It can be frustrating, and even crushing, when ones abilities don’t line up with ones dreams. These feelings of angst are beautifully articulated in Become You, the latest shojo manga from Ichigo Takano. Best known for her emotional and moving series, Orange, Ichigo Takano has quickly become one of my favourite mangaka, thanks to her ability to craft loveable characters and powerful narratives, and Become You looks poised to become a series that’s just as memorable as her previous work.
Ashie Taiyou is a positive and outgoing high school student who dreams of becoming a musician. In his last year of high-school, Ashie wants to put on a final performance with his band, but all his bandmates quit on him in order to focus on their studies. Stubbornly refusing to give-up, Ashie tries to recruit his classmate Hikari Tsukimoto, a piano prodigy who he longs to perform with. Hikari, however, has no interest in joining Ashie’s band, having quit piano some time ago. Ashie’s dogged persistence and his dedication to music, despite seemingly not having any talent for it, eventually wears Hikari down and he agrees to help Ashie improve his guitar playing. As the two work together, Ashie becomes increasingly curious about what caused Hikari to give up music, but Hikari isn’t the only who’s running from something in his past and he pushes Ashie to confront his own hang-ups that he’s been avoiding.
In the author’s postscript at the end of this volume, Ichigo Takano reveals that she was inspired to write this manga by a song by Kobukuro. The lyrics of that song, which is also named Become You, are reproduced at the back of the book and I’m going to include a few verses that I feel perfectly encapsulate the themes of this manga:
“For right now, it’s okay to not win. This is the time when you need to learn to fail.
For right now, it’s okay not to get it. All these bitter feelings that you can’t digest.
For right now, it’s okay to be unable, for some things only come to us when we struggle.
For right now, it’ okay to be lost, as long as you can proudly say you chose this path yourself.”
Growth, of any kind, takes time and requires patience, and I appreciate the message that this manga sends about how it is okay to flounder, to stagnate and to fail at things sometimes. Throughout the manga, Ashie struggles with the gap between his daydreams and the reality of what he can achieve at his current level. He’s frustrated that, despite the efforts he’s made, he hasn’t been able to reach the level of proficiency on the guitar that he wants. He doesn’t want to give up on his dreams, but, on his own, there is only so much that he is able to accomplish. By getting to know Hikari, he starts to realize that he needs support from others if he is going to be able to continue to pursue his dreams. Thanks to Hikari’s encouragement, Ashie is able to find the courage keep trying, and he in turn inspires Hikari to keep striving for what he wants. Despite being opposites in a lot of ways, the two are troubled by a lot of the same things and are able to support each other and help each other to move forward.
At the end of this volume there appears to be a time jump, as we end on a shot of an older looking Ashie, and I’m guessing the next volume will follow the characters as young adults in college. Throughout the comic there were a few cryptic comments in Ashie’s narration that implied he was looking back on events from sometime in the future and that he has regrets about not being there more for some of his friends. We don’t know why, but it is implied that something significant occurs after the events we’re shown in this volume. What’s more, a strange hooded figure keeps appearing in Ashie’s daydreams and questions him about his goals and why he wants to play music. This figure initially seems to be just another part of Ashie’s fantasies, but towards the end it is implied that is apparition might be more than just a figment of Ashie’s imagination. With all of these mysteries left unresolved, I can’t wait to read what happens next!
The one negative thing I have to say about this manga is that there is one place where I feel the plot gets a bit melodramatic in a way that took me out of the narrative. There is a flashback sequence featuring a teacher who behaves in a way that seemed bizarrely petty and extreme and there’s no explanation given as to why. Perhaps if the character reappears in later volumes we’ll get to learn more about their motivation, but, as it stands, I felt the whole sequence was a bit over the top. It didn’t really detract from my overall enjoyment of the series, but I did find it a tad distracting.
This first volume of Become You makes for a very strong start to what promises to be another intriguing and emotional series from Ichigo Takano. I found the story to be very compelling and relatable, Ashie is a bright and likeable lead and he has a hilarious dynamic with the withdrawn and sullen Hiakri. I found myself quickly sucked in and rooting for them to succeed. I highly recommend you give this manga try, especially if you’re a fan or Orange or Takano’s other works.
Final Score 8.5 out of 10
For more Information on Become You, check out Seven Seas Entertainment’s website: https://sevenseasentertainment.com/series/become-you/
Be sure to let me know what you thought about this manga or Ichigo Takano’s other works in the comments!