I mentioned before that I was practically kicking myself for now getting into this series sooner. With volumes one through three now in my possession and read through, it’s time to share my thoughts.
I have to admit that A Sign of Affection has me fangirling, bad. I haven’t blushed, and squealed this hard for a series in ages, perhaps even since high school. I’m beyond delighted and I can’t hold myself back any longer from sharing my thoughts with you! So let’s start with the details of the story!
Yuki is a deaf* since birth university student. She likes what most young women her age enjoy, hanging out with her best friend Rin, social media, and enjoying her life at university. Due to her deafness, Yuki’s world is rather small but enjoyable. This world is interrupted by the globe trotting Itsuomi, a mutual friend of Rin, during her commute. He is unperturbed by Yuki’s deafness, quickly adapting to communicate with her before parting. It’s in that moment where Yuki’s world starts to expand, just a little, as she and Itsuomi begin to learn about each other’s completely different lives.
I have to say that this premise is top notch. For the first time in a long time, there’s a slightly older cast of characters at the forefront. Not quite adults in the sense that college is typically where most people start figuring things out, but they have more independence and freedom than a high schooler. So it’s refreshing to see characters a little closer to my own age take the stage.
Secondly, is Yuki being a deaf protagonist. This point has two sides to it, but I’ll focus on the positives first. In my Western perspective, having a deaf protagonist is a real sign of progress, especially considering how popular this manga is. It’s introducing a world beyond the roses and sparkles that typically encompass a shojo, and adding just a bit more reality to it. One that probably not many readers are familiar with, and normalizing aspects of it.
While this is all well and good, I do worry as to why this story took off when it did. Japan seemed to really pop off with disabled protagonists at the forefront of stories once the Paralympics were announced for 2020. Which makes sense that authors who might have been too scared to propose a disabled protagonist before, might be more comfortable doing so now while it’s, for lack of a better word, on topic. I worry about the longevity of the series considering the Paralympics have now been postponed, and probably will be cancelled at this rate. Once that factor is clarified, I’d be curious to know if readership and interest in this series drops off at all.
Of course, I sincerely hope it doesn’t. Yuki’s being deaf is just one aspect of who she is. It’s not the entire story, but it is a part of who she is, and how she reacts. When you tell a compelling story, which is what A Sign of Affection has done, people will stick around. At least I will be!
Which leads me to another positive, which is the pacing of the plot. A Sign of Affection knows how to develop a relationship between two characters. Yuki doesn’t quite fall in love in the first chapter, but she does become interested in Itsuomi which is how a solid relationship starts. We don’t have quite as much insight into Itsuomi’s line of thinking, but he is reciprocal if not fascinated with Yuki. It seems like he’s never met a girl like Yuki before, and is completely curious about how their world’s co-exist but are so different. It’s a set-up that has me invested in how their relationship will develop given their very different lifestyles. Another benefit, is there isn’t drama being inserted just for the theatrics of being a shojo story. Any plot twists, turns or ‘drama’ is incorporated naturally to the story without being overbearing or coming off as trite.
Tied to the pacing and events is the art style. There’s a very natural sense of time that flows throughout the series given the panel layout and art style. Overall the panel layout is solid, but a few pages can get busy, especially when it’s Oushi and Yuki using sign language. Nachiyan, the artist, does really know how to highlight critical elements of a scene. We get a good sense of how the characters move and interact with one another not only in a single panel, but also throughout the page.
Nachiyan also isn’t afraid to use a variety of styles to convey certain aspects. Characters will have their normal expressions one panel, and then an exaggerated or simplified face the next to emphasis what just happened. It’s not only cute, but more than once has managed to make me giggle since my brain immediately knew the ‘anime’ style of impact they were going for. In general, each characters has a solid composition and variety of expressions that suit the story incredibly well.
About the only thing I’ve noticed is that there are quite a few ‘open’ panels. These panels will typically have a white, no texture background with just either text or an up close image of a character’s expression or their hands. In past reviews, I’ve been pretty critical of things like this. In certain stories, it comes off as the page is unfinished, and somewhat lazy especially if the artist doesn’t have a strong enough style to carry it.
Other times, it works really well and serves a pointed purpose in the story, and for A Sign of Affection, it very much falls into this category. This means that the backgrounds aren’t the most elaborate, but they’re put together well enough. We see enough to know where in a location everyone is, but not so much to distract us. Given that the story does include a lot of internal monologues, and sign language it’s only natural the panels would focus on this and have it carry the story along.
The most critical thing A Sign of Affection does, is make you invested in the story. The main draw at the moment of course, is how Yuki and Itsuomi’s relationship will develop. There’s some intrigue about our secondary pairing Rin and Kyoya, as well as Itsuomi’s friend’s Emma and Shin, but it’s not distracting. What I’m most curious about is how will Oushi, Yuki’s childhood friend who is also fluent in sign language will play into future chapters. I have my suspicions, but I’ll keep those under wraps for now so as to not spoil this series for anyone. Because seriously, if you have not started reading this, you really need to get on it!
So yes, as strange as this may be to write; this is a post about me gushing over my favorite recent shojo title. If you’ve read A Sign of Affection, drop me a comment below and let me know your thoughts on it! I need someone else to chat about this title with! Other then that, I’ll see you next post!
* Note: I am using deaf to describe Yuki based on the original Japanese term used in her biography. The word used is “聴覚障”, which can be translated as hard of hearing, or deaf. I want to be clear and succinct in this blog, so I used deaf to achieve that. So I’m not using this maliciously, but within my research deaf is also preferred by those impacted by the condition.
Great series. Wish I could say more, but that sums it up.
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Sometimes that’s all you need!
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Ughhh I read the first volume ages ago now, haven’t picked up the last two. I did a blog post on it when it first came out, back then it wasn’t popular at all and now it’s on people’s radars which is great to see. So great to see another series covering disability, there is only so few about this being a shojo is an extra bonus to me. I didn’t vibe with su Morishita shortcake cake but I more than did with this. Her and another worked on this series, lots of thought went into this, making for a lasting impression.
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I remember seeing your blog post, and that’s why it was on my radar. When I realized there were three volumes out in Japan I felt behind lol.
It really is great to see all the thought and effort that’s gone into this series. All the author notes explaining their research was awesome.
[…] then a bit obsessed with A Sign of Affection. Pretty shortly after I wrote up my Winter Reads, and review, I still wanted to keep talking about this series. If the series maintains it’s popularity, […]