Can you believe this is the last Monday of January already? How is it we’re already almost one month into the new year?! Well, since February approacheth quickly–and Valentine’s Day looms ever near–let me soak your romance tooth (it’s a thing, trust me) into a great club based shoujo manga. Even if you’re not super into sports or clubs or even high school storylines, this comic veers away from so many romantic tropes and is so uniquely plotted out, so far as young love stories go, that I think it’ll take a lot of non-shoujo readers by surprise.
Thus, without further ado, let the warm fuzzies commence!
I have surprised myself by how much I enjoy club mangas, specifically ones that center around team-based interests. Club manga, if you weren’t aware, could be anything from something more academic, such as the literature club (see what I did there?), all the way to more athletic pursuits, like basketball club. While I was in multiple leadership-based clubs in high school, I have never had to endure the trials of something sports and/or group related.
In the case of Aozora Yell, alternatively titled Yell for the Blue Sky, protagonist Ono Tsubasa works hard to make it to Shirato High School, a school famous for its brass band club, which Tsubasa witnessed in all its glory at the baseball championships known as Koushien. It was watching that epic game, with the Shirato brass band belting out in the stands, that Tsubasa knew that she wanted to one day be a part of it all and that she wanted to be playing the trumpet when she did so.
Shirato High isn’t just famous for its brass band, however, it also is well-known for the baseball club. Watching that very same Koushien game as a kid is Yamada Daisuke, but rather than being inspired by the brass band, Daisuke yearns for his place on the baseball team. He also works hard to enter Shirato High in order to join the baseball club.
It is these two first year high school students meeting that sets the story in motion. As they are both gazing at the many brass band club and baseball club trophies, they quickly discover their common inspiration for attending that high school and make a pact that they’ll support each other and go together to Koushien.
This feels like a fairly basic premise, but what makes this series the most interesting isn’t the plot. So far as a club manga goes, it’s pretty basic. Hard work, some failure, some success, more hard work, watching these characters push forward towards their goals. That is fairly typical, albeit always inspiring to me as a reader. (Seriously, I get all teary-eyed and everything.)
No, it’s not the plot but the character arcs and webbing that has Aozora Yell really making me a fan. While Tsubasa is someone so accustomed to looking down that staring at her feet has become a tool for dealing with her anxiety, Daisuke is entirely socially grounded and confident in himself as well as others.
Rather than following an overrun popular-guy-and-dowdy-girl line, Daisuke, while socially sure, is just a regular guy fighting for his dream. Tsubasa, who openly admits that she’s socially weak, is simply a girl who has a dream and works hard for it. And, somehow, these two just click together perfectly.
Of course, with such strong chemistry as friends, naturally, feelings develop. But, even as their club goals get in the way of that, even as rejections happen, Aozora Yell skips right over the typical love triangle addition and completely bypasses at cliched attempt at jealousy, or whatever other plot devices romance titles usually cling to. Rather, even as the protagonists’ ability to get together falters, they are still a part of an ever-present, continually growing relationship–and I particularly enjoy that.
Aozora Yell is a slow-burn romance but it’s done in such a way that feels quite authentic. Because, really, when you only have those three years to complete your high school dreams, it does often keep you from developing anything outside of that. I will say this time and time again but, I rather prefer that slower relationship progression. In Aozora Yell, I really do enjoy watching Daisuke and Tsubasa build a real friendship before jumping into the oh-hey-boyfriend-girlfriend.
Within manga, it’s quite normal for someone to confess their love to and start dating someone who they really don’t actually know. This is alien to me. I mean, shouldn’t you, I don’t know, actually know something about someone before you think about dating them? When it at least comes to healthy relationships for teens, Aozora Yell is one I approve of, that’s for sure. (Which saying that was probably something that makes it very clear that I’m a mother, doesn’t it?)
Another thing that makes me enjoy club manga is the things we get to learn about the particular interest of the main character. Watching Tsubasa learn the trumpet was entirely unique and offered a lot of information that I never even considered about playing an instrument. I mean, my experience goes as far as piano, and the physical requirements of playing it are nothing compared to the trumpet.
For example, when Tsubasa first expresses interest in join the brass band, the club advisor literally hands her one of those snake-like balloons and tells her, “Blow this up, then I will give you the club application form.” Which, okay, if you’ve never tried to blow one of those puppies up yourself, let me just say that I was not able to to do it. Tsubasa has to train her abs and lungs through hours of sit-ups and running to be able to do it. (In a nutshell, I am not cut out for brass band.)
Tsubasa must also learn the unique way in which you have to position your mouth before you can even begin to get a tune out of a trumpet. She must also continue to run something like 10-kilometers a day, as well as practice playing the trumpet while doing a V-situp. Which sounds super fun.
Again, I think this is why I like club manga. I don’t know that feeling–the yearning to push your body to change in order to do something you love. What I loved to do in high school is draw, write, and socialize, none of which required miles of running, that’s for sure. But realy, to love something enough to put your body through 12-hour days of practice, only to go home, crash, and wake up early to do it again. And then, even when you have a break, to want to go and practice because, in the end, you love it and crave it? I just think that’s so cool.
Aozora Yell covers these feelings as we watch Daisuke and Tsubasa learn and grow. They’re both so passionate about these things, and it’s a very real possibility that high school is the only place they’re going to be able to take part in it, so they give it everything they’ve got.
Still, the real cherry of Aozora Yell is Daisuke and Tsubasa’s friendship. Again, I appreciate so much that, even through rejected confessions, even through confused feelings, the two of them work so hard to support and encourage each other. They are constantly seeking one another out and actively get energy from each other’s company. I love how real their friendship feels. I love how active they look for one another. And, dang it, I really love how they love each other.
My previously suggested online manga reader, Bato.to, recently shut down (R.I.P, Bato.to). Bato.to was awesome because it was not a manga reader that jacks scanlations to host for advertisement-based profit. I’m sure a new like-minded hosting arrangement will pop-up soon, but for now–since Aozora Yell isn’t yet put up on the scanlator, Chibi Manga’s, free reader–I’d say the safest alternative to reading it would be at Manga Rock!
Go, binge read it, creepily obsess over it like I do, and let Chibi Manga know!