It’s common knowledge that a story with a strong beginning helps reel in the audience, whereas a weak beginning may turn readers away. But what happens when a series’ start is both enthralling and confusing at the same time? Will the rest of the series be just as volatile? These are the questions I began asking myself while reading Volume 1 of Chasing After Aoi Koshiba, a new yuri manga.
The first few pages made me extremely curious – in a good way – because they introduce Sahoko Narita, a college student and the manga’s main protagonist. Sahoko meets up with friends at a high school reunion, hoping to also see her lost love: Aoi Koshiba. Aoi doesn’t show up, though, and it’s obvious that Sahoko is upset. Evidently, things didn’t work out well between them in the past. From there, the manga travels back in time and remains there for most of the plot. The readers get to see how Sahoko and Aoi met in high school and became interested in each other. This instantly hooked me… I kept wondering what could have happened that they’re no longer close friends in the near-ish future.
Here’s the premise of what happens when they’re in high school. Sahoko is an it-girl with a large social media following who pretends to be cool since she was a “loser” in middle school. One day, she becomes fascinated by Aoi Koshiba, a tomboy who isn’t scared to be herself, and decides to be friends with her. Sahoko doesn’t realize, at the time, that her interest in the other girl may be more than platonic. Through her pursuit, the popular Sahoko starts hanging out with Aoi’s friends, aka the “school losers,” while still maintaining her social status and friendships with the cool kids. Aoi is, understandably, confused by Sahoko’s behavior but goes along with it.
Truthfully, I was also confused by Sahoko during the primary chapters. Things move insanely fast; Sahoko is head over heels for Aoi without much explanation or character development. I understand she’s intrigued by how Aoi can be so cool yet so authentic at the same time, but… the lengths Sahoko goes to
more or less stalk befriend a girl she just met is a little unbelievable. Aoi’s behavior is strange as well. She seems to realize Sahoko likes her but kind of flits around it and sends mixed feelings. This baffled me. How could the writing be so uneven after a such a good beginning?
I kept reading, however, and once I got past these hiccups, the story started to draw me in again. To be frank, I have a soft spot for stories about “fake” people discovering their real selves. Add in a bunch of yuri and I’m bound to fall in love. Despite her being phony, I really like Sahoko because, ironically, she feels genuine – like a genuine teenage girl, that is. The kind who pretends she’s all about appearances when deep inside they want something more. She’s also very bubbly, yet another thing I have a weakness for. And of course, my nonconformist self likes the tomboyish Aoi. The “loser” characters are also great because I love dorky people. I guess what I’m saying is… the manga has very likable characters even if they’re based on typical archetypes.
As things progress the plot gets much better, and once I got to the second volume, I couldn’t put it down. Sahoko and Aoi grow closer, the two girls’ motivations are explained in additional detail, a yuri love triangle is revealed, Sahoko shows more of her true self, and some juicy drama occurs. Every once in a while, the story will jump back to the class reunion in the future, showing how lonely and sad Sahoko is, the complete opposite of how she acts in high school. This flashback writing technique works a little too well. I need to know what happens between Sahoko and Aoi! Especially after seeing their flirtations and the bond they develop when they are younger. They would be. so. cute. together.
There’s one last thing I am going to comment on: The art. It’s gorgeous! Even though I didn’t realize it at first, I’ve seen Fly’s work before in some of the Éclair yuri anthologies. I’d love to see even more of it, whether it’s in Aoi Koshiba or other yuri series! Fly’s style is wispy and ethereal, making every page beautiful and breathing life to the characters.
If you can get past the bumpy beginning and some of the common tropes, Chasing After Aoi Koshiba is a very enjoyable yuri series so far. You won’t find anything innovative or genre-defying, but the characters and art make it worth checking out for any girls’ love fans that want something simple and sweet with a tiny bit of mystery mixed in. I’ll just be here (im)patiently waiting for the next volume release!