Sunday, November 11, 2012

Manga Review: Tears of Thorn (Ibara no Namida)

Rikachi's Tears of Thorn is about a lesbian college student finding love after learning not to let opportunity pass her by. As I mentioned in my review of Fujieda Miyabi's wonderful Kotonoha no Miko to Kotodama no Majyo to, I love seeing fairytale tropes given a lesbian spin, which Tears of Thorn does with its influence from Sleeping Beauty.

Basically, Tears of Thorn is full of win.

On their first day of college, Maki and her best friend Lilia meet another freshman named Kanna. Maki and Kanna hit it off, and Maki gets a crush on Kanna. Kanna asks Maki out, but in her surprise (and momentary stupidity), Maki blurts that she doesn't feel the same way. Maki wants to apologize and tell Kanna she didn't mean what she said, but when she finally works up the nerve to do so, she realizes Kanna has been snagged by another girl. Rubbing salt in the wound, the girl Kanna likes resembles Juli, the girl who Hiromi, Maki's first love and former best friend, fell in love with several years ago.

As Maki remembers the words Juli taunted her with ("Have you heard of Briar Rose? She just lay in wait, safe behind the briars."), the story flashes back to how she fell for Hiromi. Maki was always timid, and Hiromi saved her from bullies and brought her into her circle of friends in grade school. In middle school, Hiromi saved a new transfer student named Juli from isolation also. Juli pursued Hiromi, quickly making her her girlfriend and rubbing it in Maki's face.

After that, Maki went to a high school far from where she and Hiromi attended school, where Lilia became her first new friend. Lilia silently pined after Maki while Maki silently pined after their friend Yuki. Maki misread Lilia as being in love with Yuki also, and realizing Lilia noticed her feelings, worried about possibly looking like an interloper/another Juli to Lilia. Until she and Lilia saw Yuki kiss her new girlfriend.

When the story returns to the present, Maki and Lilia are having dinner at a restaurant, Maki ordering lots of booze to drown out her frustration at how she screwed up her chance with Kanna. When Maki dozes off after Lilia makes sure she gets home safely, Lilia gives her a kiss, not realizing that Maki was still awake. (SUBTLE HINT FOR WHAT THE KISS REPRESENTS: When they're riding to Maki's place in a cab, Maki slurs "I... wish I'd been born a princess" while leaning against Lilia and Lilia says "...You are princess." And then there's what Lilia says when she leaves Maki's apartment.)

Maki has a hard time acting normal around Lilia now. She never thought of Lilia in that light before, but now that she knows how Lilia sees her... Lilia keeps acting the same- but one day she stops attending class and Maki can't reach her. The more time she spends without Lilia, the more she realizes how much she really misses her.

She finds out why Lilia disappeared from Yuki, who, kind of hilariously, thinks they're already a couple. ("Go bring her some Valentine's chocolate, or something. She's crazy about you, y'know.") Seeing that Yuki knows a lot more about Lilia's situation than she does (Lilia's misguided attempt at giving Maki as little to worry about as possible), Maki wonders if Lilia still cares about her.

But she finds Lilia anyway and gives her a lovely confession. ^__^ The entire scene is really squee-worthy.

Then the story wraps up, and Happily-Ever-After. Unlike the Happily-Ever-After in Rikachi's other yuri series, Sky-colored Girlfriend, it's a Happily-Ever-After I feel happy about. There's also a short bonus chapter, giving a little more insight into Lilia's perspective.

So, yeah, I really enjoyed this series- SO much more than Sky-colored Girlfriend. I like Maki and Lilia, and I like them as a couple. The college aspect and the fairytale-influenced aspect are selling points for me, but both of those things are moot if I'm not sold on the characters and story. (See: The awfulness of Kimi Koi Limit, which features college students, and Sky-colored Girlfriend, which plays with fairytale tropes also.) I also have a soft spot for stories that follow their leads' growth through different phases of their lives- like Ashihara Hinako's Sand Chronicles, Ikeda Riyoko's Rose of Versailles, Takahashi Rumiko's Maison Ikkoku, Umino Chica's Honey & Clover, and so on. Tears of Thorn has a lot less length to work with than those series, but it makes great use of what it does have. Highly recommended, if you're looking for a good romantic drama. Reaaaad it. XD

Tears of Thorn is another JManga release. ALC worked on it, so, as expected, the translation reads smoothly and naturally. No complaints there again.

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

*still doing cartwheels over the election results*

BGM: "Darlin'" - Beni


Nicole Pierce said...

Jamanga are on a roll, aren't they? I was browsing through the other day, just going through the manga volumes, and woot, I've found out it's licensed in English through your blog. :D

I'm hoping they will get "Nobara no Mori no Otometachi", since I'm really interested in the series and no one is doing it anymore.

Katherine Hanson said...

@Nicole- XD Cool, I'm glad my blog helped you find out about it!

Nobara's a series I've been wanting to see licensed also. A little while ago, a friend and I were like "WE REALLY LIKE NOBARA NO MORI NO OTOMETACHI!! OMG, WE WANT TO SEE IT LICENSED IN ENGLISHHHHH" to Nobara's creator on Twitter, in Japanese. She was happy to hear we like it that much (she does seem like a genuinely very nice person) but said Nobara's rights aren't hers to control, but Kodansha's. (Even given that, it doesn't hurt to let her know there are folks who'd buy it in English without going overboard, eh?) But yes, here's hoping JManga (or someone else) picks it up.

Cartrell Marshall said...

Where can I find this to read I've searched for hours but Can't find it ������