Last Uniform (aka Saigo no Seifuku) Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, October 15, 2007
Release Date: Monday, July 30, 2007
Translated by:Nancy Barron, Ben Applegate
Adapted by:Shannon Fay, Janet Houck
What They Say
Each girl at Tsubakigaoka Girls' Dorm is paired with a roommate. Tsumugi with Beniko, and Ai with Fuuko. Yet the girls each have their own crushes on each other, and it's making it impossible for them to stay "just friends." But can one girl really love another? A charming tale of yuri romance that deals with the perennial question "who's going to hook up with who" with a twist.
This is probably the only time I'll ever say this: I'm glad the English cover is different than the original! The location of the logo on the Japanese edition was so clunky that I'm relieved to see it in a much more natural upper-left-corner spot. The extra large book size makes reading more pleasant than usual (no squinting!). One color page is included. As for extras, there is an afterword with the author, and a rundown of honorifics and Japanese traditions.
This is one of those cases where you just know the mangaka's artwork will develop into something good in the future, but he/she just isn't there yet. Hakamada's color artwork is quite nice, but the black-and-white stuff just lacks punch. The peculiar, heart-shaped faces are even more awkward when there is no color to give them depth. To be honest, her art looks like it belongs in something like Pokemon – in other words, some lowbrow series targeted towards very young children. It always looks a bit rushed and sloppy.
In speech bubbles close to the edge of the page, the text always gets cut off somewhat, but thankfully remains legible. Sound effects are often replaced with English equivalents, and sometimes just beside the Japanese original. Honorifics are left intact.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Tsubakigaoka is an all-girls dormitory. The residents are required to live together with 2-3 girls to a room, no matter how many rooms are available. Ai and Fuuko are two students that room together, and each girl nurses a little, tentative crush on the other. Their fragile, intimate day-to-day life is unceremoniously interrupted when a new girl, Anzu, moves in with them. Ai worries that Fuuko won't care about her anymore, but what Ai doesn't know is that Anzu has eyes on someone else: Beniko's roommate, Tsumugi! Meanwhile, Beniko and Tsumugi are taking tentative steps towards a relationship of their own, despite the jealous hordes of Beniko fangirls.
The story focuses on the students' love lives in a larger sense, but switches focus between several pairs, namely Tsumugi & Beniko (with Anzu's one-sided crush thrown in) and Ai & Fuuko. Confusion and clumsy steps toward romance plague them all, but it always somehow turns out brightly.
I was expecting something more subtle and thoughtful, but The Last Uniform turned out to be a light read with only tinges of yuri. Much of the paperthin plot relies on forced situations to get the girls to do something that leads to a kiss, a flirtatious look, or a sleepy grope. It's as if the author didn't even bother to write anything of interest in the story besides some weak stabs at yuri. The intended audience must be easily excited men who see all interaction between women as preludes to a lesbian encounter. On the other hand, I suppose that a younger reader who doesn't mind same-sex relationships but is still too young for mature yuri would enjoy this title.
Something that I rarely complain about is the characters' ages versus the way they actually look. I'm all for cute, so making that high schooler a little younger looking and cutesier is fine by me, but the characters here just look so... chaste. Given the Older Teen rating, I'd assume that something that warrants it happens later on, although nothing more than a quick kiss happens in this volume. They just don't look like high schoolers, and it makes reading about their complicated love lives just a little weird.
The Last Uniform is by no means awful, but it just doesn't do anything beyond deliver a completely average, lackluster story of budding feelings between roommates that just happen to be all girls. The very short chapters and overall volume length is another strike against it, but perhaps after all it's best suited for a palate cleanser after some of the more substantial yuri titles.
Mania Grade: C
Art Rating: C
Packaging Rating: A
Text/Translatin Rating: A-
Age Rating: 16 & Up
Released By: Seven Seas Entertainment
Orientation: Right to Left
Series: Last Uniform (aka Saigo no Seifuku)