Romance Roundtable #23: Still Sick (Volume 1)

July 17, 2020 at 9:07 am

Welcome to Romance Roundtable: a feature where the editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss Romance Manga. Today we’re trying something Very New for us: reading a romance manga that we might actually like! (as opposed to reading a romance manga that we just really desperately hope isn’t bad) So, we’re discussing Still Sick, Volume 1 by Akashi — a story about burgeoning friendship and love between two ladies who work in a boring office but also are flawed nerds who make comic books! Definitely not going to be TOO REAL for US!


Jenny: v ready to talk about this book!

Ashley: yaaaaaaa

Rachel: this book was very cute and hit me in a lot of places!!!
let’s start with a recap and then get into it

Jenny: truly VERY RELATABLE CONTENT

CC: omg i know

Jenny: boring office ladies are varying levels of secret comics-making nerds
and they fall in love?

CC: 29 year old nerd office lady is selling zines when her 25 yr old normie-seeming coworker buys her zine at a show; turns out the normie is actually an artist with intense self doubt and also they fall in love??
I am only specifying ages here bc god is it ever nice to read about peeps who are not children

Ashley: hahaha

Rachel: yes, the premise of this book is the number one reason i have never drawn sexy comics

Rachel: i cannot handle this situation happening to me

Jenny: lololololol
a waking nightmare

Ashley: LMAOOOOO

CC: if I saw 90% of my coworkers at Staple I might die so v relatable

Ashley: people at my old job (preschool) would always ask to see my work and i was just like… oh yeah, sure! and then never brought it up

Jenny: smart

Ashley: fortunately i am practically google-proof 😎

CC: one of my coworkers bought group chat!!! he never mentioned it after but I’m too proud to be like
SO
DID
DID U LIKE IT
DID U LIKE MY BOOK

Ashley: HAHAHA

CC: L O L

Rachel: oh yes, i’m also google proof
that’s the best part of having the same name as a famous actress

CC: LMAO

Ashley: so nice

CC: look rachel
someday those tables are gonna turn on her
people are gonna ask her if she’s the comics artist
and we’ll never know
but i believe in this future

Rachel: lol thank you

CC: as long as none of our coworkers ever turn up at comics shows and ask us what a zine is

Rachel: PLEASE
what is YURI

Ashley: a ZYNE

CC: what is OTP

Ashley: oh wait, i have an actual real question
what is an “OL”????

CC: office lady

Ashley: oh, lol

Jenny: exhibit A:

Ashley: that makes so much more sense now

Rachel: YES

CC: god

Rachel: i feel so targeted

Jenny: truly you love to see it — the representation

Ashley: so R E A L accck

CC: both of these gals remind me of like literally all my friends LMAO

Ashley: there was so much like, nerd feeling overwhelmed by being Seen in this book, which was also my experience of reading it

Jenny: lolololololol
deeply relatable
see also:

CC: OMG
it’s true
I can’t believe they put you in this manga jenny

Jenny: they’re on screen at the same time!!
where are my royalties??

CC: god bless

Rachel: i just love them both

Ashley: HAHAHA oh my god

CC: I love Shimizu’s ploy to get Maekawa to draw beautiful fancomics of her OTP
truly a committed long con and I am here for it

Ashley: yes!!
clarification for those at home: Shimizu draws fan comics, but Maekawa is (secretly) a professional manga artist who quit after one douchey editor told her her work was shallow

Jenny: i’d actually like to add a point of clarification to that point of clarification

Rachel: oh yes, said editor:

Jenny: it’s an important distinction for me that it was not just this asshole^^^
it was also:

Jenny: a couple of middle school girls

Ashley: HAHA oh yes, that’s right

Jenny: which, like — they are cruel and they don’t mess around

CC: if a couple of middle school girls made fun of my comics i would absolutely die i mean i get it

Ashley: the scariest demographic of all
it’s SO TRUE
they correctly intuited that Maekawa was condescending
but also lol at the one telling the other she’s a hipster for not enjoying popular shoujo

Jenny: it’s true

Jenny: sometimes that’s what the people want
i am a simple woman

Ashley: we Western audiences are very starved for this

CC: I know
I would probably eat this hipster comic up but i mean….. you can kinda tell when the creator is just phoning it in
see also
so so so much of our RR review catalogue LMAO
here’s looking @ you, every one of those harlequin manga about europe

Ashley: mmmmmmmmmm yep…
should we talk about the characters individually a little more? i personally really loved Maekawa’s arc in this first volume

Rachel: yes!

