Buy this book.
Thanks to the success of Milk Morinaga’s hit Girl Friends (both omnibuses landed on the best-seller list, an impressive feat considering that yuri hasn’t historically sold well in the U.S. and that the usual occupants of the list are Shounen Jump titles and Sailor Moon), I found myself with a copy of her earlier work, Kisses, Sighs, and Cherryblossom Pink clutched in my hands at Anime Boston, totally heedless of the fact that I had pre-ordered it months earlier. And then the other three folks with me grabbed copies, too. That’s the power of Milk Morinaga.
Actually, calling Kisses, etc. an “earlier” work isn’t completely accurate, as while the bulk of the omnibus is older material, Morinaga wrote a few additional stories in 2012 for a re-release of the anthology. While her art hasn’t changed much it in the intervening nine years, there are some slight differences in the art between the two eras, although Morinaga notes that she tried to match the style.
But, let’s talk the story itself. Kisses, etc.’s main story follows two girls who used to be classmates and best friends in middle school, Hitomi and Nana. The two had agreed to take the entrance exam for the same high school, but we meet up with Nana after high school has begun and the two are at different schools. Nana is still upset over the fact that Hitomi decided to not go to the high school they’d agreed, but luckily runs into her one day while she’s moping along. Luckily, Hitomi is an outgoing sort who reads the situation aptly, and the two end up hanging out again. It isn’t spoilers to tell you that they get together, since they are the primary storyline, and their continuing story throughout the omnibus is about their relationship and their struggles to make it work as both high school students and as two young women. Their final chapter gets a little too “anime” for me, but I do love their story overall.
I think it is worth noting that Hitomi and Nana’s story is a bit harder-edged than Girl Friends is; the two girls get together early on, so the story is about them as a couple, whereas Girl Friends spends the bulk of its time on actually getting the leads together. It is also made clear from early on that Nana and Hitomi have a sexual relationship, and the narrative confronts female sexual desire much more directly than Girl Friends ever does, while also doing so in a way that isn’t fanservice-y. I’ve said before that Morinaga is a bit subversive, and this is the sort of thing I mean – she uses ultra-cute character designs and lets the audience look into locker-rooms, but then she slips in discussions about gender roles and their place in homosexual relationships, and in a forum whose audience would usually howl in disgust over anyone trying to talk such a thing (part of this ran in Comic High, as does Morinada’s current work, Gakuen Polizi).
The remainder of the stories in this collection are one-shots that involve girls from the same schools as Nana and Hitomi; many of these girls also surface in the main storyline. They range from quite good to pretty forgettable, with one stopping over, unfortunately, in noncon land, since one girl ties another’s hands up and kisses her as part of practice for a school play (the kissing wasn’t in the script). My favorite is actually one which ends on a fairly bittersweet note; it resonated with me quite a bit, and I really liked the characters in it. One of the other ones, though, truly proved maddening, as it cuts out right before anyone actually makes any moves… I doubt it’d get a continuation at this point, but a bro can dream.
I think the comparisons are going to be inevitable with Girl Friends given that that is the Morinaga work for most folks who’ll pick up this volume, so I want to say that Girl Friends is a more polished work. That being said, Kisses, etc. is a solid work and I doubt that any fan of Girl Friends will find it not to their taste. While I liked Girl Friends better, I do like that Hitomi and Nana’s story gets much more into the Happily Ever After portion of the relationship.
Seven Seas did a decent job with the release here, although I find the lack of table of contents a bit irritating. I really hope this sells as well as Girl Friends did, as I would love to see Gakuen Polizi get a release over here *crosses fingers* (Secret Recipe can get stuffed).
I feel like I don’t even need to say at this point whether I recommend it or not – the entire review says it already. If you’re a yuri fan, if you liked Girl Friends, if you want to see more yuri available in the U.S…. you should pick up Kisses, Sighs, and Cherryblossom Pink.