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by Rebecca Silverman,

You and I Are Polar Opposites

Volume 1 Manga Review

You and I Are Polar Opposites Volume 1 Manga Review

Suzuki has a desperate crush on Tani, a boy in her class, but she has no idea how to approach him! The two are on opposite ends of the class social hierarchy: she's loud and bubbly with lots of friends and he keeps to himself, barely responding when she talks to him. But when she finally gets over her fears and admits her crush, it turns out that things aren't so hopeless after all.

You and I are Polar Opposites is translated by Dan Luffey and lettered by Arbash Mughal.


You've probably read some version of this story before, but I doubt that you've ever seen it be this adorable. You and I Are Polar Opposites is based on the tried-and-true formula of a thousand romantic comedies: Suzuki is a popular girl, and Tani is the class nerd. She's bright and perky, loud and friendly, and he's none of those things. But Suzuki has been nursing a major crush on Tani for most of the school year, and when the new seat assignments put her right next to him, she's beside herself. Surely, this is her moment to talk to him! But that's not counting on the horrible realities of trying to talk to your crush, and that's before she figures in the intricacies of the high school social system. Is it okay for people to know she likes Tani? Should she try to hide it? But then, how can she find an excuse to talk to him? Suzuki's living in her own special star-crossed hell.

Or at least, that's what she thinks is going on. Unlike at least half of the stories that use this classic story outline, Kōcha Agasawa's take on it aims to eliminate those hurdles by the end of the first chapter, and that's a major point in the volume's favor. All of Suzuki's many worries are, in fact, entirely in her head, and while that makes them even more challenging to get rid of, she's got an amazing support network around her. Those snarky judgments she was afraid of? It's not an issue; her friends are more than happy to help her embrace her relationship and Tani himself. She and Tani don't have enough in common? That's fine; they can work things through by actually communicating and navigating their relationship together. It's a wonderfully affirming story, full of reassurances that a relationship doesn't need to be dramatic or fraught to be good.

Part of what makes this work is that Suzuki is the point of view character for most of the book. We also get to be in Tani's head, which reassures us that Suzuki's feelings are requited and that he's trying to figure things out, but Suzuki's frenetic energy drives the plot. She worries at first that she's just putting on a show to be more socially acceptable, and we can see that her concerns aren't unfounded; if she's invited somewhere or asked for her notes (for example), she'll always say yes because that's what she thinks she's supposed to do. A piece of her hangs back in her head and notes that she doesn't really want to go out for burgers, but she can't bring herself to refuse. Her crush on Tani allows her to give herself permission to be herself: if she'd rather walk home with him, she's allowed to say so, and people will understand. She's a champion overthinker, getting lost in her head in a very believable and relatable way. Her character design suggests a stereotypical gyaru-type, but the reality of her is much broader than that.

It's something that she has trouble believing about her friends as well as herself. Somewhere along the line, Suzuki has a particular idea of how people are "supposed" to behave, and she figures that everyone is following the same unwritten rules. Another of the highlights of this volume is her discovering that they're not and that her real friends want her to be happy. When they learn that Tani makes her happy, they barely question it and immediately go out of their way to include him in their circle. Yamada, one of Suzuki's guy friends, is the one who most wholeheartedly embraces Tani – he seeks him out, has conversations, and tries to be a good pal. Tani's a little confused but goes along, allowing himself to be drawn into the gang. That suggests that his introversion is nothing more than that; he's not gloomy or withdrawn or secretly sadistic, or any of the other tropes silent smart guys in glasses typically fall into in romance manga. If his new girlfriend comes with a bunch of new friends, that's fine with him.

The story leans into its lighter aspects for most of the book. Many gags are based on Suzuki having freakouts about everything, which is exaggerated in both text and art. There's also a running joke about someone named "Gapacho," who never makes an actual appearance; Yamada and others say that "Gapacho" saw someone or said something while the rest of the cast thinks, Who's Gapacho? As the book goes on, we see people getting more comfortable with Tani and beginning to tease him a bit, which is handled with a light touch, such as when Suzuki's brother drops her off at school on his motorcycle. One of her friends very briefly lets him panic about who this guy on the bike is. This story has no meanness, and that's a major attraction.

You and I Are Polar Opposites risks running out of material as it goes on, but this volume is a sheer delight. The art can be awkward at times, but that's easily overlooked when you have a story this good-natured and a cat named Tempura.

Overall : B+
Story : A-
Art : B

+ Cute, good-natured story devoid of cruelty. Tempura is a great name for a cat.
Art has some perspective issues and can be a bit stiff.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Kōcha Agasawa

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