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The Spring 2022 Manga Guide
Changes of Heart

What's It About? 

After being dumped by her boyfriend, Koyori went to her longtime friend Hijiri's house to drink away her sorrow...and ended up spending the night with him! Not only that, he tells her he loves her—and she's not sure how to reconcile the new development with someone she's known since they were kids. After all, the stakes are high—if things don't work out, she'll hurt one of her closest friends. And to make matters worse, her ex wants to patch things up...? Koyori needs to figure out what she wants, before she loses it all.

Changes of Heart has story and art by KUJIRA and English translation by Deborah Fu. Kodansha Comics released its first volume digitally for $10.99.

Is It Worth Reading?

Rebecca Silverman


Changes of Heart's first volume is messy, and that's a good thing. Koyori, the protagonist, has just been dumped by her ex because he got his other girlfriend pregnant, and after a night of drunken ranting, she ends up sleeping with her best friend since childhood. Who she's talked herself out of her feelings for, multiple times. And who, it turns out, has been talking himself out of those same feelings for an equally long time. So now that they've had sex, it's all going to come up roses, right? Yeah, no, not so much. Because Koyori is more of a real person than many romance protagonists, and that means that not every decision she makes is going to look as good in the light of day as it did at first, and she's got a lot of emotional conflict about the entire situation…even if a piece of her knows that this is exactly what she's been wanting for years.

That makes this volume a study in the struggles of trying to be the mature adult you only sort of feel like but are convinced that you're supposed to be. Koyori's otherwise responsible, working hard in her dream job in the game design industry. But little details show that she's not quite as together as she wishes she was, with her messy apartment and the way that she totally melts down emotionally when she's in a situation she didn't anticipate and can't quite cope with. Hijiri's much more put together, but he's also trying very hard to figure out how to make this work, and a piece of him is also concerned that dating will ruin his friendship with Koyori; the difference is that he figures that the cat's out of the bag now, so he may as well just keep pressing his suit. Koyori still toys with the idea that words spoken can be ignored or forgotten, but that's mostly because she's so afraid. She's seen him date other girls and break up with them, and she can't quite conceive that maybe it'd be different this time because while he was dating all of those other girls, he had feelings for her.

Changes of Heart isn't an easy “happily ever after” kind of romance, but that's what's fun about it. It's awkward and messy and features characters desperately trying to connect even when they're a little bit afraid to. The art is pretty standard but does a nice job of showing Koyori and Hijiri growing up, even if their heights relative to each other can sometimes change on a single page. Even if it doesn't represent your exact experience it does a good enough job of showing the conflict of being an adult age-wise while not quite having figured it all out in reality that it's a little bit relatable, and that's worth a lot.

Christopher Farris


So that's the second manga I've covered for this guide that starts with the leading lady awakening after seemingly being drunkenly taken advantage of. To Changes of Heart's credit, the framing pretty quickly clarifies that heroine Koyori did maintain recollection of her encounter the night before (in fact, her being unable to forget is a key point of drama early on), so it's not on the level of Irresistible Mistakes's full-on blackout-drunk date-rape. Still, if this is the route you want to go, there's got to be a better way than opening with your main character shocked and alarmed with seemingly no memory of what was done to her. The mutually-drunken impulsive hookup between childhood friends that's actually at the heart of this story functions fine on its own as a dramatic device. The relationship between Koyori and her guy-friend Hijiri feels balanced, and in several moments the writing works to communicate the inherent, compelling awkwardness of crossing that threshold with a close friend like that.

Changes of Heart has a grasp on the fundamentals of keeping that relationship balanced, making clear that both Koyori and Hijiri had been harboring somewhat-subliminal desires for this kind of connection between them for a while. It skirts past any toxic connotations of one of them purposefully waiting in the friendzone, instead presenting their navigation of the new situation as a decently-charming mess of freshly-unearthed complex emotions. There are some points where it feels like the book makes it too easy to sit here judging these fictitious people's relationship decisions: Hijiri seems to be getting too immediately attached to a 'proper' dating structure in his relationship with Koyori, and Koyori's nervous overthinking causing her to miss their first couple dates really just makes her come off as incredibly flaky. There are times when these two feel like realistic young adults, only to be undercut by an odd moment of poorly-judged teenage childhood friendship compulsions.

Messy characters are only a minor bug, perhaps even a feature depending on your preference in romances like this, but Changes of Heart does have more fundamental issues. Perhaps appropriately for the story being laid out here, its biggest problem is with commitment. A lot of times Changes of Heart comes off like it earnestly wants to be an awkwardly cute story of two childhood friends stumbling through properly dating each other, but then it occasionally shifts into spontaneously being a steamy, complex sequence of sexy impulses. It floats the idea that Koyori had previously been sexually frustrated, which could be an interesting angle, but doesn't feel explored enough through this volume. The sex instead almost feels tacked on in a couple places, even being at odds with the lighter stumbles of the rest of the relationship these two are navigating. But then instead of devoting more of the story to navigating those relationship ins and outs, the brisk-feeling volume instead spends precious page-time on Koyori being overly ponderous over her feelings on the hookup. And that's all without even getting into elements like Koyori's ex-boyfriend, who only shows up for a couple brief moments of motivating drama to make you question why he's kept around as an element at all.

That said, in spite of the poorly-advised moment it opens on and uneven going throughout, I think KUJIRA might have something here with Changes of Heart. But much like its leads, the story needs to actually settle down and figure out exactly where it's going, what it actually wants to be about, before it continues racing off in several odd, awkward directions.

Jean-Karlo Lemus


Changes of Heart is the story of Koyori and Hijiri, childhood friends in their mid-twenties who've just had a one night stand with each other. They've seen each other break up countless times and on a lark, they've decided to hook up to see how things work—if at all, they can. Koyori is worried that adding sex into the mix might ruin their friendship, and isn't even sure how she can start acting like a girlfriend around someone she's known her whole life and sees as a brother. Hijiri, on his part, struggles with making his intentions clear and getting Koyori to see him as a man. He understands her body, but can he understand her heart?

It's nice to see a romance story featuring adults, and the “childhood friends to lovers” angle is always cute, but Changes of Heart doesn't really do anything particularly new. Koyori is twice shy, Hijiri is enigmatic and distant, and when the volume ends they're both taking their first shaky steps into making the relationship work—starting with a vacation to a hot spring resort where they'll no doubt make whoopee. It's a cute set-up, for sure, and it's refreshing to read something that's so frank about adults having sex lives, but there's no real hook to the story outside of this being adults who sleep with each other before the first date, and as one of Koyori's coworkers points out, even that isn't all that new for adults these days. Changes of Heart is cute and inoffensive, but it desperately needs a shot to the heart and pick up the pace.

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