Reviewby Theron Martin, May 16th 2008
Kashimashi ~Girl Meets Girl~
GN 4 and 5
Unaware that her friends also have learned that she is living on borrowed time, Hazumu comes to accept her fate and resolves to finally decide which girl her heart truly lies with, although given her crippling indecisiveness that's easier said than done. Meanwhile, Tomari, Yasuna, and crew must come to terms with soon losing Hazumu from their lives, a truth that some take even harder than others. Although they agree to be as supportive as possible in her final month, as the cultural festival arrives both Tomari and Yasuna eventually come to the understanding that, if they want to have any hope of saving Hazumu, she must be forced into a decision about which girl she most prefers before it's too late. Who will she choose to spend her life with, and will both girls have the commitment sufficient to save her?
Prior to dropping its bombshell revelation about Hazumu's ultimate fate at the end of volume 3, Kashimashi chugged merrily along with a mix of humor, romance, and light drama as it examined the feelings of its central trio of characters and how they learned to cope with the dramatic change in relationships brought about by Hazumu's gender change. Although the pall of Hazumu's impending doom lingers in the background, volume 4 continues in basically the same fashion. Tomari, after finally becoming comfortable with being in love with Hazumu as a girl, regresses so much in her behavior around Hazumu that it seems almost like nothing has advanced there, Asuki continues her mostly dispassionate observations, and Asuta continues to feel out his friendship with Hazumu, although a gross misunderstanding near the end of the volume leads to one of the more comical moments in the series. Light moments like having picnics, associating together as friends, and preparing for the coming cultural festival abound, with the only hints of major trouble being how the timing of certain events might conflict with Hazumu's expected remaining lifespan and a brief crisis that might take Yasuna away.
As the final volume progresses, however, the heavier overtones gradually but steadily become more prominent. Each character is forced to make difficult decisions, while the alien Sora throws in his own dispassionate observations. Writer Satoru Akihori deserves a lot of credit for building such strong cases for both Tomari and Yasuna that who Hazumu ultimately ends up with (for, given the "out" the series allowed itself, no one should be surprised that something will be done to save Hazumu) remains unclear even up through the final climatic scene where life and love hang in the balance. Also because of the compelling arguments, the decision Hazumu ultimately makes, and the ultimate confessions of commitment and love, carry a surprisingly effective emotional impact and, perhaps most importantly, feel right and for the right reasons. Given the melodramatic nature of the material, this could have been handled so incredibly worse. The story doesn't end there, however, as it also shows how the heartbreaking scenes of the other girl's reaction and provides some welcome follow-up scenes for the denouement.
Just as interesting is the growth and development of the characters. The change in Yasuna since the beginning of the series is nothing less than a complete social and emotional awakening, giving her a confidence and strength through these two volumes which stands in stark contrast to the vulnerability Tomari shows. While she blossoms, Tomari shows signs of wilting under the emotional pressure even as she grows into something more than the role she's always had with her best friend. Hazumu, who has always seemed the most adaptable, shows the least growth, but when the time finally comes for him to make a split-second decision, she doesn't hesitate - something she had not been able to do before. Subtle changes in Asuta and Sora's attitude provide additional developments.
Yukimaru Yatsura's aristry produces just the right look and feel to support the content. Each of the girls has their own distinctive look and even customized expressions; Hazumu's look of shock is not the same as Tomari's, for instance, and Yasuna retains the fully girly look she has had since the beginning while Tomari continues to give the tomboyish feel. This can be seen even in features as subtle as how the girls stand or smile. Highlight visuals most often involve kissing scenes, although a few bits of fan service also creep in, and background art is sufficient to support the material.
Seven Seas Entertainment's production of the title leaves the original sound effects intact, with accompanying translation, where room allows and simply replaces them with an English translation when space is not sufficient. Both volumes round out with purely comical shorts focusing on side characters and end with translation notes. The notes for volume 5 explain where the name of the series comes from: it is a reference to an old Japanese proverb about how chatty three women get when they gather. In this case the three women are, of course, the trio of heroines.
Regardless of which girl you favored for Hazumu, and despite dragging things out in the wake of volume 3's dramatic revelation, these volumes offer a solid conclusion to this lovely little yuri series. It does handle things rather differently than in the anime version (where Hazumu never is in danger of dying), and those irritated by the anime's ending should find this one more to their liking.
Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B+
+ Satisfying and emotional climax, strong character development.
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