Sugar wa Otoshigoro isn't a personal favorite of mine, but it's still a solid entry into the "very,-very-close-friends-who-might-become-something-more" yuri subtext-niche. The quirky, likeable protagonists are what make this otherwise unremarkable high school dramedy worth checking out.
Hatanaka Keiko is a slightly cracked high school student with unusual ambitions. She dreams of becoming a prostitute when she grows up- in fact, when she posts about it on her cell phone blog, she gets a whopping 500+ comments from people, mostly telling her that she's nuts. Otherwise, she's a pretty typical student, with a working dad, a housewife mom, and a harmlessly snotty little sister. She's also a tomboy with a habit of singing her feelings out loud, whose classmates view her as something of an outsider. Enter Asami Tsubaki, a cool-headed, acerbic girl who works in the school library and is considered much more of an outsider than Keiko because rumors are running amok that she was a prostitute in high school. Keiko befriends her and they remain close, even after Keiko learns about the rumors from her gossip-mongering "friends." Tsubaki (my favorite character) doesn't really care what her classmates think of her (yay!), and the girls continue to grow closer, even as Honda, a kind, but rough-around-the-edges boy from Tsubaki's old school, enters the equation and expresses (unrequited) interest in her- and Tsubaki's background continues to haunt her.
Sugar wa Otoshigoro succeeds on several different levels for me. It works as...
- a story about an amusingly unconventional friendship- Tsubaki and Keiko have great chemistry together as friends, which leads me to this story working as...
- an incipient, slow-cooking yuri romance- or rather, a friendship with strong romantic subtext during volume 1, although it looks like the yuri will become more pronounced from the next volume on. This volume really doesn't shy away from painting its characters with the yuri subtext brush, though- one of my favorite moments is when Keiko starts singing a love song to a tsubaki (camellia) plant at home while thinking of Tsubaki, and her family is like "wtf is she doing?" But while Sugar wa Otoshigoro does contain yuri overtones, it isn't flowery and escapist. Instead it manages to be...
- a story that addresses "gritty" topics teenagers (sometimes) cope with- like bullying, rape, etc- without making me feel like face-palming and setting the manga down. I don't like reading many titles that focus on characters dealing with issues like that, like LIFE and Hana Yori Dango, because I really don't enjoy reading umpteen volumes of some girl being physically and psychologically victimized at school. (Or anywhere else- hence, why I don't care for Last Friends.) Keiko's classmates are gossipy and annoying, but they don't overwhelm the draw of the story- Tsubaki and Keiko's deepening friendship.
The art looks good enough. It conveys the story well, with distinct, expressively-drawn character designs- especially when it comes to Keiko's body language. The character designs look a little rough, and aside from Keiko, Tsubaki, Honda, and Keiko's mother and sister, all of the character designs are forgettable. (The peripheral characters often aren't even drawn with eyes- although it may be a stylistic choice at times, like when one of Keiko's classmates is drawn with eyes for the first time when she begins to understand Keiko.)
In short, Sugar wa Otoshigoro is a good comedy-drama with appealing leads that I would recommend- whether Keiko and Tsubaki become an item or not. (But of course it would be nice if it happened. ^^ Sugar runs in Young King, a bi-weekly(!) seinen magazine published by Shōnen Gahosha.)
And unrelated: Oooh, I can't wait until the finale of CANAAN comes out tomorrow!! ^___^ I'm moving all of my