The future, romance, everything is "undecided," yet the remaining days of high school seem as if they'll be over in the blink of an eye. Mikako Ichimura, 17 years old. Midorikawa, the strange guy who now sits next to her after a seating change and oddly prefers red pencils. At first, Mikako didn't think much of it, but after learning that they both love the same band, their relationship begins to change bit by bit...
The day to day life of a 17 year girl woven together in a soft literary style.
What the story boils down to is essentially a teen drama about relationships and finding one's place in the world, but it's the author's understated and poetic way of laying it all out and conveying what the characters are feeling that makes it so special. Through out the series are sprinkled symbols meant to relate to certain characters, colors like red for Mikako and green for Midorikawa, objects like the former's tube of candy or the latter's pencils. They're used incredibly effectively the first time, but even more so the fifth, it keeps referring back to these symbols in order to show
how things have changed, even if only to point out little differences, they basically become plot threads of their own, from things like the rule about not stepping on the white lines to Mikako's red nail polish, it has dozens of elements that warp in meaning and are used well enough to engender themes as a whole.
The manga's look certainly adds a lot to the feel it's trying to go for: the soothingly soft water colors, its rough panel outlines with the corners rounded out, its way of allocating space for the panels and what's inside them to hint to the reader as to which ones they should linger on. Since every chapter is 4 pages long, it wouldn't be a stretch to say it operates very similarly in terms to build up and execution to the way 4koma manga do, hence every chapter has the ability to feel like it's incredibly sweet, a punch to the gut, and everything in between, even with how short they are.
Mikako-san's biggest and most evident appeal is its characters and what they go through. Even with its stylized approach and its use of more subtle storytelling techniques, the story itself is grounded and drenched in pathos: The protagonist just going with the flow with no aim, Midorikawa not being honest with himself, Katou's insistence on going out with a girl he already knows isn't that interested in him, and countless other little things that make something most young adults can relate to. its style and "less is more' method are used as supplements to its already human characters, and that's what makes it so wonderful.
Machiko described the feeling she wanted while reading the manga as "A pensive look when alone", I feel like she managed to capture it perfectly, every chapter left me in a state of contemplation for a minute before I stroll onto the next one, with my heart remaining in a tightened state, looking back on similar events I lived through and ones I'm still going through. Its downplayed depiction of people going through one of the most confusing time of their lives can be attributed to having that philosophy at its core, and I couldn't be more grateful it turned out this way.