It’s a great feeling when you take a chance on a manga and end up finding something you enjoy. As you could guess, Hello, Melancholic! has been that for me. Though I shouldn't be surprised because I'm a huge fan of music and band-related manga. What I was happy to find were compelling lead characters, good romance, and strong storytelling that elevated it to recommendation status.
Asano Minato, our main character, loves the trombone. She’s great at it too, but she becomes a victim of her middle school bullies’ jealousy. It messes up her self-esteem, making her think it’s best if she fades into the background. When she moves to high school, Minato makes sure to pick one that doesn't have a band club. But everything changes when Hibiki jumps into her life. Optimistic and 100 percent Type A personality, Hibiki invites Asano into a band she’s forming. At first, Minato refuses, but something wins her over. She can’t understand it, but Hibiki inspires her to be the best musician and person she can be. Could it be... love?
At first glance, this setup isn’t the most original. Lots of stories about school clubs start out like this. But this manga stands out to me thanks to its execution and relatability. Even though I'm not exactly like Minato, I relate a lot to her coming out of her shell. I was also a bullied, awkward outcast in middle school who loved playing music. When I joined my band in high school, I had a social awakening like Minato. All of a sudden, I had people who wanted me to be their friend. This manga took me back to when I first went to a restaurant with friends and my first group chat, all because of my bandmates and our love for music. It’s great to read that other people around the world can have a similar experience. Luckily, Minato has a great person to connect with.
It was easy for me to root for these characters. Minato is very relatable, obviously, but she never goes into a full stereotype of the awkward loner. I enjoy how she grows naturally through all the new life experiences she experiences in this volume. Most of this growth is thanks to Hibiki, the best person ever. Her optimism and drive leap off the page and are simply infectious. Although she can be a bit in your face, it’s obvious her actions come from a good place. We could all use someone like Hibiki in our lives. But she also has her own insecurities, as much as she tries to hide them, and Minato’s listening skills make her a great companion. This gives the romantic parts weight.
I enjoyed the yuri romance because it was never heavy-handed. Instead, the romance is developed through the feelings of attachment the pair have. Minato is so deep in the closet that she doesn’t know she’s in one. Hibiki obviously likes Minato, but it's the one thing she doesn’t want to push on her. They get to grow as friends and supportive bandmates first. It’s a natural way to show how they complement each other. Hibiki brings Minato out of her shell, and Minato is able to call out Hibiki when she pushes herself too much. Hibiki and Minato are two puzzle pieces; one completes the other to create a loving whole. It also helps that great storytelling supports romance.
The author, Yayoi Ohsawa, has a real knack for providing a seamless reading experience. Typically, reading manga can feel like I’m "hopping" from panel to panel, but with Hello Melancholic! I felt like I was "swimming" down the narrative river. This flow doesn’t even break when the author changes things up, such as having a character out of frame. She uses the upper body for one panel and then the lower body for the panel below, each panel communicating different things despite using the same drawing. This smooth flow allows the reader to notice her other storytelling techniques.
The first thing I noticed was how she used panel frames and sizes to communicate the characters’ personalities and worldviews. Hibiki is a free spirit, so you often see her outside the panels, while Minato is trapped inside them. Minato is only allowed to break out when she experiences something new or in deep introspection. To better convey Minato's point of view, the characters are given a different amount of space on the page. Hibiki takes up a large portion of the page to show her growing importance to Minato. Contrast that with Minato’s smaller amount of page space to highlight her lack of self-confidence. It’s these little things that add up to a fulfilling result.
I’m glad I took a chance on this book. It was a story I could connect with thanks to an empathetic central character and grounded story. The top-notch storytelling allowed me to immerse myself in the book, making the relatability more potent. I admit, the romance was pretty sweet and I'm rooting for those two. Like a symphony, all these strengths combine to make a melodious manga that sings.
Hello, Melancholic! Manga Volume 1 features story and art by Yayoi Ohsawa.
Asano Minato is a tall but stooping first-year in high school. Though she’s a killer trombone player, she does everything she can to fade into the background. Despite her best efforts, Minato catches the attention of her bubbly and charismatic senpai Hibiki, who wants Minato to join the mysterious band she’s forming at school. And she won’t take no for an answer! Will Minato be able to let go of the past and play in a school band again? Can polar opposites harmonize through music? Slow jam your way into this dulcet yuri series!Add to CartLearn More