For today’s review, I’ll point you to Manga Recon’s On The Shojo Beat column, where I reviewed volume eight of Yuki Obata’s We Were There. When I go into a new volume of We Were There, it’s always with a bit of trepidation. I know that the writing is likely to be extraordinary–thoughtful and unusually nuanced for high school-based shojo–beautifully enhanced by the author’s wispy, sparse artwork (re-reading my review of volume one, I can’t believe I thought then that the art was weak). What I’m also expecting, however, is that I’ll be an emotional wreck by the end of the volume and, true to form, that was certainly the case yesterday evening. It was almost a relief to be constrained by the column’s style and word limit, which restricted me from spewing my emotional responses all over the page as I have occasionally done in the past.
That said, this is an exceptionally moving series that provokes strong responses, not through the use of practiced formula or calculated emotional manipulation, but by the power of good writing and genuine insight. This is a series that constantly compels me into introspection and confession, even in a review. Part of that is due, I think, to my own life choices, which have resulted in a state of perpetual vulnerability more typically associated with a teen than an adult. While other readers my age may view this series as something that hearkens back to the trials of their youth, I’m frequently identifying with it in a more immediate way. On the other hand, the realities that Obata’s characters face–the ambiguity of concepts like “truth” and “love,” and the contradictory nature of the human heart–are not confined to youth by any means. They loom over us throughout our lives, no matter how earnestly we strive to construct secure walls around us. If there is a truth in this world, it can be found in the wavering heart of a lonely teen, something that Obata has captured with stunning accuracy.
If my rambling personal monologue has still left you in doubt about the emotional impact of We Were There, I urge you read it for yourself. Meanwhile, you can check out my review.