Ashley: the story about doing something just to prove you can, then immediately burning out when you don’t get the approval you’re seeking is uh… yeah, something a lot of us comics folks can relate to, i think!

Rachel: 1000%!

Ashley: ugh Jenny your image titles are perfect
THAT PANEL… WHY AM I BEING ATTACKED

Jenny: lol “burnout is inescapable” and “oh man absolutely the vibe”

CC: i came out to have a good time & see these 2 cuties fall in love and honestly i’m feeling so attacked right now: the manga

Ashley: solemn nod
also, i love a character who thinks she’s being cool and aloof when she’s being SO EXTRA
i.e., methodically seeking out your coworker’s doujinshi table so you can “mess with her”

CC: omg I know

CC: is she an asshole or is she just bad at flirting???

CC: I also love characters who seem cute & nice but are also ornery and temperamental
what can i say
i love cats!!!

Ashley: HA

CC: I am really interested in seeing more of who maekawa really is!
because I think her meanness is another layer under the “nice, friendly maekawa” but still not the full picture

Jenny: i mean i do think that she is at least a little bit of an asshole, and i find that completely delightful

Jenny: just like, an absolute troll

Ashley: “They’re the basis of manga!” LOL why does that kill me

CC: I just wonder if being more vulnerable and figuring out what she actually wants to draw would bring her more peace as, like, a person

Jenny: oh undoubtedly

CC: it’s hard to be a person on a mission without a mission!

CC: OH NO

Rachel: this went STRAIGHT TO MY GUT

Ashley: AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH

CC: love to feel pain
on pome dash mag dot com

Rachel: for sure
i will say it was nicely balanced by the absolutely ACCURATE portrayal of what cons are like

Jenny: i mean def the bad but also the good!

Ashley: YES

CC: i miss buying comics SOB in person SOB
from the person who made the book SOB
seein them smilin about their dang book SOBBB

Rachel: i just wanna confess my comics love to all my comics heroes!!!!

Ashley: me too 😔
i even miss UNPACKING at the con table!!

CC: AUGH

Rachel: this is also something i love about going to cons with women

Ashley: HAHAHAHA YES

CC: LOL
IN THIS SACRED PLACE
so real

Jenny: the appropriate response
but also! i miss going to cons with you guys!!!

Jenny: friendship!!
turn-taking!!

Ashley: nodding and crying simultaneously

Rachel: SOB

CC: the part I miss the most is
right after you unpack but before the show starts
augh I miss you guys too!!!
but, ANYWAY, before I get any more emotional L O L
this book!

Ashley: seems like a good opportunity to talk about our girl Shimizu now too

Ashley: v relatable

Rachel: i love how dismissive she is of this guy at work that she used to date

Ashley: LOL

Rachel: just like, no pretense, just rude lol

Ashley: their whole relationship was rude

Jenny: no escaping the comphet

Ashley: “I’m being excluded for making lesbian comics, let me see how long I can stand this guy in an attempt to feel normal”
yeeeeeppppppppppppppppp

Rachel: i’m glad he doesn’t seem to hold it against her

Ashley: yeah, their relationship is very amusing

Rachel: he encourages Maekawa to be friends with her because she knows he doesn’t have a lot of lady friends
it’s just really nice to see a man be an ex and not a total vindictive jerk

Ashley: an ex AND a coworker, a rare beast indeed

Jenny: but also this guy!
he was good w maekawa too! he could see through some her bullshit

Jenny: which like — at this point i really needed someone to see through her

Ashley: YES

Jenny: bc like!

Jenny: we can’t have this!!
it’s one thing to be coy but a different thing to be mean!
which really just leads me to my belief that maekawa is kind of a dick and p bad at flirting!!

CC: oh yeah definitely

Jenny: cannot decide which one i relate to more!!

Ashley: oh my god, yeah

CC: so one thing I def want to talk about before we wrap up tho: that kiss!!!!!

Jenny: oh you mean
and then immediately:

Ashley: GOD MAEKAWA

Jenny: kill me now stab me in my heart

Ashley: okay put the very last panel like, restored all my hit points
where Shimizu is just straight up like, “actually I liked that?”

CC: This is so interesting bc like

Jenny: oh man yikes

CC: idk how much we wanna talk about this LOL

Jenny: that is a translation issue

Rachel: LOL yeah that’s how the kindle edition is too!
(the same as CC’s hard copy)

Jenny: i mean, i’m willing to defer to that for the official reading though

Ashley: hmm, yeah… i think the official translation does have more of a feel of hasty denial?
the wordier/more direct version feels more aloof somehow

Jenny: yeah and i think that’s a pattern for maekawa
i think in general she just kind of flips a switch and goes hard in the opposite direction
like with the

Ashley: hahaha yea
likely a Gemini…

Jenny: LOL

CC: does your version end this way?

