Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl
For her entire academic career at Seiran Academy, Ayaka Shiramine has been the top student, perfect in everything. She's had to work hard for it, of course, which is why it stings so badly when her first year in high school brings new student Yurine Kurosawa. Yurine appears to be a lazy slob with no interest in anything – and yet she excels in everything. Ayaka despises her from the start, but Yurine doesn't seem to share her animosity. If anything, she feels quite the opposite – but is there any hope for the two girls as friends, never mind as a couple?
It has been a good few months for fans of yuri manga, and Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl marks Yen Press' foray into the genre, at least in the subgenre of schoolgirl romance. Set at the all girls' academy Seiran, the story follows former top student Ayaka Shiramine and her rival, the girl who unseated her without even trying, Yurine Kurosawa, as they begin their tenuous romance. It has all of the makings of something like Milk Morinaga's Secret of the Princess…but somehow manages to fall a bit flat, making this introductory volume of CANNO's first English-language release something of a disappointment.
A large part of the problem is Yurine Kurosawa herself. While Ayaka has recognizable feelings and motives and her shame and frustration at being consistently beaten by a girl who sleeps through classes is understandable, Yurine is more of a cipher. It's clear that she doesn't want to be good at anything and that she's never really received positive peer attention from it, but she also doesn't make any effort at all to get to know her classmates, and appears to be unaware of social cues. When she's asked by a couple of girls in her class to go to karaoke, she is confused, not because they're being nice to her, but because she genuinely doesn't understand what it is they want her to do. Likewise the surprise kiss she forces on Ayaka is done without any understanding that perhaps it isn't the right way to communicate, and she has a tendency to invade others' personal space. There's a great temptation to psychoanalyze, or at least diagnose, Yurine based on this and her preternatural genius (which includes memorizing the entire excerpt from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in the English textbook), but whether or not there's something more going on beneath the surface, it's clear that she has no real understanding of boundaries.
This makes the story somewhat less consensual than we typically see in (translated) yuri, although that has been changing with the publication of Citrus and NTR: Netsuzou Trap. In fact, the story runs more like a basic shoujo romance than anything, with Yurine standing in for the bad boy romantic lead. She isn't masculine, but she also doesn't read as particularly feminine, which could give the story an edge going forward and is unusual enough to merit keeping an eye on. What's more concerning is that she persists in kissing and touching Ayaka when the other girl clearly doesn't want it and doesn't appear to understand what the issue is. This is made more evident when compared to the other romantic couple in the book, Ayaka's cousin and roommate Mizuki and her girlfriend Moe. Mizuki and Moe are an established couple, together since middle school, and while Mizuki does worry that Moe may be falling for Yurine's unparalleled speed (both girls are on the track team, with Moe as the manager), things are resolved sweetly, and it's obvious that they are devoted to each other. They're comfortable sharing a public kiss, but also not nearly as handsy as Yurine is with Ayaka, presenting the two second years as the more stable and healthy couple.
On the positive side, this does not appear to be erring on the side of “practice romance,” such as titles like Strawberry Panic! give us, with the girls only dating each other until they find “real” romance with men later in life. Moe and Mizuki are clearly in this for the long haul, and although often a little uncomfortable, Yurine also appears to genuinely like Ayaka. We do get the impression that in part this stems from Ayaka being the first person to take her to task, or at least actively express disgust, for the fact that she never tries but always succeeds. There is one panel that implies that Yurine has been ostracized in the past for this, however, which might not support the theory. However, she's also pointed out by the author as “a Japanese person who can say NO,” so she may have been a victim of silent snubbing and never outright hostility.
CANNO's art is very attractive, with a soft look to it, especially the hair. And speaking of hair, her characters actually do change their hair styles over time, unlike many other manga (and anime) characters, with Mizuki's hair actually serving as the basis for one chapter's plot. The panels are fairly easy to read, but there is a heavy use of screen tone that can make pages overwhelmingly gray at times. As a fun bonus, CANNO also includes one page side stories about background characters between chapters.
Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl's first volume is a mixed bag. The Moe/Mizuki storyline is sweet and feels worth exploring, but the ostensible main one, Yurine/Ayaka, has issues with consent and Yurine's character. It may be able to pull things together as it goes on, but at this point I found Yurine to be an impediment to enjoyment. Yuri doesn't have to always be sweeter than sugar, but it does still need characters you can get behind and want to see happy together – and that's not quite happening yet for our main couple.
Overall : C+
Story : C
Art : B+
+ Nice art, Moe and Mizuki are a good couple, extra stories about background characters are fun
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