Reviewby Rebecca Silverman,
Ushio and Sumika have been best friends since middle school. Ushio is openly gay while Sumika remains in the closet, nursing an unrequited love for her friend. But Ushio only likes cute girls – short, clumsy, adorable girls who are Sumika's exact opposite. Will Ushio ever realize the depth of Sumika's feelings? Or will Sumika have to give up on Ushio forever?
Whispered Words is something of an anomaly in the world of English translated yuri titles. For one thing, it takes place in a co-ed high school, and for another, the characters fully accept that they are gay, not treating it as some sort of sweet and charming phase girls go through before they find real love with a man. Both of these aspects make the series' first omnibus volume, a collection of the first three books, refreshing, although in all fairness not enough yuri has really come out in English to make the genre feel particularly stale to begin with. In any case, Whispered Words' first volume is an enjoyable read, making changes to its genre while filling it with recognizable emotions and some stock manga situations.
sumika Murasame is the real protagonist of the book, the one whose thoughts we are privy to. She's conflicted, but not to a dramatic degree, and generally comes off as your average teenager with an unrequited crush. She's top of the class, stunningly athletic, and as long as people are no longer calling her “Violence Murasame” (she's the daughter of a dojo and has a black belt in karate), she's pretty content. Ushio, the object of her affections, provides a good visual contrast, with her lush figure and feminine clothing. Ushio's also very bubbly when compared to sumika. She's been out since the girls met in middle school (a flashback comes in the final third of the book) and by this point is pretty comfortable with it. She prefers cute girls, however, which is more the root of sumika's worries than anything else. We never really hear her thoughts, but her changing facial expressions and body language throughout the book give us plenty of insight into her changing emotions, particularly in the last third, when sumika takes an (adorable) exchange student under her wing. Whether Ushio is jealous as a friend or as a girl in like is never explicitly stated, but there are plenty of hints to keep readers paying attention.
The characters are really much more important to Whispered Words than the plot at this point. sumika's worries about changing herself in order to better fit Ushio's ideal image have a ring of teen truth to them, and Takashi Ikeda throws in some statements that lend more credibility to the story than many more fanservice-oriented titles have. For example, the girls meet a lesbian couple in their class, who are delighted to meet other people “like us,” which indicates their sense of separation from their peers. This is later emphasized when the two are asked by their classmates if they're a couple, followed by: “Don't you find it weird? You're both girls! Are you perverts?” Their reaction to Tomoe's affirmation that she and Miyako are dating is, “So you guys are like, for real perverts? Gross!” While not much is done with this beyond sumika trying to tell the other girls not to judge others' lifestyles, its inclusion in the story certainly indicates that this is not the idyllic girls' paradise of, say, Strawberry Panic!, or even the more accepting world of Girl Friends. This is somewhat furthered by the introduction of a character who is a fan of yuri but not necessarily a lesbian herself. She loves the fictionalized idea of a yuri relationship, but finds the idea that it might have a physical or even a sexual component repellent. She's an interesting character to see, and in some ways she makes the reader think about why it is that she's reading the story.
Unfortunately, One Peace Books hasn't done the best job with editing in terms of typographical errors and grammar checks. Words are off by one letter enough times to remark upon, and in a few places the wrong homonym is used, such as “their” where “they're” was required. Not all small text is translated, mostly in the omakes, and sound effects are marked by an asterisk, which then leads you to what the sound effect is indicating rather than a full translation, such as on one page where the translation reads “fire engine sounds.” There are a fair amount of sounds that lack even this, giving the translation kind of a patchy feel. The book itself is well put together, with a flexible spine that doesn't crease and printing far enough out from the margins for easy reading. It's also priced fairly reasonably for so large a volume, coming in two dollars cheaper than Yen Press' two-volume omnibus of Until Death Do Us Part, a shorter, heavier book.
Whispered Words' first omnibus has its slow moments, but is an enjoyable, sometimes compelling read nonetheless. Its characters are varied and its story and setting somewhat more realistic than we tend to see in the genre, so if it gives us school festivals and two bathing suit chapters (beach and pool, of course – this is a manga), it can be forgiven. The translation has its issues, but do not let that stop you from reading this slice-of-life story about two girls trying to reach the ones they love.
Overall : B
Story : B+
Art : B
+ Nice changes to the basic yuri setting/storyline. Art is simple, which works well. Some good commentary, one scene with otaku in Akiba (I assume) is really funny.
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