Story and Art: Suu Morishita
Translation/Adaptation: Abby Lehrke
Lettering: Monaliza de Asis
What They Say
Would you rather wait for love like a flower, or fly toward love like a butterfly?
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. But 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 is considered the most beautiful girl at school—so much so, that she is considered to be out-of-reach to any of her classmates. Her shy, reserved nature just adds to the mystique and makes her seem even more unattainable. It’s not that she’s not interested in talking to people, but she’s always felt awkward around others, particularly boys. Going to an all-girls middle school has not helped matters any, and having returned to a co-ed school, she is worse than ever. But when fellow freshman, Taichi, helps her shake the unwanted attention of an upperclassman, she starts to become drawn to him in a way that she’s never felt before, and she begins to struggle with the wall that she has built around herself. When Taichi draws the interest of another girl, Suiren’s struggles become all the more urgent, and it becomes clear that she has to learn how to come down from the mountain pedestal that others have put her on and can’t wait until somebody comes to get her.
Like a Butterfly was originally released in Japan in 2012, wrapping up in 2015 after twelve volumes. It was a popular manga and award-nominated, which makes it interesting that it has only arrived in the US now, eleven years later. By this point, I would have assumed it would be a title that would not get localized if it had not been already. That said, I’m always happy when the US publishers and studios dig backward a little bit to find gems that might have been missed on the first go around, and especially now being in an era of digital distribution where every year, there is less and less that does not make it to these shores in some manner, my hope is that we’ll see companies trying to fill the back catalog as much as possible, so that titles like this can get some more play.
Because, so far, Like a Butterfly is a gem of a manga. So far, I’d liken it to a dramatic Shojo version of Komi Can’t Communicate, in that like Komi, Suiren is somebody that is seen as a goddess and held at arms’ length because she is seen as so much better than everybody else, but all she really desires is to be a part of the crowd. She just does not know how to do that and has retreated into a shell of social anxiety that nobody else can perceive. But unlike Komi, who has Tadano to help her along, Suiren has to navigate her own feelings and find her way out into the open, and this leads to a very different feel, because Suiren’s situation feels all the more hopeless because she is missing a shoulder to lean on.
However, while parallels can be drawn between Suiren and Komi, it should be stressed that they are still two very different titles. As a Shonen title, Komi Can’t Communicate plays up Komi’s struggles and interactions with others for humor, highlighting her anxieties and making its statements through the ridiculous situations Komi continually finds herself in, whereas Like a Butterfly is a Shojo drama, building dramatic tension through Suiren’s internal struggles and highlighting her anxieties by the panic they induce in her. So on that front, they are two very different stories, even though the principle characters are essentially struggling with the same issue. As a fan of Komi Can’t Communicate and a new fan of Like a Butterfly, it has been interesting to see social anxiety tackled like this from two very different angles. In fact, it would not surprise me if the continuing success of Komi Can’t Communicate—and, more recently, others like Bocchi the Rock—is what led Viz to look back at Like a Butterfly and decide it could find an audience here.
I am glad that Like a Butterfly is finally making its way to the US more than a decade after its original release in Japan. I really enjoyed this first volume of it, and am looking forward to seeing where it goes from here. I noted in this review similarities between Suiren and Komi from Komi Can’t Communicate as their problems are very similar, but the tonal differences do lead them to being very different titles overall. So while Suiren and Komi are cut from the same initial cloth, I certainly would not say that fans of Komi Can’t Communicate would automatically like this, but if you like Komi and enjoy a good romantic drama, then Like a Butterfly might be right up your alley. Recommended.
Content Grade: A-
Art Grade: A
Packaging Grade: A
Text/Translation Grade: A
Age Rating: T-Teen
Released By: Viz Media
Release Date: July 4, 2023