MANGA REVIEW | "Higehiro" - Volume One
There have been many a story revolved around the young runaway and the adult that puts them on the straight & narrow. Yet when these stories are done, rules must be put into effect, especially ones involving romance between the two parties. Shimesaba’s Higehiro: After Being Rejected, I Shaved and Took in a High School Runaway teeters on the line that must not be crossed. Thankfully, in its first manga volume (adapted by Imaru Adachi), there’s a lot more heart placed into the narrative than one would think.
Higehiro follows Yoshida, who just got rejected by his boss Goto. While walking home completely intoxicated, he finds a lone high school girl sitting underneath a light. Showing a little concern for the kid, Yoshida walks up to her to see what’s the deal. The girl, named Saya, has run away from home, and is looking for a place to stay. After some back-and-forths involving bad compromises and sketchy ideas, Yoshida reluctantly lets Saya stay at his apartment.
However, Yoshida lays out some conditions to Saya. She must help clean his house, get a job sometimes soon, and — most importantly — not hit on him at all while living under the same roof. With these rules in place, Saya agrees, and finds herself in a far better situation than he has in the past. Meanwhile, at Yoshida’s workplace, Goto starts having second thoughts regarding her rejection. If that wasn’t enough, co-worker Mishima is also trying to swoop in and grab on to Yoshida.
While the first volume of Higehiro sets up the premise of the main narrative, a lot of what goes on is primarily focused on the other key players. There are a lot of foundations being laid out already, and not just the ones made solely by Yoshida and Saya. How Goto truly feels for Yoshida is hinted at, despite this whole thing starting with her own rejection. Then there’s Mishima, whose reasons for how she feels about Yoshida aren’t exactly clear.
Adding more to the complicated feelings of everyone is Saya herself. Her reasons for running away haven’t been fully revealed, but it’s clear that something troublesome had occurred in her life. There’s also the fact that she’s been using her body in exchange for places to stay, as her travels have taken her from Hokkaido to Tokyo! (Google Japan’s map to fully understand how far that actually is!) Hearing all of this leads Yoshida feeling disturbed by what Saya has done, hence why he emphasizes the guidelines to her regarding her stay at the apartment.
It’s seeing how much the world’s taken advantage of her that makes Yoshida act so kindly to Saya. He doesn’t just give her a safe haven or a new futon to sleep; Yoshida offers Saya another chance at a better life. While Higehiro could easily take a wrong turn towards a grooming narrative, there appears to be no malice or dark reasoning for Yoshida acting this way to Saya. Instead, Yoshida simply has a good heart, and doesn’t want to cast Saya out towards a terrible path.
Adachi adapts Shimesaba and artist booota’s original work with great care, bringing out the ruggedness of Yoshida’s bristled face and cuteness of Saya’s smile. The designs of Goto and Mishima both look beautiful, with the former’s, erm, “assets” bringing forth some good humor both in the dialogue and the drawings. There’s nothing standout-ish about the backgrounds, but there is some pretty scenery that will catch the eye of some readers.
Volume One of Higehiro does a pretty good job with setting up the premise and the key players. However, it does so by sacrificing the main plot line a couple of chapters in, giving way to the main girl Saya being pushed aside for the other women in Yoshida’s life. But with the way the first volume ends, Higehiro appears to be already setting itself back on track to tell the story it truly wants to showcase.
Promotional consideration provided by Eric Margolis of One Peace Books. In stores October 14th!