We Were There, Volume 1 by Yuki Obata (amazon)
It is a good time to be a fan of fan of shoujo manga. We Were There is a recent addition to the Shojo Beat line from Viz, and it is an excellent title for anyone to read if they are craving a high school romance presented with subtle and nuanced character development.
Nanami has just started attending her new high school. She’s having trouble fitting in because it seems like everyone has already cemented their own friendships. Yuki, the girl she sits next to, is socially maladjusted and when Nana tries to talk to some other classmates in the hallway she can’t keep up with their conversation because they went to a different middle school than her. Everyone seems to be buzzing over the most popular boy in school Yano. While he has a magnetic personality, he’s also the subject of rumors due to his girlfriend’s death the previous year.
Obata does a great job in capturing all the small cringeworthy moments that cause a day at high school to feel like unending torment. Nana’s days at high school are very realistic. She goes on a field trip and has to suffer though the social minefield of sharing shacks. She gets a horrible grade on a math test and Yano and Yuki are unsympathetic. Yano is one of the more realistic portrayals of a high school boy that I’ve read in manga. He displays occasional flashes of sensitivity and sometimes helps Nana out, but he also bursts out with arrogant comments that infuriate her. Although Nana initially finds Yano annoying, her irritation gradually changes to attraction. There’s a plot twist at the end that changes the dynamic that has been developing between Nana and Yano, and I’ll be interested to see how their relationship develops over the course of the series.
The art for We Were There has a soft feel to it. The characters have rounded features and slightly smudgy eyes that serve to remind the reader how vulnerable it can be when someone is stuck in high school and feeling a range of emotions for the first time. This would be a good companion manga for anyone already enjoying the great drama in The Sand Chronicles. While the situations in We Were There are a little less dramatic, the focus on character development and the small situations that make up Nana’s days in school make for rewarding reading.