Manga Review – Tears of a Lamb

Tears of a Lamb Volume 1

Tears of a Lamb
ひつじの涙 (Hitsuji no Namida)
HIDAKA Banri
Shoujo – Romance, comedy, psychological, mystery
7 Volumes (complete)
CMX
Out of print

Summary:

Kyosuke moves into a new apartment, but his neighbor, a classmate named Kei, suddenly requests to be let into his apartment! Kyosuke just wants to be left alone and refuses to let this crazy girl get her way. But why does Kei want to come over? And why did Kyosuke move into there in the first place?

Review:

Tears of a Lamb is a series I’ve been wanting for years, and I finally acquired it. Was it worth the wait?

This series centers around Kei, a girl with a goal. And whether he wants to or no, Kyosuke ends up being dragged into Kei’s personal mission. The “optimistic girl meets gloomy guy” trope has been done many times before and in many different genres, but this series takes a more middle-of-the-pack approach. While this may seem to hurt the manga, Tears of a Lamb actually benefits from the mix. It is a drama, but it is also a comedy. The series has romance, but it is  never overly affectionate. It’s a more sedate heartwarming, touching series a la Fruits Basket, especially since the cast in both these manga dearly treasures the heroine.

The opening chapter flirts with Kei being both the narrator and main character, and then the story seems to cover multiple point-of-views. The story starts off kind of slow, but I blame it on the fact Kyosuke is not made the storyteller. Instead of forcing him into a detective role, the other characters monologue about Kei’s and their own personal status. However, by the end of the first volume, Kyosuke is pretty much locked in as the protagonist with the story centered around Kei, and thus the story flows better with Kyosuke acting as a partial stand-in for the readers. Like readers, Kyosuke doesn’t have full access to Kei’s history, and this helps keep up the mystery. If Tears from a Lamb was from Kei’s view, her thoughts should fully include her family tree and all her emotional triggers. Kyosuke can’t help but be drawn into Kei’s life, and thus I am also drawn into the story.

While Hidaka mentions the series went on longer than expected, I think it could have used another volume. While the main plot is essentially resolved, I think an eighth volume similar to Cardcaptor Sakura would have been better. At least one relationship is left open, and the progress between Kei and Kyosuke feels rather rushed. It may be hard to fill up an entire extra volume, but I think Tears of a Lamb could have filled up a good half or three-fourths of one, and then the author could have included some side-shots or one-shots. The ending isn’t terribly rushed, but it could have used a little breathing room. This would have been the time to have others’ points-of-views rather than at the beginning of the story.

Kyosuke is the tsukkomi and victim of the story. Basically, he exists for others to boss around and be their plaything. He tries to counter the others’ ridiculous ideas, but eventually he starts to accept his role, and he even has his own eccentricities emerge. Kei, on the other hand, acts like a goofy genki girl, but that’s what it is: an act. Her emotional and physical well-being is act the front of everyone’s mind in the story. Her idol Suwa is the driving force of the series, and I would not have minded a sidestory about him in my wished-for volume eight. Some of the supporting cast appear early while others appear later. Much of Kei’s family makes an appearance, and one in particular plays a large role in story progression. While Kei and Kyosuke are classmates, only one other student in their class is given prominence; the rest are generic and unnamed. A couple of characters narrate flashbacks, but the main purpose of these stories revolves around the Kei-Kyosuke-Suwa relationship rather than developing the narrator. One of these sequences essentially goes to waste, as the hinted “resolution” is left open.

The art is quite pretty and pops out from the page. Despite Hidaka being quite experienced at the time, she does undergo a shift. The style changes from being closer to I Hate You More than Anyone to V.B. Rose. Considering this series was started in 2001, it reflects some of the overall shoujo manga shifts. Readers of Hidaka’s other works will find visual twins here, especially with facial expressions and angles. However, one of the most interesting parts of her character designs is how she has some characters’ eyes as whited-out, almost hollow. Kei changes her hairstyle, making her look trendy and relatable as a seemingly average high school girl. She also looks thin (and for good reason). Lots of shoujo flowers and sparkles are included along with SD characters. Hidaka draws some incredibly beautiful pictures, but I think her later works are even better. It’s still very good though.

Translation:

Honorifics are used, but not family-based ones. So while Kei calls her brothers “Sai-nii” and “Ri-nii” in the Japanese, she just calls them by their nicknames here. There are also a few glaring errors. When Kei is describing her family tree, she mentions her uncle got remarried. In the Japanese, she just says her new aunt has a child, but CMX took it a step further and declares the aunt has a daughter. Well, there’s a problem: we meet Kei’s cousin later, and the cousin is male. BIG oops. We also get treated to some swapped speech bubbles and even swapped subjects. Japanese is a language that can be very vague, as sentences can be missing subjects or verbs. But based on the context, some of CMX’s dialogue just doesn’t match up with the Japanese. At other times, the text is just plain changed. In one instance in the English adaptation, a flashback has Suwa telling Saihito to “strike while the iron’s hot”. In the Japanese, he’s commenting on how Choko couldn’t get ahold of Saihito, not giving him love advice. CMX even turn questions into negative comments!

The lettering is lacking in quality as well. At times, Tears of a Lamb, like many other manga, has characters end their comments with stars or musical notes. Instead of retyping these special characters or using image editing software to copy and move it to the end of the English sentence, CMX just leaves them where they are. Unfortunately, this means the English text, which goes from left to right and not up to down like Japanese, partially covers the special characters. Even some of the large text is just done in regular size.

All in all, this release is well below average, even terrible.

Final Comments:

I really think this series could be rescued and released in an omnibus format. This would keep the story moving as well as reduce overhead costs. It may not make anyone’s top 10 list, but in several ways, it is Fruits Basket Lite.

As CMX is closed, some individual sellers want around $20 a used volume (new single volumes are listed as high as $75), but you can regularly find the complete series for $50-60 used on eBay.

CMX licensed Hidaka’s I Hate You More than Anyone while Tokyopop licensed V.B. Rose. Unfortunately, both of these publishers closed releasing the complete series (9 out of 13 and 12 out of 14 respectively). I guess Hidaka has bad luck in the U.S.

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2 Comments

  1. mahoublog

    “the English text … partially covers the special characters.” How could they screw up that badly? Did they just not care? All in all, sounds like they butchered it.

    Reply
    1. krystallina

      Whoever did the lettering must either a) not know how to type special characters or b) fail at photoshop so badly they can’t select the shape, copy/move it, then insert it after the English text. Probably also rushed it.

      Either way, it’s too bad. They licensed some great stuff (especially shoujo), but their translations and packaging tended to be poor and unfortunately led to its demise.

      Reply

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