Over the last several years Kodansha has significantly upped the number of titles starring queer characters that they’ve been localizing, which has been nice to see. Most of these series have been romances, as is the case with this week’s new release of Yu Machio’s We’re On Our From Here. The manga stars two high schoolers, Haruki and Ryusuke, who have been friends for years and are now becoming more. After pining after Ryusuke while under the assumption that his love was unrequited, Haruki is surprised when his confession results not in rejection but in the other boy asking him out. From there the two boys must feel out the nature of their changing relationship and their ability to be affectionate around other people.
Art-wise, Machio’s work here is very charming. This is a story about two bumbling teens awkwardly exploring their feelings, and a lot comes down to how well their facial expressions and body language are rendered. Fortunately, Machio excels on this front. Ryusuke and Haruki’s faces convey a lot of emotional nuance ranging from adorably nervous and hesitant moments to humor, panic, and all the other hallmarks of a high school love story.
The manga also impresses in terms of just being pleasing to look at. The thin black line-work, gray screen tones, and white space are all well-balanced and lovely. The overall aesthetic pulls off an important contradiction: it looks simple, clean, and polished even while juggling multiple design elements at once. The whole book also has an airy quality to it that feels appropriate given the theme of lovestruck teens who feel like they’re walking on air.
Story-wise, We’re On Our Own From Here impresses most in its handling of the everyday anxieties of being in a gay relationship. The characters’ concerns about displays of public affection ring true, as do how they go out of their way to find private spots between the bustle and hustle where they can hold hands or kiss without drawing attention. The impacts of said necessary concealment upon their understandings of one another are also well-written. The tension between what they want and what they feel comfortable doing in public is an inherent source of both internal and interpersonal conflict, and makes for good character drama.
Con-wise, the main points of potential disappointment in this manga stem from Ryusuke and from the ending. Compared to Haruki, Ryusuke isn’t as dynamic of a character. The abundant positivity with which he’s framed makes sense given that Haruki’s the narrator, but as a consequence we don’t get many glimpses into his flaws or anxieties. We do get a few nice moments highlighting the childish side of his personality when the two are just joking around, but that’s about it.
The ending just kind of fizzles out. While it wraps things up cutely after a conflict gets resolved, said conflict never had convincingly high stakes. It’s a very sweet ending, but one that feels like a given and not like it was fully built up to. Nonetheless, it’s still enjoyable fluff.
All in all, We’re On Our Own From Here is a sweet story of adolescent love. Haruki and Ryusuke have to contend with limitations set not just by homophobia, but also by their coping strategies for dealing with said homophobia. The art is also consistently lovely to look at and sells the characters’ personalities and emotional vulnerabilities. The volume’s main downsides are just that Ryusuke is a comparatively flatter character and that the ending suffers from a lack of a sense of stakes. Nonetheless, this is a very sweet feel-good read that rings true to life in its handling of a young gay couple balancing fear and desire.
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