Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl
While Ayaka and Yurine are still trying to figure out their relationship, other girls take the spotlight – first Chiharu, whose crush is graduating and not sticking around to attend their high school's attached college, and Izumi, the underclassman who finds her suffering in volume two, and later childhood friends Yukina and Towako who have been guardians of the school's rose garden, but have very different ideas about what its legacy should be.
Although Yurine and Ayaka, the two girls who were at the center of CANNO's yuri romance Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl's first volume, are still present in the next two, they take a backseat in order to showcase some other couples, and the series is the stronger for it. Not that Yurine and Ayaka aren't good characters; it's more that their romance is very much within the confines of what we typically see in any shoujo tale, while the stories of the other girls are, while still comfortably familiar, at least a little farther off the beaten track. It also keeps the overall series from feeling like it exists in a two-girl bubble, which gives it more of the air of something like the game version of Kindred Spirits on the Roof than most of the yuri manga published thus far in English.
Volume two is the stronger of these books, as its story is more complex. The focus is on a trio of students, one of whom is a graduating third year. Hoshino has no interest in simply continuing on to the attached university at Seiran Academy, and both of her kouhai, cheery Ai and more withdrawn Chiharu are sad to see her go. For Chiharu there's much more bitterness, as she's been in love with Hoshino for a long time but has never managed to bring herself to say it. That remains true as Hoshino's graduation date looms closer, and while Chiharu comes close, she can't really justify potentially ruining a friendship over a love that might never be fulfilled. Enter Izumi, a middle school third-year who's been illegally (according to school rules) riding her bike to school. Chiharu catches her, and the two strike up an uncomfortable not-quite friendship that very soon comes to mean a lot to the younger girl…and to Chiharu as well, who is slowly coming to realize that your first love is not necessarily your only love. While we get much more from Izumi's perspective, it's really Chiharu's creeping understanding of what Izumi might mean to her that drives the story. She's nothing like Hoshino, but the implication is that Chiharu wouldn't really want to her to be – it's important for her to see that love takes many forms. The story itself is also thematically interesting because it is among the few manga romances that don't explicitly glorify the all-important first love. Even if you both like each other, it isn't necessarily going to work out, so by having Chiharu learn that “first love” doesn't equal “only love” or “best love,” we see her working towards a future where she doesn't have to feel tied to (her own) expectations. Granted, Chiharu is Izumi's first love, but the book does need to stay within its own genre.
Volume three also plays with the notion of first love, albeit in a different, potentially less healthy way. The leads this time are two seniors, Towako and Yukina, the sole remaining members of the school's garden club. They're in charge of the rose garden and desperately need someone to carry on their legacy – and the person they rope into it is Yurine. Although she and Ayaka therefore play a small role in the tale, the focus is really on Yukina and Towako's relationship, which, while not explicitly stated, has clearly moved from friends to girlfriends at some undisclosed point in the past. The two have known each other since childhood, and this closeness is what is the center of their relationship – a center that is in part tied to each other's love and in part linked to jealousy. While things do work out (or at least appear to for the time being), the issues raised by Yukina's gung-ho efforts to ensure the rose garden's survival past their senior year are troubling, and seem likely to return to haunt the girls at some point in the future.
What's striking about all three (four if you count Ai and Hoshino, although there's a strong suggestion in the back of volume two that Hoshino is asexual) relationships is that all of them look at different faces of love. From the devoted first lovers to the girl learning to move on to the one not sure if she's really in this relationship in the first place, CANNO's series is anything but single-minded in its portrayal of love. That's a major strength and also feels like a promise that even if you aren't thrilled with one couple, there's sure to be another who has a completely different take on romance in another volume. It's much more varied than we typically see in romance fiction, and that's a major plus in any series. CANNO also does a nice job of making each girl look distinct, and this extends to the single-page stories that feature between chapters. She's not always great at drawing the way the school uniforms fit the girls' waists and feet are universally tiny, but overall, this is as pleasant to look at as it is to read.
While I was less than thrilled with the first volume of this series, Kiss and White Lily for My Dearest Girl has proven itself in these two subsequent books. With different ways of experiencing love and relationships explored and the two initial girls as the grounding point for the branching stories, this is a romance series that succeeds in showing how varied love can be depending on the couple.
Overall : B
Story : B
Art : B
+ Varied portrayals of relationships, elements of both bitterness and sweetness, attractive art
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