I Fell for My Friend's Older Sister + My Older Sister's Friend is Annoying
Rio is everything that Haruto wants in a girl: gentle, nurturing, and ladylike. The only problem is that she's the older sister of his best buddy Nao, and he fears that the difference in age means he's barely on her radar. If Haruto wants Rio to see him as more than her little brother's playmate, then he has to prove himself as a man in her eyes, no matter what it takes. Meanwhile, Nao grows frustrated with Sena, a loudmouthed friend of Rio's who's too nosy for her own good. But what irritates him more than the constant pestering is how she just can't see him as more than a little kid. Can he help her get a clue?
Sometimes I wish I could just say “that was cute” about a story and leave it at that, especially when it's not one that warrants a deep dive. While I do try to find appeal and merit in even the simplest of stories, what happens when the series in question was written as a diversion? And that's not me making assumptions based on the quality of the material—that is literally something that the author owns up to by the second page!
I Fell for My Friend's Older Sister + My Older Sister's Friend is a compilation of mini-comics that creator Azusa Kina wrote on Twitter strictly for fun and self-indulgent purposes. They admit that there is no overall sense of flow between the chapters, and what little plot progression there is happens at a lightning-fast pace. In fact, even the order of the chapters can feel superfluous. This doesn't excuse any of the shortcomings that it has as a book, but I do also think it is an important frame of reference worth keeping in mind.
The volume, which is basically split into two parts, focuses on four major characters: two in the first half and two in the second half. The first part focuses on Rio being interested in his best friend's older sister while the second half focuses on that exact same friend being interested in his sister's best friend. One of the biggest sticking points here potentially is the age differences between the characters: both boys are only high schoolers at 16 and both girls are 21. The book sort of brings it up like it's one of the only framing devices to be considered during these chapters as the boys feel like they're not being treated as men and the girls can feel insecure in themselves about whether they are coming off as mature enough for their surprisingly more mature love interests. However, there's never really any payoff to these considerations, and the chapters usually just end with cute bookends.
That is also probably one of the biggest missed opportunities when it comes to making this into a more involved story, even if it doesn't really mesh well with that premise itself. There's a world of difference in maturity and experiences between someone who is in the middle of highschool and someone who presumably just finished college, but here, you probably could've made the girls only two years older than the high school boys and that would've gotten the same points across. Combine this with the aforementioned pacing issues where it's very hard to tell how much time lapses between chapters, which makes it difficult to gauge exactly how long these relationships are lasting, and you start to really see where the conception of these chapters starts and stops.
Despite that though, I also think that it's worth noting this book's origins because it does mean that I'm able to better appreciate its merits even if some of them were brought about by accident. Despite being something that Azusa Kina drew in their spare time without much polish, the artwork gives no indication of that whatsoever. Characters are very detailed and distinct with nice flourishes in the background to help evoke emotion, and the framing of the panels is occasionally punchy and impactful. There are times where the 16-year-old boys look like they are the ones in their early 20s, but that also helps the power dynamics in the relationship feel less one-sided visually.
Of the two halves, I did find myself enjoying the second half—which focuses on Nao being interested in his sister's best friend—more, because it felt like there was a lot more there to chew on. The first half is a bit bland comparatively, since we only really see things from one character's perspective. It also suffers the most from the book's pacing issues, and overall comes off like a one-sided pursuit with a bit of an unceremonious payoff. In contrast, the second half has more of a back-and-forth between its characters. It's less a matter of two people actively pursuing each other and more about both of them just discovering that they have their own unique way of expressing affection to each other. It's still a little bit tropey—one of them is a massive tsundere—but it never comes off as mean-spirited. It's also where I think the theme of expectation associated with age came into play in an organic way.
I would be interested in reading future volumes of I Fell for My Friend's Older Sister + My Older Sister's Friend should Azusa Kina actually consider turning it into a long-running series, but I also respect the Kina's decision to keep it as how it was originally conceived. Overall, this book makes for a nice way to pass the time in a way that's probably similar to coming across these chapters on the creator's Twitter feed. If anything, the fact that I can pull so much from these chapters is a testament to Kina's talent. What we have here is a cute distraction that technically fulfills everything that I think the creator wanted to achieve so I definitely can't call it a failure.
Overall : B-
Story : B-
Art : A-
+ Technically sets out everything that it wants to do and doesn't try to be anything more, art is impressive despite the nature of how it was written, second half in particular had nice character interactions
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