Slight spoilers ahead!
Hi, welcome. It’s been while, huh? It’s definitely gotten colder since the last time. Ah, I know! How about we get together and warm up with some nice, cozy yuri. It is Christmas time, after all, and when snow crunches under our steps, and when we can see our breath, for us denizens of the Yuri Nation, only one pure source of heat can warm us throughout the frigid months.
The manga I have ready this time is a nice one. Comfy. Like a cool breeze on your face as you ride down the highway. You’ll get what I’m going for in a second.
Girl’s Ride is a manga by Isomoto Tsuyoshi, originally published by Houbunsha and serialized by Tsubomi in 2011. It’s a succinct little manga, clocking in at only 9 chapters. For someone like me, that’s a perfect length, but at the same time, from just a small set of chapters, you can kind of guess what type of story it will be. However, this manga actually manages to throw some nice surprises, which made this manga stand out among others I’ve been reading. Is this ride bumpy at all? Well then, let’s get right into it.
The manga is about bikes. Like, motorcycles. It’s about two girls who get closer together by riding motorcycles together. If that doesn’t sound like the best yuri concept ever, then don’t talk to me. Our two main bikers are the athletic Nan and the klutzy Sei. Just like the manga as a whole, they’re simple, but damn are they cute.
As per tradition, let’s start with the art.
It is gorgeous. I mean it’s fantastic. Especially on the bikes. There is so much detail and care put into each line in the drawings you’d think Isomoto hung out with bikes all day, and talked to them like one would a dog or cat. In fact, if you look at other works this mangaka has done, a majority of them have a heavy emphasis on the detailed artwork of vehicles. Some may find that strange, but I see a small eccentricity that helps set this manga up above the rest.
The art on the people is unique, and I admit that I wasn’t initially into it the first time I read through this. However, when I realized how good the bike and background art was, I ended up growing to like the character art as well. Halfway through my initial read-through, I have no clue what I was thinking at first, these characters look great. Bubbly but detailed. In short, amazing.
But, how’s the story? The art can be good all day long, but if it doesn’t have a compelling story, you won’t last to the next page. Thankfully, it manages to be engaging for its entirety, and at just nine chapters, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. Although, part of me wishes it did a little bit.
Taking the approach of two girls developing a friendship through motorcycles is a novel idea that I never really thought of before. Interesting yet not exactly out of left field, with a lot of potential to explore, which I feel like Girl’s Ride manages to succeed in. Since these girls ride bikes, we get to see them explore areas and settings outside the typical Japanese neighborhood and highschool backdrops. In fact, we hardly spend time any time at the school they attend. And the art also manages to keep up, the bikes in action are great and the background art is varied and stellar as well. We go from a Japanese highschool to the beach to the mountains to a stormy horizon. Dang it, I’m going off about the art again.
The story itself is as sweet as it is simple, mostly serving as a vehicle (haha) for our two characters to meet and become friends. Since this is a slice-of-life story, Nan and Sei don’t do much outside riding their bikes somewhere and enjoying their time there. However, don’t let that summarization deter you into thinking that’s a bad thing. Thankfully, the characters are appealing and cute enough to carry the manga along. Of course, some drama comes into play in the later chapters, but I’ll get into that a little bit later.
Nobeyama Sei is a new student to the school, transferring due to her father’s work. Like many manga protagonists before her, she’s known for her goofy and klutzy nature. She immediately befriends the popular and cool Kiyosato Nan, and gets her into riding motorcycles. What starts from here is a genuinely syrupy friendship.
The dynamic between the two girls is pretty good, the natural progression of a budding friendship feels real and fun to observe, especially with the girls’ quirks. Nan is usually the more cool and confident of the two, but when they’re on their bikes, that dynamic flips. It ends up getting explored a bit throughout the manga, which I thought was a nice touch.
But I know what everyone’s thinking. Does their relationship kick it up to another gear? (Sorry.)
In terms of the actual amount of yuri in this manga, there definitely is some, but not how you’d expect. Halfway through the story, a ‘rival’ of sorts comes in to shake things up. She’s there and gone pretty much all in the same chapter, but it does seem to lay the groundwork for something more to develop between Nan and Sei. Fortunately, the drama the character brings isn’t terribly heavy-handed, and is resolved quite easily, keeping in tone with the manga’s light nature. But it does set something up, and give us as readers a certain expectation. Does it deliver?
To keep it simple; no. Or rather, it’s an implication. I know that word may boil the blood of many yuri fans who love confirmed relationships, and I won’t lie, I was somewhat disappointed when I got to the end. I know it’s hard, but if you can try to appreciate this story as a growth of a deep and meaningful friendship, or if you tighten your yuri googles enough, you’ll might be able to get something out of this ending. It is hilariously sweet though, albeit a tad bitter. The action that occurs as the climax of the story will have you both laughing at the ridiculousness of it while appreciating the characters’ motivations.
There are a few extra chapters at the end of this manga, but unlike other manga I’ve reviewed, in which there were after stories that show the couple a few years down the road, this was more ‘snapshots’ of simple moments between Nan and Sei. And truth be told, these cute and simple moments, even if there is no ‘punchline’ or ‘point’, is when Girl’s Ride is at its strongest.
Apologies for keeping this review disorganized and vague, but I really feel like this is a manga I recommend going into with knowing as little as possible. It’s not deeper than a well or anything, but its inherently fluffiness is something to behold, and enjoy going into blind. There’s some light drama that bog an otherwise smooth ride, but it’s mostly a means to an end, a small bump to move the plot along in a certain direction. And while some may not like where the manga ultimately ends up, it really was more about the journey than the destination for Girl’s Ride. I’d give this manga a 7/10.
And on that note, Merry Christmas, Yuri Nation! I hope you all have a nice and warm holiday break, and can enjoy it with a little bit of delicious yuri. 2015 was a really good year, and I thank you all for letting me have my own little corner to review manga, and I especially thank the OG himself. Let’s go and work hard to make 2016 even better!
(Also if you haven’t watched OPM you should get on that)