Credit goes to Arkas for this incredible pic.
Sumairii here with another manga review. This time’s feature: Asamiya-san no Imouto.
An Unexpected Journey
Just a girl a-lookin’ for her sister.
Asamiya-san no Imouto (lit. Asamiya’s Little Sister) is ostensibly the tale of a young girl’s journey through a dystopian future in search of her older sister. From this premise, one might expect a charming and slow-paced story that pulls us in with plenty of world-building and invests us in the main character, Aoi, as we learn more about her through her interactions with the people she meets. But if you come into the manga with this kind of mindset, boy are you in for a surprise. Because Asamiya-san no Imouto becomes so much more than that, for better or for worse. Actually, it might even be misleading to say that because this implies the elements we originally expected are still present to some degree. When in fact, it would be closer to the truth to say that the relaxing, episodic adventures we thought we were in for are completely replaced by a bizarre science fiction fantasy.
Then shit got real.
OK, so the manga surprises us by becoming something else entirely. That’s not so bad if you’re open-minded enough to tolerate the change. In fact, this isn’t the only manga to pull a genre change like that on its readers; Medaka Box is another (infamous) example that comes to mind. The more important matter, then, is how Asamiya-san no Imouto handles itself during and after the shift. In all honesty, it pulls it off with relative success. From the very beginning, we know that something big has happened to the world. And it’s not such a big stretch to say that the move to a scifi fantasy is appropriate to explain what exactly led to the current situation. So there’s no need to worry about the change being so jarring as to throw off readers. That said, the manga does suffer from other more serious problems which unfortunately severely hinder a full appreciation of the work.
Rough Waters Ahead
Why does she have a pigeon on her head? The question may never be answered…
You’re probably wondering what could be more offensive than an abrupt genre change, so I will cut to the chase and say it bluntly. Asamiya-san no Imouto is terribly confusing. No, I don’t mean that the plot doesn’t make any sense. Things start to come together once you think about it for a bit. What I mean is that the author is simply bad at conveying actions and has a habit of abusing sudden cuts between different scenes excessively. I can’t tell you how many times a character did something that should have been rather straight-forward, but I had to read the panels again to realize what just happened. And don’t even get me started on how often I’ve been confused because the subject changes without warning or something different is going on in the next panel. This leads to a very disjointed and obfuscating experience that’s not exactly conducive to a positive opinion of the manga.
Aoi at her best.
Now, that’s not to say “game over man, game over.” Asamiya-san no Imouto can be comprehensible if you take some time to fully digest what you’ve read. So if you don’t just give up, throw up your arms, and yell “WTF did I just read,” you should be able to enjoy the work in spite of its problems. And once you do that, things start to look better because Aoi is a really fun character. The rest of the cast are rather engaging as well, but you will find that Aoi’s companions rotate with each mini-arc until the very end when everyone comes together for the big finale. So it’s a bit harder to appreciate them as much as the titular imouto, who also has the advantage of simultaneously being an adorable moe-blob, a big damn hero, and a simple girl searching for her sister and for memories of their father. This should be obvious, but having such a strong and agreeable lead really helps in a character-driven story.
WTF did I just read?
Prepare for walls of text!
With the main body of the review behind us, I think it necessary to talk about the plot considering it can be a bit hard to understand. This is mainly for those who have already read the manga, but those who decide to pick it up after reading this review can also come back to read my take on it all. So be warned, spoilers lie ahead.
So to wrap up, is Asamiya-san no Imouto worth the read? The short answer is yes. The manga may be no work of art, and in fact it is appropriate to interject here that the artwork can literally and figuratively be a bit sketchy at times. But overall it is a pretty nifty scifi romp with the added bonus of a particularly strong focus on character development and attention to world-building thanks to its character-driven adventure origin. My only big complaint is that the ending is a bit of an asspull. In summary, the manga had a great concept held back by some poor execution, and the mangaka could definitely polish his/her writing and artwork. Asamiya-san no Imouto is definitely worth reading if you’re at all inclined to wade through its muddy waters though.
Sisters reunited at last~