Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Manga Review: Whispered Words (a.k.a. Sasameki Koto) omnibus 1

Ikeda Takashi's Whispered Words (originally Sasameki Koto in Japanese) was a yuri staple for years. Over the course of nine volumes, fans read to see how long it would take for Sumi and Ushio to get past their barriers to admitting they love each other and get together already, damn it. (The wait was exacerbated for fans who could only read this series in English by the fact that the scanlations caught up to the entire series over a year after it finished.) One Peace Books, a mostly non-comic publisher, very quietly licensed this series- they need to work on that compared to, say, Seven Seas' heavy fan engagement and promotion of their titles- and here we have the first omnibus.

Like many a yuri manga set in high school, Whispered Words is about a girl in love with her best friend. Sumi is tall, competent, and the black belt heir of a karate dojo where she lives with her dad and three brothers. She's also pretty goofy and prone to fantasies about her best friend Ushio, who is openly gay but only likes girly girls. Sumi quit karate in the hopes of appealing more to Ushio and tells herself she never really loved it, but she lights up when she starts doing it again later in this omnibus. I quite like her. Anyway, Ushio's crushes keep going down in flames while Sumi winces and pines after her and figures her feelings are hopeless.

This omnibus contains the first three tankoubon of this series. The first tankoubon focuses on establishing character relationships in a mostly slice-of-life format. Besides Sumi and Ushio, you have: their quirky friend Kiyori, who is the one straight girl in this series; Tomoe and Miyako, who are a cute couple and act as a slightly snarky greek chorus throughout this series; Akemiya, a guy in their class who cross dresses, has a crush on Sumi, and is way more important in the copy on the back of this omnibus than in the actual story.

Volume 2 introduces Aoi, a yuri fangirl who loves a light novel series that is clearly Maria-sama ga Miteru. Because Sumi is awesome and accidentally makes herself look like a fan of not-Marimite, Aoi gets a crush on her and ropes her into co-creating a doujinshi for GLFes YuriFes. This isn't the most substantial of arcs, but it's geeky fun and has a sweet resolution. I also like that the beach chapter's beach portion ends two pages in with Tomoe's car exploding right after she, Miyako, and her friends get to the beach.

Volume 3 introduces Lotte, a short, girly-looking German transfer student who loves karate. Lotte is Ushio's type but likes Sumi a lot more because Ushio keeps trying to make her less tomboyish while Sumi helps her improve at karate. She serves as the catalyst for the biggest turning point in this omnibus, causing this series to turn from a romantic comedy with dramatic elements to a romantic drama with comedic elements. There's also a great flashback to how Sumi and Ushio became friends. The flashback portions of this series are some of its strongest, imo.

I'm glad this series is licensed and will buy volume 2, but the copy playing up Akemiya's role is annoying, the typesetting has a surprising amount of errors for a professional publication, a few minor lines are left untranslated, and the author's notes from the original release aren't included. Story-wise, my only real complaint so far is that Akemiya's sister is creepy and his chapter is kind of pointless.

Anyway, despite the kind of crappy release, Whispered Words is a good romance with a heart, and a series I enjoyed revisiting.


drawnseeker said...

I can't wait for the second ominibus, I already pre ordered it. The translation is a bit shaky but the story really shines after Part one of the ominibus.

Katherine Hanson said...

@drawnseeker- I agree, parts 2 and 3 are where the story gains momentum. And I'm looking forward to rereading the second omnibus' worth of material myself!