Story/Art: Suu Morishita
Translation/Adaptation: Abby Lehrke
What They Say
Suiren Shibazeki is often compared to a beautiful flower—but one that grows on the tallest peak of a mountain, forever out of reach. When Suiren develops feelings for the quiet Taichi Kawasumi, however, she doesn’t want to be a distant flower. She’d rather leave her lofty perch and fly toward him like a butterfly.
After Kawasumi rescues her from an unwelcome admirer, Suiren finds herself captivated by him. However, Suiren is too shy to speak to anyone, much less this reserved karate boy. What’s more, Suiren isn’t the only one interested in Kawasumi. Will a class trip offer the opportunity to reveal her feelings before it’s too late?
Content: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers):
Suiren’s gorgeous looks make her an idol among her peers. However, all the attention makes the shy girl withdraw into herself, especially around boys. But after schoolmate Kawasumi rescues her from an unwelcome admirer, Suiren falls for him. There’s a problem though. He is as reticent around girls as she is around boys.
Like Viz Media’s Wolf Girl and Black Prince, the original Japanese material for Like a Butterfly was printed a decade ago. However, the content of Volume 1 isn’t obviously dated, so it still works as a contemporary high school romance. The premise of Like a Butterfly is another matter though.
Some main characters are easy for readers to relate to. Suiren, not so much. Nicknamed “Mysterious Flower” by her adoring fans, she’s been treated like an idol by girls and boys alike since middle school. As a result of this intense popularity, she rarely speaks or shows emotion. In Chapter 1, she only has three brief lines of dialogue, and two of them are in middle school flashbacks. Even her internal monologue is on the sparse side. Moreover, she has no goals, no interests, and isn’t involved in any activities. She just kind of… exists to be admired. As a result, it’s largely up to Suiren’s two friends to provide explanations and react/interact with other characters on her behalf.
Things aren’t quite as bad with the male lead, Kawasumi. He’s standoffish around girls but behaves normally, for the most part, with other boys. And unlike Suiren, he has a club activity (karate) that he is dedicated to. However, the combination of a boy who avoids female attention and a girl who’s too shy to interact with boys is kind of a problem for a romance series. I don’t have anything against a slow burn, but this set up makes the pace ridiculously slow.
Because dialogue is nearly impossible between these two personalities, there’s a heavy reliance on significant looks to tell the story. Unfortunately, Suiren doesn’t really show emotion either, so those significant looks get old fast due to her limited expressive range. And because neither she nor Kawasumi has the initiative to start anything, it takes a third character, the upperclassman Koharu, to get things rolling. Like Suiren, she’s crushing on Kawasumi, but Koharu’s aggressively pursuing him despite his repeated rebuffs. Koharu’s dogged pursuit is what causes Suiren to realize her own attraction to Kawasumi and eventually pushes her to interact with him. Though that interaction is limited to wordless actions like bowing and returning stray volleyballs.
Those who’ve experienced intense feelings of shyness around their crush might relate to this aspect of the plot, but main characters should have more initiative than this for a story to have momentum. As it is, it’s only thanks to the liveliness of the supporting cast that Like a Butterfly has any momentum at all.
Extras include creator notes embedded in the manga and a couple bonus illustrations. There are no translation notes, but they would’ve been handy for the cultural reference to red bean rice.
Romances generally have some obstacle that must be overcome in order for love to be attained. In the case of Like a Butterfly, the obstacles are Suiren’s unapproachable aura, Kawasumi’s disinterest in romantic relationships, and the fact that neither character talks to peers of the opposite gender. As a result, the story has a lot of observing from a distance, not a whole lot of interaction, and almost no conversation between the lead couple, if you can even call them that. Even for a slow burn, this romance is moving at a glacial pace.
Content Grade: C+
Art Grade: B
Packaging Grade: B-
Text/Translation Grade: B
Age Rating: 13+
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: July 4th, 2023