The Fall 2019 Manga Guide
What's It About?Taiyou has his head in the clouds. He's the kind of person who just can't take a hint, often haranguing people until they become his friend through sheer force of will. This goes for his interests, too. Taiyou wants to be a musician, to be hailed and loved by adoring crowds the world over. But his general ineptitude at the guitar as well as the fact that the music club has just disbanded are standing in his way. And so, using that same force of will, Taiyou recruits the reserved and brooding Hiakri into impromptu/forced music lessons, seeing as Hikari is a piano prodigy who mysteriously, one day, left the instrument behind for good. And so begins a long, painful, and sometimes beautiful journey of rehearsal, dredging up old demons of the past, and becoming himself for the first time in his life.
Is It Worth Reading?
Become You is the third series of Ichigo Takano's to be released in English, and as of this volume it feels much more Orange than Dreamin' Sun. There's nothing overtly disturbing at this point, but it shares a sense of lingering sadness, of dreams thwarted that puts me in mind of the overall feeling of loss that drove the characters of Takano's first work to be released by Seven Seas. In part this comes from the fact that this feels very much like a prologue to a longer story – the entire volume takes place when the main characters are in high school, looking back on things that went wrong in middle school and caused their lives to derail.
Given that I think middle school is roughly the equivalent of hell on earth, this reads as perfectly believable, and when the actual backstory of Taiyou's switch from art (painting) to music comes out, it once again has an air of truth to it about the damage unwitting – or just plain awful – adults can do to a kid. But it also shows how much good someone else can do, perhaps not going so far as to be able to undo the damage caused, but certainly making the person who was hurt see a way out of the place they may be trapped in. That Taiyou and Hikari are able to do that for someone without even realizing it is kind of beautiful, and the volume certainly gives us a degree of hope that both of them will eventually be able to go back to doing what they once loved.
There's a fairly strong implication at the end of the book that the rest of the story will take place in college, and that's interesting thought. It's not somewhere a lot of shoujo goes, and in the specific cases of Taiyou and Hikari, it removes them further from the hurt they experienced in middle (and high) school, taking them closer to the people they stand to become. I do feel like there's some potential for a BL element to come into the piece as well, but the story doesn't strictly need it – this introductory volume does a good job of just setting the scene for a very nice, supportive friendship, which might be the more rewarding track, as well as a bit of a nice change for Takano, both of whose previous works had fairly strong romance themes.
The art may be crowded and the pages cluttered, but this seems like it's off to a good start. Right now it isn't ground-breaking, but it is interesting, and it's definitely going to be worth a second volume to see where it plans to go from here.
Become You is from the author of Orange, a popular manga about very emotionally charged topics, such as depression and suicide. I haven't read Orange, but I was always interested in it and was curious to see if Become You would cover similar emotional territory. After reading it, I can say it certainly does and is in a few instances very impactful. I have some sticking points regarding its approach, however.
My primary issue with Become You is its pacing. It is very fast-paced and brisk, which does make it very engaging and a quick, compelling read. The problem is that the topics of the manga (self-hatred, art-related trauma, the harshness of reality stonewalling the fulfillment of dreams) are things that require a great deal of introspection and development to authentically depict and have resonate. There are a lot of points in Become You where the fast pace either hinders crucial character development, leaving heel-turns and emotional transitions feeling like they come out of nowhere (such as Hikari becoming friends with Taiyou lacking a point where Hikari's view of Taiyou shifts from disdain to affection) or robs key emotional revelations of their impact (like the reveal of why Taiyou stopped painting) . In a story like this, about big emotions and their effect on the core cast, to have moments where they're articulated and clarified trampled over by the volume's rapid plotting is a genuine problem.
However, Become You won me over at with its earnest depictions of very real, very painful emotional struggles. The narration is told from a future perspective, and several lines indicate that Taiyou's naivete and self-absorption will be intertwined with tragedy. As someone who has similarly had their dreams clash with the way the world operates and become myopia, this is highly specific and highly accurate. I was never as outgoing as Taiyou, but I often would dream of getting up on stage and having whole crowds of people cheer me on, only for my anxiety to destroy my performance and leave me a self-hating wreck. This is what that feels like, looks like. And I cannot deny that emotional resonance.
I'm curious to see how deft Become You is at handling its more sensitive aspects (such as it being implied that Sakura is an abusive relationship), considering this first volume is mostly focused on Taiyou and his aspiring musicianship. But in the in its initial installment, what is on offer is an accurate depiction of growing up and the distance between dreams and the real world. I need to see how the narrative concludes to have a definitive take, but for the moment, I am invested. If you liked Orange or have also felt the painful transition from childhood to adulthood, it is worth a look.
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