I’m glad I get to write this because two days ago I read Octave off of a random suggestion, and I instantly fell in love. I read all six volumes in something like two or three hours, and I kept thinking “Man, I hope this doesn’t end soon” as I read it. I’m not saying this manga is for everyone, but I would definitely recommend giving it a try, if you even kind of like what you read here. Anyway, first thing’s first. Disclaimers. This is a manga featuring lesbians. Doing lesbian things. If that offends you, you’re not going to like this, more than likely. That being said, I would say that more than any other manga I’ve read, Octave manages to portray a loving lesbian relationship in a mature and realistic way, and I really appreciate it for that. So I suppose if all you look for is explosions and fantastic situations in your manga, this is probably not for you, though I’d tell you to read it anyway. Well, let’s begin~~
Starting with the plot. The main character is a woman named Miyashita Yukino, who’s working at an idol agency and living alone in Tokyo. A major part of the plot is Yukino’s development as a character. She has a major philosophical debate within herself stemming from her nearly failure of a life up until the current point. She quit school to become an idol (has a middle school education) and once the idol group split up, she was left with more or less nothing to show for it. Still, she insists to her parents that she can make a life for herself in Tokyo, and she deludes herself into a routine. Of course, the story truly begins, as most stories do, with a fated encounter. For Yukino, that’s at a laundromat. She meets a beautiful woman named Setsuko. The next day, she meets Setsuko again, at a bath house. Setsuko invites her over for mapo tofu, and the two of them have sex. Yukino isn’t a lesbian at this point, it just kind of happens. And that’s how their relationship begins. I’ll leave my description of the plot purposefully bare since I’d really like you to read the manga yourself, but that’s the basic back story. Over the course of the manga, Yukino deals with many issues including her idol past, her own perceived deficiencies as a human being, the acceptance of her newfound lesbian relationship, and her own burgeoning sexuality.
I’ll just cover the two main characters since they get by far the most featured time. Miyashita Yukino. Kind of a plain looking woman. From a young age, she was enamored with television. To the point of not wanting to go outside with her friends, even. Her lifelong dream was to be on TV. She was originally from the countryside, but wanted to become an idol, so she moved to the big city to catch her break. Eventually she became part of a fairly popular idol group called “She’sn”. Yeah, I don’t really get the name either, but there you have it. Anyway, like all things, their time together came to an end, and the group split up. The manga details Yukino’s life after the idol group fell apart. Each of the members went their separate ways (only one continues being an idol) while Yukino takes up a job at her old agency, working for new talents. And that’s where the story begins. Throughout the course of the story, Yukino, who’s kind of lost in life, begins to find her place in the world and accept her problems for what they are, one by one. The road isn’t easy of course, but it’s one she for the most part chooses to travel. Her development in that sense is simultaneously interesting and rewarding to watch. You’ll cheer her successes, and lament her mistakes, and just hope at the end of the day everything will be alright for her. She’s that kind of protagonist.
The other character, Iwai Setsuko, is a little bit harder to pen down. She’s obviously the more mature of the two, and seems to be more experienced insofar as romance and sex is concerned. More often than not, she’s the one that takes the initiative with Yukino. However, her personality is fairly aloof and even to Yukino she can seem a little distant, especially at first. Yet as you continue to read Octave, Setsuko is shown to be quite clearly human, full of her own failures and successes as a person. She shows emotion (maybe not quite as clearly as Yukino) and is affected by the events around her, sometimes quite a bit. I’ll admit, when I was first reading Octave, Setsuko struck me as kind of a one-dimensional character made simply accentuate and point out Yukino’s flaws so that she may fix them. And maybe kind of be some sort of romantic interest somewhere along the way. And in a few respects, she stays a little bit like that. This manga is more about Yukino than Setsuko, after all. However, Setsuko is shown to be more than that, and becomes quite an enjoyable character in her own right as the series progresses.
Lastly, the art. Well, I have to say, I love it. Not saying the art is objectively good or anything, but it has that kind of soft, watercolor-y (at least for the colored pages) quality to it that I really enjoy in my manga. Both Aoi Hana and Hourou Musuko had a similar color palette, which I really enjoyed. As for the character designs and whatnot, I thought they were nice too. I guess they weren’t the most detailed pictures in the world, and maybe some of the backgrounds would get a little bland, but I’m not (and hopefully you won’t be) reading this manga for the backgrounds. Art was never really my thing, so I don’t have much else to say about it. I’ll let the pictures I used make up a couple thousand words.
I don’t do this often, but I’d like to offer some closing thoughts. Octave is a wonderful story about 2 woman in love. It deals with the concept of love in a more realistic way than any manga I’ve ever read, lesbian or otherwise. Yukino and Setsuko are adorable together, but like real people, they are not defined by their relationship. Beyond the romantic aspect of the manga, Yukino deals with some interesting issues of her own, though for the most part they’re internal and have to do with her own character flaws. Over all, the manga is unlike anything I’ve ever read, and in the best way possible. I hope you feel the same way.