Mika, a high school student, has no doubts that she is a lesbian, few people around her know that though. She works at a cafe admiring the owner (she only has a thing for older women after all) and visits bars in the gay district. This story presents her life in pieces: from acquiring a surprising friend to helping a married woman discover herself and experiencing disheartening early love. All the while Mika is the confident young adult woman with an impressively mature mind.
Continuing my habit of reviewing things I like that have only one or no reviews, we have Omoi no Kakera, a short romance Manga in the Shoujo Ai genre.
Now, I’ve you’re reading this review you’ll probably have an idea of what Shoujo Ai is, but for those that don’t I’ll give a short summery. Shoujo Ai roughly translates to “Girls Love”, and is exactly what it sounds like, romance between girls.
So why is a grown man reading Chinese comics about gay girls? Well I have no shame in admitting that I started reading Shoujo Ai as a dumb teenager who thought lesbians were hot.
But as I got older, I started to appreciate them on a different level; the writing is often very deep even though the art leans towards lacking on average. For some reason Shoujo Ai stories seem to have a higher average of compelling series compared to other romance manga; that is when you can find a Shoujo Ai that’s longer than two chapters.
Omoi no Kakera consists of two stories, Fragments of Love and Love & Piece, A sidestory. As of this review the translations of the side story Love & Piece appear to be incomplete, I may edit this review when I finally get a chance to read the rest.
So in this review I will focus on Fragments of Love, the main title of this book. A short but sweet fifteen chapter manga about a highschool lesbian who works at a café in the “gay district” (its words not mine) of the city.
Like most Shoujo Ai, this series is slice of life, very down to earth and normal. Shoujo ai is not the thing to go to for high octane action, but that’s to be expected. Now I might have brought up romance a lot so far because Shoujo AI is somewhat linked to it, but this series is a pure drama that happens to be about gay characters.
The romance is somewhat lacking in that regard, there is no actual “romance” that you might find in another manga, no couple that persists across the story. As the title implies, the story is about love and the different forms or “fragments” it comes in. This is very much a story about love, but not necessarily romance, which I must say is something I’m finding a very hard time accurately describing.
Instead of a romance we have a character driven drama, though it’s not a very heavy drama. It’s more the kind of drama you would see in a teen drama on tv, only far and a way more well done.
Now I’m going to be honest here, the art is quite bad, to the point I was confused sometimes trying to figure out who characters were because they all look so similar. This is a big problem when you have a decently large cast of characters across two stories; I sometimes had trouble remembering which storyline I was reading thanks to this.
This is a very internally focused drama, with the characters development all revolving around coming to terms with their feelings. Western drama tends to focus on the external elements, things happening that effect the characters; this focuses on why the characters are affected, not how.
Our main character, Mika Takaoka, is a far cry from a standard Shoujo Ai protagonist. In a genre that often have very insecure young girls who don’t understand their sexuality as the leads, Mika is a breath of fresh air; a very strong, mature girl who fully understands her own sexuality.
I’ve probably rambled on far too long about a 15 chapter story about lesbians, so I’m going to end it here. Omoi no Kakera is a nice short series that shows a strong grasp of the genre and pushes itself beyond the average, but falls short in a few areas. read more
Many stories in the ‘shoujo ai’ (lesbian love) genre tend to be ‘cutesy’ and focused on girls doing cute/sexy things with one another. Basically, they’re usually designed more titillate and/or be short, forgettable, feel good stories. OnK, however, tries to take a more serious path and it does well in that regard.
The story focuses around two girls: Mika Takaoka and Mayu Harada. Mika is the more primary character.
Mika is a very serious, very somber girl who had been hurt badly in the past by someone she thought loved her. As a result, she closed off to the world and became emotionless. Through sheer coincidence, she got the attention of Mayu who became curious enough to want to get close. Through sheer persistence, nosiness, and a bit of kindness, Mayu slowly begins to break the shell around Mika.
It’s a relatively straight forward story, but the complexity makes the characters interesting. Readers can come to understand the two primary characters’ strength and weaknesses and the relationship builds up to love rather than the more typical ‘love at first sight’ thing.
The only thing I have to complain about is the art. By itself, it is not bad, but it’s difficult to tell some characters apart. This is a common problem in manga anyway, but it seems especially so in OnK. It took me a few chapters before I began to easily tell some side characters from even the primary, who are normally the most distinct looking.
Overall, though, I do recommend OnK as a read. It is short, but enjoyable to read through.read more