A fantastic blend of harsh realities and hopeful innocence, this volume is quite possibly the best the series has offered so far--and that’s saying something.
Writer/Artist: Yuki Obata
Translation: Tetsuichiro Miyaki
Adaptation: Nancy Thistlethwaite
What They Say
In love, timing is everything. If you can't convey your feelings at that crucial moment, Even fate will pass you by.
It’s been two weeks since Nana and Yano broke up, and things aren’t going easily for her, as she has to constantly remind herself that she can’t just forgive him for everything. Adding more complications to the mix is Takeuchi, Yano’s best friend, who has decided that he’s going to take a shot at Nana now that she no longer has a boyfriend. If this sounds like a typical love triangle that you could find in any shoujo manga… Well, that’s because it is. Thankfully, though, We Were There still manages to elevate what should be a clichéd situation into something much deeper. There’s a sense of realism to the conflict; Takeuchi’s older sister, Ayaka, provides much of the stimulus for these changes by expressing a much more jaded outlook on love than what the teenagers might think. “In love, timing is everything,” she says, and Takeuchi takes the words to heart. It also really made me think about whether this series is endorsing that belief, or subverting it. If Nana and Yano do end up together by the final volume (as I still think they will), does that mean it was because their timing was right, or because, when it’s meant to be, timing doesn’t matter?
That’s not to say that the person giving this advice is some omniscient being. Ayaka is giving two very different sets of advice to both Yano and Takeuchi, and you have to wonder which one she’s rooting for. Although she muses on the outcome of it all in a very detached manner, her advice to Yano (“choose the right person…and be honest”) is much more hopeful than her “timing is everything” to her own younger brother. Either way, throughout the three chapters of the main story that are in this volume, the theme is clear--what is in front of you is real, and dreams and memories of people who have departed are not. It’s a sobering message, not necessarily subtle or original, but powerful and appropriate all the same.
But what really raises this volume above the ones that have come before is the side story, entitled “Run, Baby, Run” that focuses on Takeuchi in his last year of junior high, and a girl named Azusa that he’s in love with, who in turn has a crush on Yano. The story does a good job of filling out his character a little more, from his penchant for falling in love with girls who don’t already have crushes on him to his overly noble determination to do the right thing. This does provide an interesting counterpart to his high-school-aged self that, earlier in this volume, decides to pursue Nana. The climax, in which Takeuchi encourages Azusa to confess to Yano and tells her he’ll be alright and fall in love again, is a truly extraordinary bit of self-awareness not only on the part of Takeuchi, but also of the series itself. It forced me to look back on the events of the previous volumes with the knowledge that, while the characters think of their current feelings as matters of life and death, they will be okay in the end. The further implications of this message (if a person is not “okay in the end,” does it mean that it’s real love?) offer a tantalizing bit of what I can only hope will be explored as the series progresses.
I fell for the storytelling and emotional resonance of this series with the first volume, and this volume only further cements what I had previously thought--this is a remarkable series with an astounding level of maturity, and is one of the top shoujo manga series available on the American market. Granted, it’s not for those who want their romance filled with comedy or a sense that everything will work out perfectly, as it is destined to, in the end. It may sound depressing, but when the harsh realities of the world are mixed with the hopeful innocence of high school love, it’s a fantastic combination. Truly a must-read for fans of heartfelt shoujo.