A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow is a beautiful title. At the same time, however, I feel this manga could be named “Aquarium-themed Yuri Teen Angst” because that’s basically what this series is all about! Throughout Volumes 2 and 3, Konatsu Amano, the new girl in town, and Koyuki Honami, the model student, continue being friends as they partake in Aquarium Club activities. For example, they travel to a nearby island to go fishing and later train some amberjack fish to perform in a show, among other things. (For the sake of this review, I’m going to refer to them by their family names, Amano and Honami, because their given names are too similar in English and it gets confusing.)
Along the way, the two girls become closer, feelings gradually bloom, and some awkward yuri moments happen – like the “Oops, my face is too close to yours!” trope. It’s not all doki doki, though. There are misunderstandings and hurt feelings, emotions that only confused teenagers in love would feel. Like when Honami finds out Amano hung out with someone else? She gets very depressed. And when Amano has trouble helping Honami with Aquarium Club events? She also gets depressed. The tidal waves of negative emotion are very realistic. When I was that age, I was just as sensitive when it came to my crush. I overthought every social interaction and got upset if my crush so much as looked at another human being.
Despite the emotional hints, the yuri is only sprinkled here and there without either girl having a full-blown gay awakening just yet. Honami seems to be more aware of the fact she has romantic feelings for her clubmate. She’s always getting flustered around Amano, although she hasn’t, at least to our knowledge, had a “Do I really like women?” crisis. Amano, on the other hand, knows that Honami is special to her, but I don’t think she’s fully realized that these feelings are (possibly) more than friendship. She’s shy and quiet, making her a little harder to read. And it doesn’t help that the narrative doesn’t dive deep either.
The progression of their relationship is slow. Like, molasses slow. And while I don’t mind slow burn fiction, I think these two volumes would have been better if they went into more depth. Yes, I want it to be even slower! Okay, maybe not slower, but I’d like more character development. The manga tells us their emotions but doesn’t really show us effectively.
Honami’s unhappiness and Amano’s frustration are portrayed on the surface level. They might think things like, “My heart is beating so fast,” or “I’m really sad right now,” and…that’s about it. Their self-analysis is minimal. Much-needed buildup or exploration isn’t there to give you the feels. As a reader, I’d prefer to vicariously experience their thoughts and feelings before the manga skips to the next chapter where there will be even more unexplored feelings.
Another disappointment in this manga was the lack of metaphors. In the first volume, I liked the salamander metaphor and motifs. The salamander was basically nonexistent in these volumes – or any type of literary elements for that matter. It’s what, in my opinion, helped give this series a slight edge over other everyday high school life yuri series. I mean, with a title like A Tropical Fish Yearns for Snow, you’d think the manga would be chock full of poetic language and language and literary devices. In good news, the aquarium themes still remain, giving the manga a unique appeal. As I said in my other review, I’ve never really seen a yuri series with an aquatic theme and I love sea animals, so I’m totally here for it.
As much as I love the premise of Tropical Fish, there needs to be better character and relationship development for this manga to keep holding my interest. Incorporating literary techniques again would help make the story stronger as well. Plus, more blatant yuri and adorable sea creatures wouldn’t hurt either! I’m a sapphic water sign who loves the ocean, okay? I have hope for this series; I just hope I’m not disappointed in the end.