Sumomo Yumeka’s Same Cell Organism is a boys’ love anthology featuring several short comics about troubled but affectionate relationships between young men. The volume, published by Juné Manga, devotes about a third of its page-time to the titular story, which establishes themes that carry on through the rest of the book. “Same Cell Organism” chronicles the love of Nakagawa and Yokota, who share intense feelings despite the differences in how they express them. Subsequent stories echo this focus on the common links between seemingly dissimilar characters. Most of this volume’s pieces are grounded with a slice-of-life tone, although some of them venture into fantasy and unexpectedly tragic territory. Anthology titles can be hit-or-miss depending on their consistency of content and quality level, but does Same Cell Organism shape its parts into a cohesive whole? Most importantly, is it good?
The most consistently high quality aspect of this volume is its art. Yumeka utilizes thin line-work throughout that gives the characters a lovely sense of fragility to match their delicate emotions. Many of the page compositions are sparse, and the heavy use of white space works alongside the thin lines to create a relaxed, airy tone. Most of the shading is done with light to moderate tones of gray, so the few occasions where deep black inks are used really pop. These heavy inks are particularly effective when used to convey folds in fabric, adding a sense of depth to the characters’ clothing. Overall, Yumeka does a great job contrasting tones to heighten and lessen the intensity of specific moments.
Writing-wise, “Same Cell Organism” is the strongest of the volume’s stories. The premise–two young men love each other equally but have significantly different temperaments–is simple, and that’s a good thing. Yumeka takes her time chronicling the growth of Nakagawa and Yokota’s relationship, from their first meeting in grade school to moving in together as adults. Most of the scenes included depict commonplace events and conversations, and this focus on trivial matters helps make the characters easy to relate to and empathize with. Yumeka does an especially good job capturing the slight awkwardness present in the pair’s conversations that arises from their starkly different manners of speaking. There are a few scenes that fall flat due to not delving deeply enough into the characters’ emotions, but overall “Same Cell Organism” is charming in its mundane approach.
Of all the volume’s other stories, “To Make an Angel” is perhaps the most intriguing due to its incorporation of religious elements via the titular angel. The concept of humans and angels intermingling is ripe with potential, especially in a male/male romantic context. Yumeka also does a great job rendering beautifully soft wings and skies. Unfortunately, this story is too rushed to reach its full potential. There’s scarcely enough page-time to introduce all its principal characters, much less end all their narrative arcs effectively. I’m impressed by what’s here, but it feels incomplete.
Unfortunately, the rest of the volume is marked by the same problems. “The Letter in the Attic” reads like a great first chapter, but it ends with a twist that cuts its potential short. On the plus side, the artwork is lovely throughout, with some of the strongest inks and flow of motion in the entire book. The main characters’ dynamic is also intriguing, but the sudden ending renders all of their previous build-up moot. With that said, the volume’s weakest segment is definitely “We Selfish Two.” The romantic couple in that story has a significant age gap that isn’t addressed adequately, and the end result is a romance that feels uncomfortable to read.
Overall, Same Cell Organism is a solid volume that shows off Sumomo Yumeka’s considerable artistic skills. Many of the stories seem a bit incomplete, but the concepts and characters grab one’s attention nonetheless. While some of the endings are unsatisfying, the art is consistently a pleasure to look at. Yumeka’s airy style matches the tone of the content perfectly. This volume may not feel completely polished, but it’s still an enjoyable read.