!” as she puts it. And Miwa’s trying to balance her kind of gender-normal views of dating and romance against someone that isn’t like that and having to readjust but also wanting to make sure that her romantic partner is happy and pleased. She’s really struggling to come out more fully here in a way, and actually having sex would be “going past the point of no return” for her. She wants it, more than she realizes, but she has to come to it naturally.
This is exactly the kind of property I wish we had more of and that was making the transition to anime form. I long ago lost interest in a lot of manga because of the volume upon volumes of delayed gratification and getting to the “good stuff” which for me in storytelling is the actual relationship and navigating it. How Do We Relationship? with its opening volume blows the doors off of so many series that I’ve read and feels more honest and real than other relationship books I’ve read that I’m just kind of stunned. Tamifull has some appealing artwork here and you can see the way she nudges things with Miwa so that she is that shy mysterious beauty that fascinates men and women alike. And just how outgoing Saeko is without being a tomboy or something, allowing her to be clear about her wants and desires. This is a relationship that I hope is able to really explore a lot of things because these two leads carry their baggage and will make it fascinating, beautiful, and thoroughly enjoyable based on what this opening volume accomplishes.
Content Grade: A
Art Grade: A-
Packaging Grade: B+
Text/Translation Grade: B+
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: June 9th, 2020