In anime and manga, love and family are often binary relationships. As a writer, it is easy classify these complex as something positive or negative in the story line, but rarely do mangaka characterize a familial bond without falling back on unconditional love/forgiveness or outright disownment. That being said, Kyou Kara Yonshimai or Four Sisters Starting Today is an incredibly underrated manga that challenges these preconceived archetypes, but falls flat when it comes to leaving a lasting impression. In my opinion, this manga is very unique because it confronts these issues in a linear story without resorting to standard manga conventions of
story lines and drama.
Kyou Kara Yonshimai follows a interesting premise of a family of four siblings abruptly changing to a family of four sisters because of the change in gender identity for the eldest son. It is a simple premise that could have been used for a comedy, but was I pleasantly surprised that it was used for a tenderly sweet slice-of-life. At first, the story is diabetes-levels of sweet, but the overall tone shifts as characterizations are revealed and the characters confront the issues in front of them.
In fact, the strength of the manga are the flawed characters. The characters are realistically selfish. They make decisions based on what they want and the family of four is forever changed because of these decisions. If you accept the characters strictly as they are portrayed, you fail to realize the complexity and frightening realism that each character has. Their worries and struggles may or may not be relatable to each and ever reader, but they are very human. The ending is undoubtedly rushed and its a shame to see a manga with so much potential either cancelled or ended prematurely for whatever reason. The bittersweet outcome serves as a disheartening but empowering story of family and sisterhood. Although transsexualism and transgenderism are prevalent themes in this work, it is primarily a story of family and relationships.
The art in this manga is solid, but not outstanding. Sometimes, I found myself mistaking characters of the same hair color as each other because they are sometimes drawn uncomfortably close-up. In general, the art quality was acceptable and I had little complaints.
I discovered this manga after rereading Ichigo no Gakkou, a work by the same artist-author pair that shares a parallel theme of irrevocable decisions as determinants for relationships. They are both bittersweet stories with undertones of positivity and tenacity. This artist-author pair excels at developing melancholy stories with a plot that is not fully fleshed out. In doing so, they create artistically ambiguous manga with a just a hint of romance and drama. Because of this, their manga are perfect for annual rereading and I encourage everyone to give this manga a shot.