By Okura and Coma Hashii. Released in Japan as “Sorairo Flutter” by Square Enix, serialization ongoing in the magazine Gangan Joker. Released in North America by Viz Media. Translated by Jocelyne Allen.
When I first saw the cover for this manga on preordering it, my thought was “Boy, that guy sure is excited”. And that’s a pretty good description of the first volume. Noshiro, the guy punching the air on the cover, is just a big bundle of energetic, outgoing “HI THERE”, and you can’t help but be carried along in his wake. Even when he’s being introspective, angry, or doubting himself, it’s filled with big, energetic emotions and movements. This is, of course, to contrast him with the series’ other lead, Sanada, who is introverted, quiet, doesn’t smile much – at least at first – and is the very definition of standoffish. Most of the book is devoted to Noshiro’s arrival in Sanada’s life, and his reaction and actions on hearing the rumor going around the school, which is that Sanada is actually gay. A rumor that Sanada later confirms to Noshiro.
Most of the rest of the volume focuses on Noshiro’s developing reaction to this news, although honestly the book is as much about Sanada as an introvert as it is about Sanada as a young gay man. Sanada’s childhood friend Yamamoto has always come to eat with him (and might have a crush on him), but seems delighted that he’s finally making another friend, and tries to support Noshiro’s attempts to batter his way into Sanada’s life. But Sanada’s introversion and his sexuality aren’t easily separated either, and even being introverted isn’t always black and white. We see Sanada meet some old friends from junior high, and he’s smiling and laughing with them in a way he doesn’t seem to with Noshiro. This leads both Noshiro and Yamamoto to wonder if Sanada is “faking it” in front of them – something which Sanada rebuts, saying that both aspects of him are “real”.
We also meet Hidemitsu in this story, an older man who Sanada describes as “sort of an ex-boyfriend”. The fact that Sanada is still a high school boy is briefly brought up and then shunted aside, but I will hold off on objections till I see how close they actually were. For the moment Hidemitsu functions as an advisor and mentor to both Sanada and Noshiro, having a mature wisdom that both of them lack at this point. It also is fairly obvious that Hidemitsu and Noshiro look a whole lot alike, and that a lot of Sanada’s standoffishness may simply be attraction. Noshiro’s sexuality hasn’t come up much – he finds it difficult to name a specific girl he’s attracted to in a “guy conversation”, and has no romantic experience – but I suspect we may delve further into that in future volumes.
Honestly, the best thing about this ongoing coming-of-age story is simply how well-written it is. The characters are likeable, they have good depth, and you care about them. It feels very real. I absolutely recommend it.