Because of this blog, I’m always on the look-out for other great romance series. I’ve seen A Sign of Affection pop up a couple times in some of my searches, but never really felt the urge to jump down the rabbit-hole so to speak. I think maybe I was turned off by the cover, and thought it might end up being another, just-okay high-school shoujo. When I finally sat down, actually read the description of the series, and bought the first volume, I knew my impression was completely wrong. The first volume turned out to be a great introduction to a series that I can see becoming one of my many favorites. It features an awesome art style from suu Morishita, a story that centers on disability, and a cute and refreshing romance between a couple much closer to my own age. I’m not an expert on disability literature, but the more I got into this volume, the more I started to love what Morishita had crafted here. I will definitely continue to read the series from now on.
A Sign of Affection is about the life and loves of a college student, Yuki, who has been deaf her whole life. But she doesn’t let her disability stop her from enjoying the typical loves of girls her age: social media, the latest sales, and spending time with her friends. One day, she is approached by a foreigner on the train asking for directions. Unable to understand or respond to him, she is saved by a fellow student, Itsuomi, who has traveled the world and speaks multiple languages. Sign language, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be one of them. Despite the language barrier, Yuki finds herself drawn to his kindness and her confusing feelings for him grow.
The creators did a great interview with Kodansha when the series was picked up for simulpub, and I really enjoyed reading about their take on the story and their troubles with displaying sign language throughout the manga. I found it very interesting to think about how literature around disabilities like deafness use visuals to convey sign language or different ways of communicating. In this series, the creators tried to convey the way Yuki communicates through both visuals and text, trying to capture both her expressions and the hand movements for sign language. I also thought it was really interesting how they incorporated technology into her ways of communicating, considering how cell phones are so wide-spread it would make sense that they would make getting someone’s thoughts across so much easier without the need for verbalization.
I love how Morishita and team pay extra care to design their pages to incorporate Yuki’s expressions and sign language in an effort to display all facets of communication for someone who can’t use words. We see through all the panels that Yuki’s ability to use her expressions to convey what she wants to say is a strength of hers. Any time she talks with her close friend, we see her face light up with emotion even as she’s just holding a phone with her words written on it. I think the way that Morishita zooms in and separates Yuki’s face and hands on certain pages really allows the readers to get a sense of the mood of each scene while letting the readers get a better understanding of how Yuki communicates. Obviously there’s a limit to how much sign language they can show in just comic form, but I think the manga makes a good effort to be faithful to trying to convey as much as it can in the best way possible.
The art style in general is another huge draw for the series. It mixes a shoujo aesthetic and a more mature or realistic art style to create a josei feel more in line with the story. When you combine this with great contrasting values at peak moments and pages that give space and weight to the emotion between the characters, I think this manga is a great showcase of art that really tries to add to and expand on the feelings and the message of the story it’s trying to tell. There are so many pages I love in this volume, and it was really hard to choose just one to pull out as an example. Page 54 is a great example of how art, page planning, and the incorporation of the themes and motifs of the story come together. We see how Morishita and the team gives space to the emotions of a budding relationship through the space between panels.The incorporation of text messages into the pages allows for a clearer understanding of the story while adding an interesting visual component. The placement of the panels on the second page enhance the feeling of confusion and surprise as Itsuomi responds to her message. It makes for an all-around great couple pages.
I really enjoy the story of A Sign of Affection as well. As someone who’s a huge fan of romance, the manga does a great job of creating a healthy and positive relationship that I can really get behind. The integration of Yuki’s disability into their relationship just adds another layer or depth to a romance that faces a lot of challenges. I like Itsuomi as a character. He’s an independent spirit who will jump at the chance to travel the world if he can but he also makes the effort to be compassionate and take the time to understand Yuki. He helps her, a total stranger, on the train when he sees her hearing aid. He tries to be as clear as possible when communicating with her so she can read his lips, and he asks her to teach him sign language so he can better talk to her. I really think he’s a great guy that will be a strong and supportive partner for Yuki.
Yuki herself seems like a fairly carefree person, maybe a little air-headed or innocent, but very sweet and caring. It seems like she doesn’t have a lot of experience with love or relationships since she couldn’t figure out what her feelings for Itsuomi were. But she also cares deeply about her close friends and doesn’t let her deafness get in the way of making connections with people. I love how she easily rolls with communicating by cell phone and whiteboard. She cares enough to try and put together a sign language teaching guide for Itsuomi. I’m really interested to see how this progresses and how she matures as a character over time. I think she has a lot of potential and room for growth as of now.
I could make the comparison to other great disability manga or anime like I Hear the Sunspot or A Silent Voice, but I think this should stand on its own here. It seems to be moving away from discussing some of the heavier emotional issues surrounding being deaf and tries to take a more positive perspective. Both types of stories are valid for varying reasons. I really encourage you to check this series out. I know I’ll be picking up the second volume after this.
~~Thanks for Reading!~~
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