So I succumbed to curiosity and bought the maiden volume (2012.01.27) of Carino MangaTime Kirara (SGD 22.23 after Kinokuniya member’s discount; RRP JPY 933 w/o tax). Congratulations, Houbunsha marketing department, getting aokiume’s new story to front the cover reeled me in hook, line and sinker as I love the Hidamari Sketch manga and anime as well as her character designs for Madoka Magica. I’m still a bit shellshocked that I basically took the plunge just for 21 pages by Ume-sensei (as well as 12 pages of Kurotabb’s A Channel prequel ~days in junior high school~) out of 332 pages. Some of the other stories look beautifully drawn and potentially interesting; now that I’ve bought this volume, I suppose I’ll get round to reading the rest sometime (which was probably the publisher’s whole point in the first place *sigh* I’m such a sucker).
Short but spoilerly (Duh!) summary of The Other Side of the Window: The heroine Sonofuji Kei is really really looking forward to enrolling in high school but she comes down with mumps the day before the enrolment ceremony and has to stay home for a week. She’s devastated. A day before she’s due to finally go to school, the male class representative Ishizaki arrives at her door with news: she’s been appointed female class representative. What’s more, it was because he recommended her even though this is the first time they’ve met. Cue her shocked ” WHYYYYYYYY!?” which closes the chapter.
I didn’t find much discussion in English (there’s plenty in Chinese) on Google’s search results top page or any scanlations so I’ve decided to write up some page-by-page notes – certainly a much more fun way of engaging with the language and a big reason why I’m still struggling (halfway) through the Anki Heisig RTK1-3 pack.
01: A girl is asking a stylist to cut her waist-length hair to about the level of her midriff; the latter assesses that it’s not short enough to be due to romantic heartbreak but it’s different enough for an image change [I had the same thought about if she just got dumped too; the stylist also reminded me of the twins in HidaSketch's Olive salon.]
02: The reason: I’m going to be a High Schooler soon! [Jp anime/manga tends to get a bit of stick for the constant use of the high school setting but, sales demographic aside, it seems to be an important rite of passage as well as, explicitly mentioned later, an opportunity to change/start afresh.]
03: Title page. “…the youthful time of a slightly mysterious maiden.” [But she seems perfectly ordinary to me. There's a guy on the other side of the window. An Aoki Ume heroine who's not kinda gay? This is definitely something new!]
04: Our heroine, Kei, is welcomed home by her mother who says she looks cute, should be confident as she’s a beautiful girl. [The shorter cut, and side braids, are definitely an improvement.]
05: Mom goes on encouraging her, telling her to enjoy HS life and to make lots of friends. [I had a terrible time in HS (or JC as it's called here in our glorious democratic people's republic island paradise) which, ironically, makes this type of sentiment all the more poignant.]
06: Kei poses with her HS uniform and is pleased that she doesn’t look like herself – a new haircut, new uniform, new school…
07: She declares to the world: “I’m going to become a high schooler, I will change!” but is told to quiet down by another girl.
08: Her elder sister apologizes and leaves with a parting comment about how Kei is bad at dealing with others. Kei is fine within the security of her home and family but falters in the scary world outside, looking at her old sailor fuku in the cupboard [Bad memories?]
09: She psychs herself up again and her self-cheer gets another Oneechan “urusai!” The next morning, her mother is having difficulty waking Kei up.
10: When Mom sees her face, she is horrified and pulls Kei out of bed. In the mirror, she sees her swollen cheeks.
11: Kei goes into denial and faints. The doctor’s diagnosis is mumps.
12: There’s no way she’s going to be allowed to go to school as her condition is highly contagious. She’ll have to stay home for about a week.
13: In her room, Kei is devastated about missing the first week of her new life in high school.
14: She’s orz as she tearfully thinks about all the things she’ll miss, all the things that will have been decided already, she’ll be almost like a transfer student. [Reminds me of Natsume's disappointment that her mom couldn't come with her to Yamabuki's entrance ceremony and her anxiety building up to a panic when things go wrong along her way on the first day of HS until that fateful encounter with Sae.]
15: Kei wakes up on the 10th of April and the swelling of her tonsils has finally receded. [Well, or you could say she's come out of Ume-sensei's chibi extra-wiiiiide face mode LOL]
16: Outside her room, Mom and Oneechan discuss Kei’s crushing disappointment. Mom notes that Kei has tended to be overly sensitive about how the feelings of those around her. The doorbell rings.
17: Mom brings news that a friend from HS has arrived. Kei runs down the stairs.
18: Kei asks Mom who is it – she hasn’t made any friends yet. It’s the class rep. Kei wonders why she is being contacted, opens the door to see a boy waiting for her.
19: He confirms her name, comments on how far away her home is (from school?) – the commute is 1.5 hrs! And finally gets to the purpose of his visit: He introduces himself as Ishizaki, from the same class; he’s come to inform her that he and her have been chosen as class representatives.
20: Kei is shocked and Ishizaki drops another bomb: he was the one who recommended her.
21: “Even though this is the first time we’ve met…!?” protests Kei but he ignores her distress and implied questions and leaves. Kei’s cry of WHYYYYYYYY!? is answered by another Oneechan “urusai!”
The art’s easily recognizable as characteristically Ume-sensei’s though this is her first non-4koma format manga that I’ve read. The set-up seems fairly ordinary, about a slightly unusual start to an ordinary high school life with a possible coupling between the two somewhat socially awkward but otherwise ordinary class reps. Not really sure where this is going. Wonder if I should wait for a compiled volume to be released instead but given that Carino‘s release schedule is quarterly (next 2012.04.26) that might be a few years away.