Initially, I was turned off from this manga after hearing the premise. It resembled other messy, dramatic and trashy works that I had heard off recently. A teenage girl falling in love with her sister in law? If you had told me I would be tearing up over the first volume at two in the morning, I would have called you crazy. So why is this manga such an emotional gut-punch? And the more important question, is it worth reading? If I Could Reach You is a Yuri manga series written by tMnR. It is licensed and published to the English speaking public by Kodansha Comics. There are currently three volumes available, in both physical and digital formats, with more on the way.
Taboo or meaningful?
The premise is quite simple, as mentioned before the story is about a young teenage girl, Uta, who has a crush on her sister-in-law Kaoru. I feared it would go towards a taboo route, and luckily it does not. This crush comes from a place of sincere love. Her sister-in-law has been her friend since childhood and is there for support through her parent’s divorce. The mangaka handles this concept very well, as it is an idea that could go wrong in many ways. As the reader, I do not feel the need to try and explain why this “crush” would happen in the first place, because it is believable and real.
What I feel elevates this manga to another level are some of the emotional beats and thematic elements. At its core, this is a story about love and exploring your sexuality. At specific points in the volume, it is heartbreaking seeing Uta try to manage her feelings. Developing feelings for someone while knowing they won’t be able to reciprocate? Perhaps one of the rawest and most unapologetic emotions you could channel into a story. There is no adequate way to prepare yourself for how this manga will pull at your heart. The only thing to do is have a box of tissues nearby.
The players in the story
So far, with this being the first volume, the character cast is quite small. We are introduced to a handful, with the spotlight focused on Uta, our main character. Uta is a very human character, almost to a fault. Of course, she recognizes that her feelings (towards her sister-in-law) are wrong, she knows that they should stop, but she struggles with doing so. Ignoring the fact that her feelings are towards her sister-in-law, if you have ever found yourself in a similar situation of one sided-love, you appreciate her character that much more. Honestly, I did not expect to come to care so much about a character in only the first volume in the way I have become invested in Uta’s story. I expected her to be dramatic, unlikeable and simply unappealing; however, I got such an earnest and real individual that I could not help be moved.
Another character I want to mention is Kaoru, Uta’s sister-in-law. Their dynamic is quite interesting because while Uta is trying to distance herself and control her emotions, Kaoru is trying to get closer to her. Naturally, she has no idea of Uta’s true feelings, which makes this an interesting cycle that both these characters go through. Of course, Kaoru’s attempt to get closer comes from a place of genuine care, as all she wants is for Uta to come out of her shell and generally be more comfortable. Cruel irony is the term I would use to describe their relationship, as the story and characters progress, it will be interesting how this dynamic changes.
The art style of If I Could Reach You
One interesting aspect of the way this manga is illustrated is that the majority of backgrounds in the panels are left blank. Initially, this was something that I didn’t quite catch on my first read-through; however, after going back a second time, it slowly became apparent. Depending on your preferences, this might be a turnoff. I view it as quite a smart, artistic choice. I believe the reason I did not notice this because of how engrossed I was on the characters themselves. The way they are drawn excels at conveying their emotions. Whether it’s something as simple a blush from embarrassment or the feeling of longing. These are almost palpable as you read. With this being an emotional character-driven story, the fact that the character art is so engrossing speaks volumes.
Is If I Could Reach You volume 1 worth reading?
The simple answer is yes. While this first volume is not particularly fast-paced, it does a great job of presenting the overall story. We get a good sense of our characters and the general direction the author is taking this series. You can also get a good idea of the emotional elements that will be developed hopefully, into a satisfying payoff.
Initially, I believed this only to be a two-volume series, which left me puzzled at how this could all be neatly wrapped up in the next volume. I was happy to discover that it is an ongoing series, with four volumes planned after this one. To quote Emperor Palpatine, “We will watch your career with great interest.” If you wanted to jump in, now would be an ideal time since there is not a lot of catching up to do. Also, with this being my first Yuri title, it seems like a good manga to start becoming familiar with the genre.