Tsugu moved away from her small town when she was in elementary school, but now, as a high school student, her family moves back. After many years in the Osaka region (and Tsugu picking up the Osakan accent), Tsugu tries to reconnect with her group of friends from elementary school. She finds that they none of them are in the same place they were when she moved away. Tsugu has sprouted into a confident, gregarious, guitar player who tries not to let her misfortunes get her down. Yuushin, the little boy who dreamed of being a hero, has resorted to bullying others, including his former friend Sora. Sora has become ostracized and seriously thinks of ending his life because of the bullying. Tsugu feels like she is still close to Asari, but several misunderstandings and rumors spread by Asari's other friends leave Tsugu unwelcome in Asari's social circle. Tsugu tries not to let these tattered relationships get her down, and she works towards helping her friends remember their ideals they once had.
This is a really emotionally-charged title grappling some really serious topics. At first, it seems very much like Tsugu's father is dead, but rather, he has abandoned his family to pursue his own interests. Yuushin's home life is abusive, which has resulted in his acting out against his former friend. Sora attempts to take his life and is saved by Tsugu. Asari is under enormous peer pressure to participate in making fun of Tsugu's accent and body. There are so many heavy topics included in this slightly-longer-than-normal manga, but all of them are given the gravity and severity they need. There is a lot set up in this first volume, but the ending sees Tsugu in a situation where she might not have to deal with a lot of it for a little bit into volume two.
Ozaki's illustrations are very clean and simple. The majority of her complexity and shine is in the storyline, so the art doesn't need to be elaborate for this emotional title.
There is cussing, abuse, attempted suicide, bullying, and peer pressure. The seriousness of these issues make this a title better suited for older teens.
Sara's Rating: 8/10
Suitability Level: Grades 10-12
Tags: Rating: 8/10, Suitability: High School, Manga, Realistic Fiction, School Age
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