Nana is excited about starting high school, but making friends and getting along proves to be harder than she expected. Things are further complicated when she meets Yano, a boy everyone likes. At first Nana thinks he’s kind of a jerk, but when she begins to get to know him better, she starts to fall for him. Yano, though, is still struggling with his feelings about his former girlfriend who died the year before.
Obata’s high school romance could easily be just another over-the-top drama, but the first volume has more subtlety than I expected from the synopsis. This is a very character driven title and both Nana and Yano are interesting characters. What Obata does best is capture the personalities of two young people caught at that awkward stage between childhood and adulthood. Yano’s struggles to deal with very adult feelings of grief, jealously, love, and lust are painfully real, as are his attempts to move past those feelings. Nana is every-girl, wanting to fit in, wanting to make friends, but also not able to deny how she feels. I loved that she was both shy and nervous, especially when it came to doing the right thing at school, and straightforward and to the point, especially when it came to her feelings for Yano. The secondary characters are not as well developed in this volume, but I can seem them becoming more so as the series progresses.
The art was my least favorite part of the work, but I could still see how Obata’s drawings fit with her characters. She tends toward softly cute features, nothing overly beautiful, and her girls have gigantic eyes and oddly rounded heads, which, combined with the overly large ears she draws, made everyone seem rather alien. But I did like that Obata isn’t afraid of open space where needed. That helped highlight the more dramatic moments.
We Were There, vol. 1 is not quite a perfect title, but it’s a good beginning to a series that should appeal to fans of Kare Kano: His and Her Circumstances. Obata has set up an interesting and realistic world and I, for one, want to know even more about Yano. What secrets are buried in his past? Will Nana be able to get past them and see the real Yano? These questions and more will compel me toward the second volume.
We Were There, vol. 1