Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Springtime by the Window
Yamada has been in love with his childhood friend Seno forever, but he can't quite seem to make that clear to her. Akama and Toda are very much crushing on each other, but they somehow keep missing each other's signals. In a time of life when hormones and embarrassment can get in the way of tender feelings, is there any real chance that either of these two couples can come together in any sort of meaningful way?
Ah, high school, the fictionally great time of life when a young person's thoughts purportedly turn to love. Or they try to, but things like social status, second hand embarrassment, and class bunnies get in the way, to say nothing of fear of breaking away from one comfortable relationship and attempting to embark upon another. This is the world of Springtime by the Window, a romantic comedy that, despite not really doing anything wrong, comes off as somehow lacking.
Mostly this comes down to the fact that the book simply isn't particularly interesting. It tries desperately to take pages from more successful books, like Tsuredure Children or Kaguya-sama: Love is War, and in a sense, the fact that we can see how hard creator Suzuyuki is trying to take their cues from those other books – or at least books like them – is why this feels like it falls flat. Suzuyuki makes the mistake that a lot of newer creators, or even creators making an attempt to try out a new genre, do: they stick too close to what has worked for others and don't do enough to make their own work stand out. It's the sort of publishing issue that we see across the board, but perhaps the easiest way to classify it is to remember the period between 2008 and 2010 when all the middle grade and YA novels that seemed to come out were dystopias because of the popularity of Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games trilogy, or the astounding plethora of books set in the 1910s during the height of Downton Abbey's hold on popular culture. Suzuyuki takes so many cues from successful rom-com manga that Springtime by the Window ends up feeling like a pastiche of those other, better titles rather than a story in its own right.
Another issue here is that none of the characters stand out, which is a shame, because there is potential for most of them, especially the louder duo. But perhaps the fact that the two couples can be classified as "loud" and "quiet" is part of the problem – Yamada is every honor student with a quirky side, Seno is every sweet-but-clumsy female lead, and Toda and Akama seem to spend most of their time yelling in each other's vicinity as they grapple with the embarrassment of having a crush. There's virtually nothing to set them apart from any other cast of characters; even the fact that Seno loves rabbits just feels like a convenient way to demonstrate that she's cute and caring. With as much manga as we have access to now, the fact that they feel so lackluster and generic is probably a greater sin than it ought to be, and in that sense the sheer mediocrity of the book is a positive sign of how manga readers can now afford to be picky about what English-language titles they read. But that also means that companies need to be choosier about the titles they bring over, because generic pabulum just isn't going to cut it anymore.
That's certainly a nice problem to have, and this issue honestly may only affect people who have been reading manga for a lot of years rather than someone just getting into it. It may also be a better fit for readers simply looking for something that's plain old nice. But again, that latter is a double-edged sword, because oftentimes “nice” is just code for “zero conflict,” which can make a work dull. That does become a bit of an issue here; the stakes are almost ridiculously low. Not that everything needs to be a life-and-death situation, which is its own problem, but because there isn't much to hang a story on here. Even something like the aforementioned Tsuredure Children has tension. It may be silly tension (such as what that one girl means by “sushi”), but it's still there. Springtime by the Window never gives us any reason to doubt that the two couples will work things out and get together, and since they don't have much going on personality-wise, that becomes an issue. Even the short-format chapters don't help, because there's simply no action to rise and fall.
Despite all of this, as well as art that's frequently poorly proportioned and has definite perspective issues, it is clear that Suzuyuki is trying. There are some fun moments, mostly with Toda and Akama, and the sweetness that Seno and Yamada are meant to represent does come across for the most part. The whole hair wax sequence is the story at its best, proving that Suzuyuki does have some potential as a creator as they play with ideas of appearance and aroma. The second volume may well take things out of the realm of bland, because there are small improvements as the book drags on.
But for the most part, Springtime by the Window is merely okay. It largely fails to distinguish itself through its bland characters, cribbed plots, and mediocre art. It may be fine if you just want to let your mind wander for a bit, but if you're looking for something a bit more dynamic, this probably isn't going to be the series for you.
Overall : D
Story : D
Art : C-
+ Hair wax chapters are pretty good, clear effort is being made.
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