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Two one-shots by the author of Sunadokei (Sand Chronicles). I really loved that series, but I'd never read anything else by her, so I wasn't sure how these would stand up. Seems like scanlations are available for both.

Title: Chouchou Gumo
Author: Ashihara Hinako
My Rating: 4/5

These stories were cute, but I didn't love this nearly as much as I loved Sunadokei.

The title story is the best. It has a similar feel to Sunadokei. There's a group of four, two boys and two girls, whose feelings are all entangled, and various ones of them do things they regret because of it. Also one of the girls comes to a small town after having been raised in the city, and her mom was from the small town and ran away with a guy from the big city and is now divorced. Same setup as Sunadokei. It also moves from childhood to adulthood just as Sunadokei does. But even with those similar elements, it really doesn't feel like the same story. The actual details of it are different enough, and of course it's only a oneshot rather than ten volumes. If you liked Sunadokei, I'd definitely recommend this one, though.

The other three stories were linked by the theme of junior high, one for each year. They were cute, but ultimately forgettable, and I really disliked that the middle one had this girl who had been sexually harrassed for years, both by strangers on the train, etc. and by boys in her class, and yet it seemed to be saying because one time this one guy caught someone in the act of feeling her up, her life was totally going to change now.

Title: Yubikiri
Author: Ashihara Hinako
My Rating: 4/5

This has three stories. The first is about a girl who sometimes contemplates suicide. One day while she's up on the roof leaning over the railing and thinking about it (but not really planning to do it), a boy sees her and pulls her back. They start sort of going out and he makes her promise never to kill herself, but then one time says to her that sometimes while he's riding his scooter, he thinks of just drifting into traffic in the oncoming lane. I won't tell any more, because it has some twists, but I enjoyed it.

The second was an interesting one. It was about a girl who has no friends except this one boy. Guys are always hitting on her, so she can't be friends with them, and girls always hate her "for some reason", as she says (the reason is she's always sleeping with their boyfriends). She's being raised by her stepmother, but her birth mother was her father's mistress, and while her stepmother tries to care for her, she's very bitter and when the girl was little, she used to always tell her how cuckoos lay their eggs in other birds' nests in order to trick the birds into raising their children, an obvious dig at the girl's mom. Then one day she falls for a guy who happens to be married... Again, this one had some interesting twists and didn't go where I thought it would, but I liked it.

The last one was more typical. A girl who never was able to make friends at school learns she's going to be moving in sixty days. She doesn't think she'll miss her school at all until she's assigned to the class committee for the upcoming sports festival, where through a series of events, she actually starts making friends. This one was enjoyable, too, though.


I also read Aoi Hana 1-4 by Shimura Takako, author of Hourou Musuko. I didn't like it quite as much as HM, but it's really good! It's about four girls who go to all-girls high schools (two different ones) and their friendships and loves. If you want manga high on female characters, this is one for you. There are only three guys in it and all three play fairly minor roles. I also liked that while there is some "it's okay to fall for girls because this is an all-girls school" and some relationships that feel like the typical yuri "we're not gay, we just love each other" stuff, at least one of the main characters is shown to have been in love with multiple women. It's available scanlated, and the anime is apparently also being subbed on Crunchyroll the same day it's aired in Japan.

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