Chasing After Aoi Koshiba, Vol. 1 by Fly (Illustrator), Hazuki Takeoka

Genre: manga, yuri, girls love, lgbtqia+

Rating: 4 out of 5 🌷🌷🌷🌷

Content warning: n/a

A yuri manga with gorgeous art and a reference to Bloom Into You? Of course I needed to read this immediately. Huge thank you to Kodansha and NetGalley.

The story starts present day, Sahoko Narita is headed for her high school reunion party. She is in her third year of university right now and on her way she wonders why do people even go to these parties. She meets up with her two best friends from school and one of them mentions that a certain Aoi Koshiba is not likely to attend tonight. Sahoko feels sad and a bit embarassed and this is when we head to flashback territory – and see the girls at high school, as they are on the cover.

I was surpsied that we only got to see the high school years in the flashbacks. This is just my personal preference but I don’t really like stories where the present day character spends most of their time reminiscing about the past. It seems that the things that happened in the past will be a cataclyst for things to move forward in the present, and if that is the case I won’t mind it much. But this is mostly speculation after volume one.

Most of the first volume is spent in the past and I liked these chapters much better. We learned what kind of a person our protagonist, Sahoko is. And boy, is she a handful! Sahoko remembers having a boring school experience before high school so she did everything she could to change her life around. In Japan kids usually graduate from their previous school and attend high school for three years (essentially 10, 11 and 12th grade) and we see Sahoko as a 17-year old in her second high school year. She spends a lot of time and energy to look pretty, and to give others a good impression. She is obsessed with having a popular Instagram account and getting likes while also fishing for people’s irl admiration of her. She became friends with two equally cute and popular girls so she feels settled in her new life – while also secretly worrying about doing anything that would brand her as lame. Unfortunately, due to her new social status she also became a bit vain, easily writing off other students as lame, unpopular, etc. based on looks alone.

Things change when she meets Aoi Koshiba, who is just so effortlessly fun and people seem to like her even though she is a bit of a tomboy. Sahoko is jealous of her free spirited attitude and finds herself gravitating towards Aoi.

I liked this set up and I liked how the two girls started to learn a bit about each other. Aoi also admires Sahoko, and she has her own issues as well. But I felt the communication between them is something that badly needs improvement. Sahoko is rather pushy in wanting to get closer to Aoi and she never stops to ask if Aoi wants her around. Instead she worries about doing things that will make Aoi dislike her. There was a confusing moment where Aoi calls her annoying – which I get, she was a bit pushy – but then immediately wants to hang out with Sahoko. I was also not a fan of the first kiss – it felt rushed, and one sided, with both girls being really confused and it was hard to tell just how much of it was on purpose and how much of it was just an accident.

The girls also have a short talk about dating, but we don’t learn why Aoi brings it up and we don’t know if Sahoko ever really came to terms with her own attraction for Aoi during high school. She is clearly still in denial at the beginning.

Sahoko’s conflicting feelings for Aoi are super relatable though, finding the other girl really amazing and wanting to know her better while being confused if this was friendship or more. It is not clear what happened between the two yet, the dialogue suggests they had some kind of falling out, but present day Sahoko is still clearly hang up on what could have happened or could still happen between them. 

I liked this first volume but the end of the book leaves me with more questions and no answers, I felt like too many things were left open for the next volume. I wish we got some answers at least, but for now so many things are waiting to be answered that it is hard to get really invested in the story. Sahoko is asked once about dating and boys and she visible feels uncomfortable, an ex is mentione and her friends even tease her if she just made this boy up – but we don’t actually learn what the deal is. She talks about being unpopular so it could be that she made up an ex to hide the fact that she was never asked out, but it is not clear and we don’t know if she is even interested in dating. It is implied Sahoko is unhappy in her current 
life, but we don’t know what she does besides studying. She also seems a bit depressed in comparison to her high school self – is this all because of what happened with Aoi? We don’t know if her and Aoi would even meet in the presents – Sahoko wants to but she doesn’t know if Aoi feels the same way. She mentions having her contact and texting sometimes but Aoi not being very responsive and the two slowly stopping to text. Did she ever actually ask Aoi to meet up? We don’t know why Aoi stopped texting her back. Present day Sahoko feels to be a really passive character, waiting for Aoi to accidentally turn up at the reunion party but not really trying to make it happen eg. asking if she is coming. 

While I liked the past chapters more, I was pulled into the story for a sweet high school romance after all, I hope that the present – past – present divide won’t be used for many volumes. I expect the next volume to still follow this set up, but in the long run this could quickly prove annoying, trying to guess what happened in the past while the present characters stagnate and don’t move forward. However if the past inspires them to move forward in the present day that could be interesting.

I really really love the art, and the pacing and the paneling is done really well. I felt that the illustrator captured the feelings and moments really well. I loved that the scenes had enough space to breathe, sometimes we would have pages with only two panels, but it was needed so you can really get immersed in the story.

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