Thoughts on Fujiyama-san wa Shishunki

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At this point it’d be somewhat of an ongoing joke that anything romantic in nature is assured to draw some interest from me. Should I see a synopsis for anything, really, that involves a romantic pairing as a plot point, I’m at least tempted to look into it. With as pure and safe as most Japanese romances are, it was refreshing to see that a manga was going to have the main couple be paired immediately as opposed to dragging out the romantic tension for some forty chapters or so. In the case of Fujiyama-san wa Shishunki, it’s also listed as an ecchi, which gave me hope that the couple would go farther than kissing. Because, y’know, most teenage couples do.

The first surprise I received from this manga was actually pretty far along into it, when I found out that the main characters are only fourteen. The female lead is 5’11” and the male lead is 5’3″. I simply thought those heights were due to unusual genes, but it turns out they’re not even really done growing. The way the art is stylized, I would’ve pegged them as sixteen, maybe seventeen. These kids aren’t even out of middle school! Knowing this, the subtle comment about one of the female lead’s friends getting to second base with his boyfriend in the first few chapters gives me the willies. Knowing this also led me to believe that the romance wouldn’t go past kissing, but by that point, that wasn’t much of a concern anymore. The way the romance progresses throughout is a far cry from its supposed “ecchi” label, but the build-up is encouraging enough for fans of almost naive-like blossoming of love between two people.

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By its end, Fujiyama-san was a slight disappointment for me. I enjoyed the series for its take on the progression of closeness between two kids within a romantic relationship, but there were a lot of things that bogged down the experience, and the ending does nothing for those seeking closure. One could say that reading through this would be a waste of time, and they’d have a valid argument. The way things are settled leaves a lot up to interpretation and imagination. The only real thing about this story that readers can hang onto is the strength of the relationship between the two leads. If that isn’t enough to charm you, then this really will be a waste of time.

Fujiyama-san focuses primarily on the two leads’ relationship, without relying on taking a step aside to focus on secondary characters or subplots. The relationship is the real story here. Nothing more, nothing less. It deflates any true reason to show the friends of those around the leads other than to show that they have friends, as said friends aren’t really ones worth caring for. I don’t even remember most of their names and I finished this only a few days ago. They provide for some comedic moments and take the edge off of the leads on some occasions, though very sparingly. What matters here is Fujiyama and Kanba; two kids learning about one another while also kinda poking fun at each other for their massive height difference.

Something rather odd about this story is that it’s relatively devoid of drama. It’s a very easy read, as it only employs cuteness and a calming atmosphere to lead the reader along. There is no mention as to how the heights of the two leads affected them negatively throughout their lives, aside from one very small incident near the end of the manga. One would think that a short boy and a tall girl would cause some intrigue among a classroom aside from simply stating, “Oh, they’re different.” There’s also the emphasis with Fujiyama as an athlete, but never provides any weight to it as a major plot point. There are some small sequences where something about her athletics bother her, but are never brought up aside from those sequences, which never last long, anyway. For an ecchi romance between two middle schoolers, the sexual tension is far too tame, especially in the second half.

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Ecchi is something that typically derides the importance of romance. If one’s romantic pursuits are too coy, why not try to force it by putting them in uncomfortably adult situations? And dudes love the shit, so why not? Fujiyama-san does have an occasional flash of the panties, bare female parts, or clothes appearing far too tight. The level at which this occurs is tremendously high in the beginning. Fujiyama (who may I remind you is fourteen) is subject to this quite often. Something strange happens, though, as the farther along the relationship between the two leads goes, the less ecchi is really present in the story. The ecchi almost disappears during the last volume. It’s quite something. When it is employed, it’s usually due to, ahem, “realistic” circumstances and not the “Oops! I tripped on a banana peel and tore my whole shirt off on a conveniently stuck out umbrella!” circumstances. And hey, the kids are together and haven’t done anything more than hug. I can understand Kanba being a little sexually frustrated by his early bloomer of a girlfriend.

What of Kanba and Fujiyama’s relationship, you may ask. Well, it’s the strongest benefit Fujiyama-san has as a story. It’s not what I expected (or wanted), but the closeness they feel for one another feels real and progresses at a slow, but steady pace. I really enjoyed the scenes where they hung out and did normal, everyday things with one another, and then ended on a semi-intimate moment together, like resting one’s head on the other’s lap. The story gives no shortage of scenes like it, and one comes to appreciate them for the impact they have to these kids who aren’t even in high school yet. They don’t have to fuck one another senselessly to show their love and appreciation for one another, and I think for their age, it’s appropriate to keep their relationship pure. I’m glad the manga decided to avoid overindulging in ecchi near the end of the story. It would’ve caused tension with the mood the manga expertly produces within the final volume.

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One thing that I always felt on the fence about was the art style of Fujiyama-san. On the surface, it looks rather freakish, with an awkward blend of both realistic and cartoonish character designs. It reminded me a tad of Aku no Hana‘s anime adaptation. It is a bit of an acquired taste, as I found myself growing used to the design by the second or third volume, though still grimacing upon some odd facial expressions. The backgrounds and environment were much better in comparison, and the story incorporated a few still shots of nature which I thought was a nice evoking of the calming and pure atmosphere of the couple’s relationship. The unique art style didn’t do too well with the ecchi bits, however, as rather than turn me on, it made me question whether everything was proportioned correctly. Something about the use of lines and the directions they were going had me a little puzzled. I wouldn’t read this to get my fix, if you know what I mean.

It’s quite simple: if you want to read a story about two kids slowly growing closer while also already committed to each other, this is your answer. It is absolutely valuable as a carefree and charming read of youthful romance without the (long-term) distractions of sexual intimacy or questions of faith. If you like these stories with a little more meat to them, like a focus on side characters or a bit of drama, this may be a waste of your time. It’s rather one-dimensional in its execution, but one could also say that it has a proper focus. It’s a story designed for specific people. If your piece doesn’t fit, don’t bother solving the puzzle.

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

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