Fuuka Volume 1 Review
Reviewed by: Linny
Synopsis: Yuu Haruna is an somewhat socially awkward and quiet teenager who prefers to spend his time interacting with people on Twitter than in real life. Due to his father being transferred to America for work, Yuu is forced to move to Tokyo to live with his sisters. On his way back from getting some takeout for dinner, he bumps into a mysterious girl who accuses him of trying to upskirt her and breaks his phone in retaliation. Her name is Fuuka Akitsuki and Yuu discovers that not only is she from the same school he has transferred to but is also his classmate. Fuuka proves to be a rather strange girl and Yuu finds himself extremely drawn to her. Just as his friendship with Fuuka starts to blossom, Yuu receives a mysterious message on Twitter from someone in his past.
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
As Fuuka is slated for an anime adaptation this Winter 2017 season, it feels appropriate to take a look at its source manga for a taste of what one might be watching in the upcoming season. Let me start off by mentioning that Fuuka is a sequel to another manga series titled Suzuka and without spoiling too much, it seems a safe bet that one can enjoy Fuuka without having read or even heard about Suzuka. I cannot confidently claim that you do not need any knowledge of Suzuka to enjoy Fuuka to the fullest, as I have not read Suzuka and have only read the first volume of Fuuka but I never had any moments in Volume 1 that left me feeling confused or needing to read the prequel to understand what was happening in this story.
With that out of the way, Fuuka reads like a very familiar trope ridden teen romance. Our female protagonist, the titular Fuuka is super quirky, refuses to use or own a cellphone claiming that it makes you miss out on life and seems to be constantly running and jumping and posing on random places like the rooftop of her school. She’s clearly meant to stand out with her quirkiness which also then becomes one of the reasons our hero, Yuu becomes completely obsessed and enraptured by her. It’s a classic and common trope in teen romance not just in anime and manga but even in western fiction so much so that it created a term called the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (henceforth shortened to MPDG). It’s too early in the story to label Fuuka herself as one but she is definitely showing a lot of signs that could end up making her one. So, if you dislike that trope, you might want to skip on this or pick it up with lowered expectations. On the other hand, if you enjoy whirlwind teenage romances, Fuuka might be worth your time.
Now let’s discuss Yuu, our male protagonist. He’s shown to be likeable, in that he doesn’t have any outright obnoxious characteristics. He’s even shown to be someone who tries to do the right thing like speaking out and helping a girl being coerced by another guy even though he doesn’t really know either of them. He’s described as a quiet guy who does all his main interaction with others online through Twitter. He might be someone that feels relatable or sympathetic to shy readers and at worst one could say he’s not that remarkable but then central male protagonist in teenage romances rarely are other than often having the ability to seduce every girl in the series without even trying or wanting to and often for unknown or logic defying reasons.
Fuuka starts off feeling like it’ll be mainly about the romance between Fuuka and Yuu but the manga throws in a third player in the very next/second chapter itself when Yuu receives a text message with a flirty subtext. So there’s a chance this is going to turn into yet another love triangle which only adds to Fuuka’s trope ridden story. There’s nothing wrong with it being so, but if you are a heavy reader, you might be tired of all the tropes that Fuuka throws into its story after having come across it one too many times already. What’s also disturbing is how violently Fuuka reacts to her suspicions that Yuu was taking upskirt photos of her, even finds evidence of it, yet quickly and immediately befriends him anyway. One could explain it away saying that she is touched by the fact that he came to her rescue in the past and that Yuu clearly hadn’t taken the pictures on purpose but more jaded readers might be disappointed with her she seems to flip her attitude towards him so easily. Also, more rational readers might question the wisdom in falling for or befriending someone who smashed your phone to pieces twice based on knee jerk reactions.
Now before I come off completely negative towards the series, I’d like to point out that the friendship between Yuu and Fuuka is enjoyable. It isn’t as cliche as one might expect and while it isn’t groundbreaking and unique, their friendship seems pretty natural and progresses in a healthy manner. And remember how i refused to call Fuuka a MPDG earlier on? That is because as the story goes on, we learn that she has a passion that Yuu seems to be nurturing and encouraging her towards. Usually in the MPDG trope, it’s the girl who awakens a new passion in the guy and becomes his reason for embracing life through rose tinted glasses. However, then the story continues on to let us know that Fuuka isn’t the only girl that Yuu apparently inspired to go into a musical career. I’m starting to think Yuu should start a career as a musical life coach, inspiring wannabe singers and musicians into kicking off their careers all thanks to him.
Fuuka also has a random dash of fantasy, in that while a lot of the story is based on everyday matters and events, there’s a scene where Yuu sees wings burst out of Fuuka’s back and claims that even though he cannot tell anyone about it because they would not believe him, he is certain that he saw them. This isn’t brought up ever again in the first chapter so for now, one could consider this scene as more of an analogy than something that actually happened. (Though maybe someone who has read the prequel Suzuka might have an actual explanation about this.)
In short, I would recommend you pick up Fuuka if you are addicted to classic teenage romances with all the tropes that it brings. While Fuuka doesn’t necessarily seem brilliant right off the start, it has enough to keep the average fan entertained and engaged. Its art is also very well done and a pleasure to leaf through. However, if you are a more choosy reader or have already begun tiring of teen romance triangles, you might find yourself annoyed at all the cliches and might have most likely already read a story very similar to this one in the past. As someone who is personally very tired of love triangles, especially with how predictable they can get in manga and anime, I won’t be reading more of this series but if you are a fan of quirky female protagonists and teenage romances, by all means, do give this series a chance. The good news is that if you do end up liking the story, the manga is still ongoing and has 11 volumes out with Crunchyroll doing a simulpub so you get the latest chapters legally translated and up to date.