I’ve somehow fallen horribly behind in reading We Were There. This is one of those manga that I tend to like to read after stockpiling several volumes. I think I own up to volume 6, and read up to volume 9 or so from the library, but it has been some time since I’ve read it. This is a shame because We Were There is one of those unique shoujo series that really skews a bit older, just because we actually see the characters grow up and become adults. So fans of more complex series like Nana or Sand Chronicles will enjoy We Were There, which tends to excel at showing the heartrending drama that good people can create for each other due to bad combinations of personality and circumstances.
Nanami and Yano were high school sweethearts, of a sort, as she fell in love with him but he is unable to move on due to the memory of his dead girlfriend. Complications ensue when Yano’s best friend Takeuchi also falls in love with Nana. Yano is also entangled with Yuri, the little sister of his former girlfriend. We Were There is one of the best manga series out there for readers wanting full-blown melodrama, and the 14th volume certainly delivers. Yano and Takeuchi confront each other over over Takeuchi’s rejected proposal. Although the situation is certainly grim, Obata infuses the confrontation with the type of bickering cameraderie that you’d expect from old friends. Yano and Takeuchi’s text balloons overlap, taking up a whole panel as they debate their respective relationships with Nanami, and learn that neither of them has slept with her yet. Takeuchi’s ring box gets batted around the floor like a hockey puck. Nanami thinks that she’s not being fair to Takeuchi, but she doesn’t want to be hurt or hurt other people. She’s still haunted by Yano, and expects that she might be going crazy which prompts a nice reference to the “Get thee to a nunnery” speech from Hamlet. An additional element of comedy in this volume happens when Nanami goes out to drown her sorrows with Aki, and they get so drunk that Aki mistakenly calls Yano to pick Nana up, thinking that she’s talking to Takeuchi. Yano takes care of Nanami when she’s almost deliriously drunk, and blurting out her true feelings the way only someone with no inhibitions can. She tells him that she’s decided that she’s not going to die before him, and she won’t die. Yano holds her and says “Don’t be stupid…I’m well aware that you’re not dead.”
Yano and Nanami are slowly being pulled back together again, but there are plenty of complications that prevent them from hopping back into a relationship. Yano’s guilt is still directing his actions, as he is living with and taking care of the Yamamoto family. Nanami is aware that she’s never going to feel more for anyone but Yano, but they’ve both changed so much as they’ve moved on into the adult world. They start tentatively communicating, after getting a push from Aki. Obata really packs an incredible amount of drama in one volume. As Yano and Nanami start to confide in each other again, she puts close ups of eyes and facial expressions in a larger scene of the couple standing in the city, other passers-by reduced to silhouette, showing that their focus has narrowed again to only each other.
Even though I tend to think of We Were There as a three hankie manga series, the moments of humor and lightness that Obata includes in this melodrama help keep the series from being too heavy or oppressive. That’s unusual in a series with this much angst! Also, while breakups and guilt might abound, most of the characters are remarkably sympathetic, just because the manga so clearly develops the quirks and personality traits that so clearly explain the motivations for their actions, hurtful as they might be sometimes. There are only two more volumes left, and this one was so packed with emotional confrontations, I’m hoping that Yano and Nanami get some measure of peace by the end of the series.