Alter Ego is a yuri romance, by Ana C. Sánchez, that’s been released by Tokyopop, as a part of their International Women of Manga line. Dealing with themes of friendship, unrequited passion and the nature of desire vs. love, Alter Ego is a fun twist on the classic love-triangle set-up, where the two “rivals” end up falling for each other!
Noel has been secretly in love with her best friend, Elena, for years, but has never told her about her true feelings, knowing full well that they could never be reciprocated. Even still, Noel is heart-broken when Elena gets a boyfriend, knowing that now she will no longer be the most important person in Elena’s life. Noel attempts, with limited success, to hide her jealousy and console herself by reasoning that at least she’s still Elena’s closest and most precious friend. Except, that might not be the case. Elena has become good friends with a girl named June, whom she met online, and, when June decides to move to their town, suddenly she’s all Elene can talk about. Seething with jealously and feeling like she’s losing Elena more and more, Noel finally snaps at her, revealing all of the ugly, possessive feelings that she’s been trying to keep hidden. Elena is understandably upset by Noel’s outburst and Noel is afraid that she might have ruined everything for good. Unable to hold her feelings in anymore, Noel winds up pouring her heart out to a stranger in the park who happened to be passing by. The other girl consoles her, but she also calls her out on her bull-shit, telling her to clean-up her act if she wants to keep Elena in her life. Being able to finally talk with someone about all the things she’s been holding inside comes as a relief to Noel and she resolves to be a better friend to Elena, even agreeing to go with her to meet June at the train station, though she still isn’t thrilled about hanging out with her friendship-rival. But Noel was not prepared to see the girl she’d confessed her inner-most feelings to show up and great Elena like a dear freind. This is June?! What’s Noel going to do, now that her “greatest enemy” knows her biggest secret?!
Alter Ego is a enemies-to-lovers story, at least, as far as Noel in concerned. June doesn’t seem to have ever regarded Noel as a rival, although it is revealed that she too has romantic feelings to Elena, who must be some kind of a yuri-siren. June is a bit more mature then Noel, however, and doesn’t become obsessive or resentful, the way Noel does. While she can relate to what she’s going through, June continues to push Noel to examine her own behaviour and asks her if her more selfish tendencies can really be called a form of love.
Noel is a prickly person, but she’s, thankfully, self-aware enough to recognize that June has a point. Over the course of the book, she’s able to grow and start to appreciate her friendship with Elena for what it is, instead of spending all of her time mourning that it isn’t what she had wanted it to be. Noel has her flaws and might not start out as the most likeable character, but I found her to be sympathetic and I appreciated seeing her work to be a better person and friend. By the end of the manga, she is able to recognize how the way she was acting had effected Elena and resolves to focus more on how she can be there for Elena, instead of just always thinking about her own pain.
Elena, meanwhile, is not completely oblivious to the situation and, while she never openly talks to either of her friends about their giant crushes on her, she does try to be considerate of their feelings and show them how much she values them as friends. She’s also an impish match-maker and takes every opportunity to try and push her two friends together, in hopes that Noel and June will hit it off.
Which, of course, they do.
As a couple, June and Noel are pretty cute together. Noel isn’t the best at expressing her true feelings, but June seems to understand her little foibles and her more open and affectionate personality balances Noel out nicely. June doesn’t coddle Noel, though. She’s always blunt and to the point with her, and Noel is, in turn, more honest with June then she is with anyone else. She’s also equally candid with June when she thinks that the other girl is running away from her problems. Thanks to Noel’s support, June is also able to grow and start to heal some of the emotional wounds that she’d been carrying for a log time. The two make a good match for each other and I wish that there was a sequel to Alter Ego, so that I could see more of these two as a happy couple.
This leads into my one complaint with Alter Ego; as a single volume title, the story naturally wraps up fairly quickly and I felt like the ending was a tad rushed. I could have used a few more chapters of Noel and June getting to know each other before they got together, especially since they had both pretty recently been head-over-heels for someone else. There is also a plot thread regarding June’s family that is left unresolved at the end of this book. Not that every element in a story needs to be completely wrapped up in a neat little bow at the end, but it kind of felt like there might have initially been plans to delve into that storyline a bit more and I was kind of surprised when it didn’t end up going anywhere. Oh well, maybe one day we’ll get that sequel.
If you’re a yuri fan, this is a fun, little title that’s worth checking out. Even if you tend to avoid International manga titles, I think this is one you should consider giving a try. The art is attractive and the story is sweet and endearing, so why not give it a chance?
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10.
What did you think of this title? Let me know in the comments!
For more information on this book, visit Tokyopop’s website.
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