Monthly Manga – She is the Rokurokubi

I’ve always enjoyed the idea behind a childhood friendship that turns into something more.  I’ve felt I could relate to the idea of being friends but then feeling the boundaries and limits of that relationship lengthen into something else.  It’s scary, too, which I think is part of the fun of reading them.  There’s a fear that something changing may cause that something to break or be hurt, or the people involved equally hurt.  It can be annoying when two characters play this constant pull back and forth and the reader is basically screaming at them to just finally make that last step.  However, even when I’m pulling my hair out, I still feel a sense of empathy for that fear.

She is the Rokurokubi is definitely one of those stories.  Set in a world where Youkai live in an unfortunate “separate but equal” place from humans, a human boy, Itsuki, and a Youkai girl, Natsuki, have been friends since childhood and go to school together on the Youkai side.  A Rokurokubi is a type of Youkai that can stretch its neck indefinitely.  And while that could make the boy and girl very different from each other, they couldn’t possibly be closer.  Both of them love a lot of the same things, they hang out and do the same things, and constantly fight with each other like siblings.  However, both of them are starting to realize their feelings are changing.  As the series goes on, Natsuki’s friends try to help, but inevitably, it’s Natsuki and Itsuki who have to take that final step.

She is the Rokurokubi isn’t the most incredible story, or even the best written romance that I’ve talked about on here.  There aren’t necessarily huge twists or dramatic turns to how things play out.  The side characters can be a barrel of laughs at times, the Youkai twist on things makes for fun shenanigans, and Natsuki’s dumb-ass charm reminds me of myself.  However, the largest take-away I had, and the thing that attracted me to this story, is the very real friendship that’s shown between the two main leads.

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Well before any complicated emotions were into the mix, the reader can tell that these two have a genuine, deep connect between them that’s been built for years.  Most “childhood friend” archetypes are very similar in manga and anime, and it’s usually just accepted by the story that they have a pre-existing relationship that’s just supposed to be understood.  However, this series actually shows that relationship, and shows why it’s so strong for these two.  Rather than say it exists and move on to give room for another love interest, this manga spends honest time with these two hanging out, no romance needed, enjoying the days together as they go by.  They play pranks on each other and joke around more often than either of them honestly do any of their schoolwork.  When Natsuki’s bored, she ends up going to her apartment balcony where Itsuki’s on his next door waiting for her.

It’s those moments that make the fear of losing that relationship to hormones feel real and valid.  This isn’t some fear of unrequited love.  They could really break something that matters so much to them, more than any friend or familial relationship, and so their struggle feels more genuine.  It’s not like it isn’t clear to them that they both feel the same way, but they both know there’s no simple going back if this doesn’t work out.

So while the Youkai hijinks and the light comedy are a fun addition, the honest friendship that Natsuki and Itsuki share, and seeing that bloom into something more, is incredibly fun to read about and see happen. That’s what I felt was portrayed well in this story and had me read it to the end.  She is the Rokurokubi is a slow-burn kind of story that enjoys taking in the days of its characters as they go by.  However, I enjoyed spending those days with these characters and especially enjoyed Natsuki and Itsuki’s growing romance enough to read it to the end.  If that story sounds like a fun time, I’d give it a go.

Also, these two doofuses are the best.

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