Romance is in the air at all-girl high schools Touhou and Sakurakai. When a pair of best friends is split between the two schools, it spurs them to become more than just friends; a girl who plays the captured princess in a school theater production falls for the cool older student cast as her rescuer; and even the ghost of a former student finds a way to express her love to the school nurse, who was once her classmate and friend. Not everyone gets a perfect happily-ever-after—one girl is afraid to tell her best friend that she wants them to be a couple, while another is pursued by a classmate even though she thinks she might not be into girls—but in most of these fourteen short stories, love conquers all.
Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink is a collection of connected yuri stories, nine of which feature the same couple, Nana and Hitomi. As the two begin dating and grow closer, they must survive relationship drama and deal with issues like coming out to friends. Some of their classmates think that lesbian relationships are “nasty” or laughable, while others support the couple. The rest of the stories follow other students at Sakurakai or Touhou, and as the characters’ social groups overlap, they sometimes pop up in one another’s stories. In addition to showing relatable emotion in many characters, the book offers fun glimpses of Japanese culture, like the Valentine’s Day/White Day celebrations.
Like any teens in love, Hitomi and Nana have questions and concerns: will they stay together through college and beyond? What are they comfortable doing sexually? What do they expect from the relationship? Nana wonders, “When girls do it, what exactly do you have to do for it to count as sex?” and wishes someone could answer her questions. The girls also butt heads over Hitomi’s protective and occasionally patronizing attitude; Nana says that she doesn’t want Hitomi to be “the man” in the relationship and expects the two of them to be equals. Romance fans will likely appreciate the strong bond and good communication we see in the central couple, and enjoy the sometimes-wacky stories interspersed with Hitomi and Nana’s.
The artwork is delicately drawn and pretty. Backgrounds tend to be unobtrusive and minimal. Characters are easily distinguished from one another, though mostly by hairstyle, given that their body types are similar and their faces tend to have the same exaggerated cuteness so common in romantic manga. The artist pays great attention to characters’ clothes, differentiating between the two schools’ uniforms as well as plenty of other cute outfits. The girls’ bodies, though all quite slim, are refreshingly realistic compared to many found in manga.
Hitomi and Nana do have sex, though this is neither shown nor described in detail. There are a few nude images of the girls holding each other, lying together, or bathing, but they are not actually doing anything sexual. These images don’t seem gratuitous as the poses are natural and they don’t feel designed to put the girls’ bodies on display for readers. There are a few mild sexual references—one girl playfully gropes her girlfriend’s chest while both are fully clothed—but otherwise, it’s mostly kisses and a whole lot of longing.
The book explicitly dispels some myths and misunderstandings about lesbian relationships, including the idea that they aren’t serious or exist as a placeholder until a girl can get a boyfriend. The stories show a variety of relationships, yet spend enough time with one couple to watch the relationship progress, achieving depth and character development. The characters are respectfully treated and at no point do their bodies or their relationships feel exploited or trivialized. Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink could be an especially good read for girls who are interested in other girls and anyone who wants to read about lesbian relationships that are taken seriously while remaining sweet and fun.
Kisses, Sighs, and Cherry Blossom Pink: The Complete Collection
by Milk Morinaga
Seven Seas, 2013
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen (16+)