A while back I picked up the manga Stand Up! by Yamakawa Aiji. I’m not one to particularly notice authors the first time I read a manga. Unbenownst to the fact that Yajirobee (Balancing Toy) was also by her, a little later on, I picked it up. I found myself rereading these two quite a few times and thoroughly enjoying them.
When I find myself truly enjoying a manga, I do take the time to do some searching on the manga artist, to find more manga to read. As I reread these two, I was pleasantly surprised by the reasons why I enjoyed these two so much – they were such a refreshing breath of air within the cliched and overdramatic genre of shoujo.
Her storytelling is very vivid yet subtle. There is always the underlying tone of chaos, which realistically depicts how life really works-that it won’t wait for you to understand; whether or not you want it to, it will move on. The setting really depicts how the places are in real life, the classroom is always chattery and in moments when the character gets truly engrossed in the moment, the background fades out. Her writing manages to encapsulate the way people feel, yet leaves the mystery of wondering what these feelings really mean. She doesn’t rely on over-the-top drama to get you invested in the story just the characters, up front and honest.
Her story telling is best displayed in her one shots. They really emphasize the fact that it’s a one shot, you only need enough to connect with the characters before you are left to contemplate the story on your own. It doesn’t need to be 100% complete, it just needs to have enough to present an idea to you – which she does very well. Even Majo to Boku – which is only 8 pages long, subtly gives you hints at what happens and leaves you to wonder.
Her characters are always very lovable and true to themselves. Not only that but you can feel the dynamics of the characters, you as a reader, feel as close to the other characters as the main character does. In Stand Up, you know who Harada’s ex-girlfriend is, but the mystery that shrouds her, is the same to us as it is to Furuya.
Her art also stands out within the genre. It’s cute and soft, but simple. It’s unique and one glance at her art and you’ll know it’s he’s. She has an eye for framing, often choosing unique and interesting angles, offering a different look at a situation. The pauses always indicate something more than what is there.
She also often frames scenes in the way the character is looking at things. In Stand Up, Furuya is a tall girl, and it is one of the things she struggles with at the beginning, some frames choose to only show the tops of other people’s heads. When she’s embarrassed, only half of the other person’s face is shown to indicate she’s not looking directly at them.
You can always look back at her work again and see the different ways she frames and why she choses to frame in that particular way. Her colored works are also very cute, I’m a bit of a sucker for watercolor and they’re all done in watercolors with a softer saturation that quite fits her writing style.
To point out more of her attention to detail – in Tomodachi no Hanashi (though not written by her) one of the characters, Moe has a harsh nature, but for a different reason than some might believe. Her right eye is for the most part, covered by her hair, and on closer inspection, her right eye is shown only ever to two people in the manga – the two people who can see her for who she truly is.
Yamakawa Aiji is a unique shoujo artist who really deserves more attention and praise, her works are unique and really do stand out from the crowd. Some of her more notable works are Stand Up! and Yajirobee. Some others that I would recommend are her one shots – Majo to Boku and Wish Upon a Glass, as well as the one that is in Stand Up!, which name slips my mind (it is also extremely long I believe). Though not written by her – Tomodachi no Hanashi is also a fun read, though a bit extreme (I really enjoyed the one shot at the end though)
I have linked all the above mangas as well as the artist to their Baka-Updates page so you can read more about them and see which one you enjoy 🙂