I’m always on the hunt for promising new manga with queer protagonists. Queue my my excitement for tMnR’s If I Could Reach You Vol. 1. The yuri series follows Uta, a high school student struggling with unrequited feelings for Kaoru, her brother Rei’s wife. The fact that Uta lives with the couple doesn’t make getting over Kaoru any easier, and neither do the newlyweds’ marital troubles. So, how effectively does the manga traverse the topic of painful love? Is this debut volume good?
If I Could Reach You does an excellent job establishing its central conflict and tone within the opening three color pages, all while barely using any narration. The first page depicts Uta sitting in a church pew and observing wedding festivities, specifically a groom removing his wife’s veil. This is then followed by a two-page spread in which all other attendees are absent and we just get a sideshot of the aforementioned three characters, Uta still seated and smiling up at the happy couple on a raised podium.
So much is conveyed in these opening pages. All the traditional church wedding trappings, from the veil to the crosses, convey the weight of what has transpired. So, too, does the bright blue sky shining in through the windows in the background. The blue of the walls is icy cold in comparison, however. Even as she watches on from the front row, Uta’s physical distance from Kaoru is pronounced. Then you have the masses of flower petals strewn across the floor at Uta’s feet. Rather than lovely decor, they stand out as looking tossed aside and crumpled. In contrast, the bouquet Kaoru grips close to her chest is cherished, a focal point of newlywed bliss. Uta’s alignment with the cast aside flowers is further cemented by a shot of them floating (downward, to the ground) by her on page one.
The attention to detail and emotional realities doesn’t slow down after this, though it shifts to the three characters’ everyday cohabitation and social lives. We get to know both Uta and Kaoru largely through their interactions with other people. With Kaoru, we see her pained attempts to connect comfortably with the people around her. Her caring and cluelessness are both evident in very well-written dialogue that fleshes her out as much more than just an object for Uta’s affections.
Uta, meanwhile, undergoes relatable mental anguish about moving on and how compassion from loved ones can sometimes be painful. Uta also has an effectively fleshed out cast of friends that she bounces off of well and who break scenes up so that the story isn’t solely driven by Uta’s internal dialogue. Konatsu is an especially neat character whose conversation with Uta about loving other women feels sincere and adds a refreshing twinge of hope to a story that’s otherwise focused on love’s drawbacks.
The visuals throughout also contribute heavily to the book’s success. As previously mentioned, the opening color pages are packed with meaning via matrimonial symbolism and significant physical distances between characters. The remainder of the manga continues to impress with emotive facial expressions, lovely shading and patterns, and effective visual pacing. The occasional odd composition choice or awkwardly rendered face aside, I have no qualms with the art.
All in all, If I Could Reach You Vol. 1 kicks the series off to a great start. The core characters and their situation are poignantly introduced within the first few pages and their conflicts just get more fleshed out from there. The art feels very well-thought-out, and the attention paid to building up Uta’s social life is very effective. If you’re looking for a great yuri series then I would highly recommend this title.