Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Kase-san and an Apron
Kase-san has been accepted into a university in Tokyo on a sports recommendation, which has upset all of Yamada's plans. Should she just wait for them to graduate college before being together, or is she really going to try to apply to a school in Tokyo herself? And if she stays, will that mysterious, beautiful, and athletic senpai take her beloved away from her? Troubles abound as the girls face the future in this fourth volume of the adorable yuri romance.
Time marches on, and with it comes new worries. The previous volume of Hiromi Takashima's Kase-san and...… yuri series had the girls coping with the idea of being separated after they graduate from high school – Yamada had always planned to follow her mother to a local women's university and major in literature (which unfortunately seems to be a manga code for “general degree”) and just sort of go from there. But that was before she started dating Kase-san. Now with her girlfriend planning to attend a school in far-away Tokyo, Yamada's revisiting her initial plans.
Naturally this is in part because she really doesn't want to be separated from the girl she loves, and in accordance with romance conventions, there's a troublesome Other Woman making her worries worse – Kase's track team senpai also attends the school she was accepted into, and Yamada's worried about how close they seem, especially since her friend Mikawacchi has been feeding her gossip to the effect that they used to date. But the decision to apply to a Tokyo school actually goes beyond just her relationship with Kase-san. Yamada has always been a “good girl” in that she not only did what she was supposed to but also planned her future accordingly. Her mother always seemed to expect that she would attend the same local college that she did with the same major and live her life in cozy proximity to her family. Before she met Kase-san, that seemed okay. Sure, she was more interested in horticulture than literature, but pre-Kase Yamada wasn't entirely certain how to stand up for herself or if she was even allowed to have a different opinion, something that's backed up by her mother's reaction to her decision in this volume. Now, however, Yamada has something she's invested in holding on to, and that's motivated her to take a look at what else she might really want. The answer isn't “stick close to home and study something basic,” and even though the manga downplays it, we can really see the courage it took her to stand up for what she wants.
Of course, we don't know yet if it will work out, but seeing Yamada make the decision to sacrifice a little time with Kase-san now in order to spend more time with her later is a major step for the character. It's interesting that Kase-san, who has long come off as the slightly more mature of the two girls, doesn't quite understand what Yamada is doing. Intellectually she does, but she's pouty on a more immediate level. This may have something to do with the fact that Yamada didn't immediately jump on her offer to live together once they're no longer required to live in the dorms (or it just says something about her faith in Yamada's ability to get into a competitive program) – as we saw in Kase-san and... Shortcake, the previous book in the series, Kase-san is much more ready for a physical component to their relationship than Yamada is.
This may be at the root of some of Yamada's insecurities. In the previous book, we learned that Yamada didn't even know that it was possible for two women to have sex (making this the second manga released in English that I've read to mention the issue; My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness is the other), and she's much more timid in general, although by this point it's very clear that she's physically attracted to Kase-san. She's still confused as to why, in the eponymous chapter, Kase-san doesn't like the idea of her wearing the ruffled apron in front of others or why Kase's so defensive whenever a male approaches Yamada. It feels more like Yamada's just not had as much time to truly think about her relationship and sexuality as Kase-san has than that she's actually uninterested; it's just that Kase-san keeps misinterpreting confusion as fear or dislike.
All of this is especially interesting when you consider that in at least the last three books creator Takashima has mused about what precisely defines “pure yuri,” which is what the series is purported to be. “Pure” in this sense seems to be defined in the sexual sense, and we can see a marked decrease in racier content in this volume, which marks a return to magazine publication after a time online. It's a struggle that Takashima seems to be having in terms of both art and content, and while it isn't hampering the story's progression at this point, it does feel like something that will need to be worked out before the plot progresses too much further.
Fortunately for us, this is still an utterly charming volume in a series that has proved to be a true delight. The level of commitment between Kase and Yamada is lovely to see but is saved from sickly-sweetness by the constant interference of Mikawacchi's friend jealousy (which we see to good effect in the gift chapter) and the girls' own understandable insecurities. The faces are still a bit too round for the bodies at times, but the art is as sweet as the story. If you like yuri or just charming love stories and haven't given this series a chance yet, I'd definitely suggest doing so.
Overall : A-
Story : A-
Art : A-
+ Story continues to balance charm and realism well, good development for Yamada
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