CC: it is v important to me that all parties can vouch for this kiss LOL

Ashley: Shimizu does say she likes the kiss in the version i read!
but then Maekawa (assuming the second bubble is Maekawa) says “what am I supposed to do with that information?” or something like that

Jenny: yeah it’s like:
S (presumably?) – ’it f-felt…good?”
M (presumably?) – “Okay, and how am I meant to feel about that…?
unsure

CC: I am really looking forward to volume 2!!!!

Ashley: omg ME TOO

CC: grappling with relationship feelings! grappling with art feelings!

Rachel: yes!!! i need to see what happens
and also, why is this book called “Still Sick”
that is a thing i am still waiting to become apparent

CC: I wonder if it has anything to do with both of them being sick at different points?
wonder if that’s a Theme

Ashley: i think it’s because she refers to being obsessed with yuri as being “sick?”

Jenny: oh that kind of sucks

Ashley: like, after all this time, into adulthood, she’s still into this “perverse” thing

Jenny: : /

Rachel: bummer
well fingers crossed that it is a thing she overcomes!!

Ashley: oh for sure!!!! these babies have a long way to go but i believe in them

CC: you love to see it: two adult humans, working on their shit

Ashley: it’s really nice :-3 very refreshing to see some subtlety and genuine conflict at play

Rachel: it’s definitely a nice break from our normal harlequin experience haha

Jenny: do y’all want to do final thoughts?

Ashley: yea!

CC: yeah totally
I have mine ready if yall don’t mind

Ashley: go on!

Jenny: go for it

Rachel: do it!

CC: …after all these years
It was TOTALLY WILD to see THIS again LMAO

Rachel: HAHAHA

Ashley: AHHHH haha nice

CC: princess ai????? what year is it????
….it’s been a long time since I’ve heard that name around these parts….

Ashley: lolllllll

Rachel: lol

CC: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Princess_Ai

Rachel: ok my final thought is an image that strikes fear into my heart at a deep, primal level

CC: AHHHH

Ashley: OOF

Rachel: the STARKNESS of this image
cursed

CC: of all the painful images in this book, this one seems the most designed to hurt all the artists reading

Ashley: i buy that

Jenny: truly
my final thought is p quick
but, like — this was a real step up in quality from our usual fare
and it was nice to see little things and get excited about them!
like:

Jenny: dutch angles are p cheesy! but also this is an appropriate time for it!
our perception of maekawa is being undermined!

Ashley: yes!!

Rachel: oh yes!! honestly i love a good dutch angle

Jenny: idk — it was nice to see this level of care for The Craft

CC: same!!!!

Ashley: hard agree

Rachel: honestly it’s so nice not to complain about yaoi hands or strange lettering for once lol
i just enjoyed this book, truly

CC: same here

Ashley: yeah, i ate it up
my final thought is only one word, sans context
SUBTEXT !!!!!!!
just, wow, thank you
sequential images with deliberate abstraction to make you imagine what could be happening under the surface…
i have been Healed

CC: treat yourself

Jenny: lol 🙌

Rachel: 🙏


Join us next time for Romance Roundtable, when we’ll be covering Still Sick, Volume 2. In the meantime, check out our Patreon for just a few bonus goofs that didn’t make it into today’s roundtable, as a treat.

Jenny Mott

Jenny is just a Silly Nerd with a lot of Feelings about Comic Books and Friendship and also This Capitalist Yoke We All Share; she enjoys Dogs and Sleeping and Cartoons. Her three favorite words are: Breakfast All Day.

Rachel Weiss

Rachel is a designer and artist from Texas. She is pro-feminism, pro-crones, and pro-dogs. She's also Boss Crone at POMEgranate Magazine, and one day hopes to be able to drink her tea without so much milk and sugar.

Ashley Gallagher

Ashley is a writer, a subtropical swamp blossom transplanted to a temperate rain forest, and a 100% organic mansplain repellent. She enjoys yelling about the media and pop culture zeitgeists that everyone has moved on from at least six months previous, and headcanoning her favorite fictional characters queer.

Carolynn Calabrese

If you prick your finger and write “Cat Fancy” on your mirror during a harvest moon, CC will appear behind you and make you put human clothes on your pets. CC is Head Crone in Charge at POMEgranate Magazine, as well as the co-host of Moon Podcast Power MAKE UP!!