A classic manga about girls at a private all-girls school. The storyline centers around the experiences of Nanako, a "normal" girl who is invited to join the prestigious school organization, the Sorority, and is resented by all the other students because she doesn't appear to be qualified. Other key characters are Nanako's two friends: Tomoko, her friend since childhood who is alienated by Nanako's decision to try to join the Sorority, and Mariko, a strange, obsessive girl who is invited to join the Sorority along with Nanako; her "older brother," Henmi, who she corresponds with by mail; and the "Three Magnificent Ones," all of whom are admired and quasi-worshipped by the rest of the student body: the head of the Sorority, Miya-sama, the haunted, pill-popping rebel, Saint Juste, and the star athlete with a mysterious disease who doesn't like the Sorority, Kaoru-no-kimi.
Volume 3: Early Spring Trembling
Oniisama e... is a famous shoujo manga from the 70's, written by the talented Ikeda Riyoko. Although the anime (which is also amazing by it's own) is probably more popular in the west, the manga is also incredible.
The story of Dear brother is focus on the first year adventure of Misonoo Nanako, a sweet innocent girl that just got into Seiran high school, an all girl private school. Sending letters to her former teacher (which she asks from to be her brother) about her life in school, she finds out that school life isn't all roses.
The manga deal with a lot of very real, and
even controversial themes (for the time of the publishing). With the elite sorority at the school, girls will do anything to get into it, resulting in broken friendship, jealousy, verbal bullying and gossiping behind the back. This atmosphere of competition and hatred fall on Nanako as she simply can't handle all of this. We also see some more darker stuff in the school-forbidden, sometimes even destructive love, that can ruin someone, and make her depressed to the point of self harm , the usage of drugs, family connections and secrets in the family such as betrayal, cheating and bastard children... all of this is shown in Dear brother, delivered excellently.
As for the set of characters, we have a few main ones, and Nanako being the main-est. Her personality is of a gentle, caring girl. But exposed to the harsh bullying and the sick sorority which basically serve as sort of a old fashioned "class system", being the most elite and beautiful, but ugly and empty inside, sometimes even downright cruel. She is changed and maturing faster by that, and also falling in love for the first time, having complex thought about if the love of her is right and if it's okay to love other girls.
Shinoubo Mariko is presented at the start as a jealous girl the fall in love with Nanako and will do anything to protect her and to have her for herself. She is a complex character that change a lot during the manga, suffering from her shameful family ties and her feelings toward others.
We see a lot of focus on the three most popular girls in the school. Fukiku Miya which is the head of the sorority is a very prideful woman, sometimes even to the point of being cruel. She has a lot of secret motives to her actions and put herself above all. Asaka Rei which is "saint just-sama" is presented as very cold at first but as we read we find out more and more about her and the reasons which drove her to drug usage and her past, suffering from being unaccepted by the only person she loved. And Kauro no kimi, which is presented as being the nicest and having the strongest sense of justice out of the three, resisting the existence of the sorority and having secrets of her own...
We have a few minor characters that serve to develop the story and the character change of the main ones, resulting in a character development for all the girls.
When you look at the art, well, can't say it's the best thing ever. For me this old shoujo art style (sparks and big eyes) is not really appealing. The lack of backgrounds can also be bothersome, but the great story cover for it. The author also has an excellent way to present character expressions and a sense for dramatic effects (effects of glass shattering with the character shocked face, the reactions of the characters are all very dramatic) this is fit perfectly with the tone of the manga. The character design itself is OK, I guess, although the author always had a preference for good looking girls that pretty much look like a man, which is not my thing. Other girls looks also okay, stuff like hair designed very good, in a smooth way.
Overall, this is an excellent manga, that manage to cover a lot of different real topics (even if some are kinda dramatic and not anyone can experience/relate to them) in a wonderful setting and dark atmosphere. Private high school for only girls make a truly magnificent setting, Yuri or not. The ending itself felt a bit lacking in my opinion, it is overall fit for this kind of manga, but it is too sudden, like "boom, end. Can't do nothing about it" and although it bothered me it didn't felt like it was too horrible, although I will leave that to your own judge. Enjoy the manga, enjoy the anime, all is great.