Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Manga Review: Girl Friends volume 5

Well...it's the final volume.

Volume 5 moves from Akko and Mari (finally!) acknowledging each other's feelings to their going out as a couple. Mayu, a close friend of Mari's from when they were in elementary school (Mari was the only person who befriended Mayu when she was being bullied, you may remember), runs into Mari and Akko while they're out shopping on a Christmas Eve date. Mari and Mayu start meeting and mailing each other a lot, which makes Akko uneasy.

Seeing Mari and Mayu spending time together, Akko thinks about what makes her different from Mari's other close friends. She really wants to sleep with Mari, but she's intimidated by the (false) idea that Mari already has experience. (Looking up porn for sex ed doesn't help.) Akko learns that Mari was just giving Mayu make-up and fashion tips to help her get the attention of the boy she likes. When Mari asks Akko to help Mayu with her make-up, Akko begins to realize what she would enjoy doing for a career.

Soon everyone is planning what to do after graduation, and Akko decides to attend a vocational school to become a make-up artist. This upsets Mari, who thought that she and Akko would attend the same college. Of course they make up, and Mari decides what she wants to do.  Everyone graduates, and Mari and Akko are still together in college/vocational school.

Well...it's over. (I'm starting to sound like a broken record. XD) This volume has a hard-won happily-ever-after, a cute Christmas Eve date, beautiful art, and strong writing. Morinaga balances romantic escapism and realism with the same cheerful, lighthearted touch that has endeared her storytelling to fans since her Yuri Shimai/Yuri Hime days. This volume isn't 100% perfect (which Morinaga herself feels, in a different way, in her afterword- although I think she's too hard on herself about the ending; my nitpick is that I would have liked to see Mari and Akko come out to someone, and seeing them together after graduation when they're attending their respective new schools would have been the cherry on top), but it's a sweet ending to an "arresting, slow-cooking romance" (as described in my review of volume 1) that Morinaga Milk clearly put her heart into writing these past few years. For five volumes of hair-pulling, smile-inducing, freakishly realistic, amusingly escapist entertainment, thank you, Girl Friends.

Story: A-
Art: B+
Overall: Strong A-

A note: I started taking photos of the manga I review because I couldn't find a decent-sized picture of the edition of Cutey Honey I have. I've continued to do it as a subtle way to encourage people who read manga via scanlations or raw scans to support the people whose work they enjoy. (I don't know if there's any point in doing that for something that's well out of print and out of stock, though.)


Anonymous said...

I loved this ending so much~ The couple is still together, and there's a good sense that they will stay together. There's nothing I love more than being able to think about where a couple is going to go after the series is over, so I'm happy to be able to think about it.

Also, *hot* set scene~

Sheldor said...

This volume ruined Girl Friends for me, like every other yuri fangirl I was enamoured with the series but post confession I found myself starting to question many of Milks decisions in this final volume. I could go on and on (and on) but in a nutshell I felt the volume to be riddled with seemingly petty conflicts and Mari and Akko felt guilty of being characters who proclaim to love eachother deeply and yet don't understand eachother. The sex? ... weird. The ending? Felt rushed.

STILL! It's Girl Friends and no matter what, it has a place in my heart all of its own.

"My love... there's no way it can ever be fulfilled."

That's how I choose to remember Girl Friends. That line is hands down my favourite line in all of yuri manga and Morinaga Milk at her best is unstoppable.

... now you've made me all sad lol. Great review!

Katherine said...

@DB- Yeah, it was a cute ending- it does give the sense that they'll always be happy together.

@Sheldor- lol Thanks. I know I've done a strong review when even someone who disagrees with it enjoys it. Yes, the earlier volumes were SO realistic (and by extension, heart-twinging) that on their strength alone, Girl Friends will always have a place in my heart/bookshelf, whatever criticisms I may have of it. (I like to think of it as tough love.)

I can see where you're coming from, but I didn't really mind the communication-based conflicts between between Mari and Akko in this volume because they've always had some communication issues, by virtue of their differing communication styles (along with the obvious issues a teenage girl in a homophobic society is going to have with telling another girl her feelings). I saw the petty conflicts (like the jealousy over Mayu and their conflict about Akko's career choice) as early tests that were meant to show they would work through whatever new problems pop up in the future. After Naru-chan-sensei's advice to Mari, especially, that's what I took away from it.

I'm sad about it ending too.... But at least we can still look forward to the drama CD. (And whatever Morinaga's next yuri-hit is.)