Welcome to Romance Roundtable: a feature where the editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss Romance Manga. Today we’re recapping the continuing love story between two manga artist office ladies in the excellent Still Sick, Volume 2 by Akashi. Join us for a blend of refreshingly wholesome queer content, satisfyingly complex emotions, and some way too real Art Feelings.
Jenny: so when last we saw our heroines:
Jenny: just rip my heart out
CC: what a cliffhanger
CC: and what a way to pick things back up lol
Ashley: big OOF
CC: although tbh, shimizu did so much in this volume
including figuring out that she genuinely is interested in women and not just yuri manga in an extremely well-adjusted way!!!!
good for her!!!!!
also sporting some Amazing Looks
CC: a woman of many dimensions
business things ™
Ashley: omg YES i loved the suit, even though its purpose remained kind of a mystery???
Rachel: i wonder what M.S. stands for???
Ashley: HAHAHA I was wondering the same
Rachel: My Sharona
Ashley: Mr Sauce
Ashley: but yeah… wow Shimizu really grew a lot in this volume! she felt like a totally different person?
coming out to Maekawa definitely gave her a massive overall confidence boost that was really nice to see, it was like you could see the weight come off her shoulders
I loved her getting along better with women
the confidence boost that comes with better knowing and accepting yourself!!!
you love to see it
Jenny: she was so good in the volume! and, like, getting along better in general!
Jenny: talking! about feelings!!
Rachel: this made me so happy!!
Ashley: yes! honesty!
also i love those two’s relationship even more (though i can’t remember the dude’s name, ha)
Jenny: he was really good!
and hearing him talk about his own relationship!!
Jenny: partners! equality! you love to see it!!
but maybe we’re getting a little ahead of things — should we do a recap?
Ashley: oh good call! i mean, to be fair, this volume really was a mostly feelings volume. plot-wise, Shimizu lives up to her promise to help Maekawa with her manga, although Maekawa keeps pushing her away
every time Maekawa starts to make progress, she seems to get stuck on emotions, namely, not wanting to have them
Rachel: she’s all of my exes rolled into one
Jenny: there’s def a lot of push-and-pull as maekawa tries and fails to open up emotionally; shimizu mostly just does what maekawa says she wants? and at some point that includes backing off. and that’s when maekawa finishes her manga! but shimizu isn’t there to celebrate w her!! and it breaks her heart!!
and then there’s a work trip to a hot springs!!
CC: god I can’t imagine a work trip to a hot springs
on one hand, hot springs
on the other
Ashley: HOT SPRINGS EPISOOOOOOOODE
Jenny: truly i never want to go on a work trip
let alone one that involves nudity
but would love to go to a hot springs in just about any other circumstances
Ashley: oh my god, yeah, the idea of a work trip for the purpose of socializing curls my toes
Rachel: i 100% do because i want drama to happen and i want to witness it
i want to be the extra in these romance comics
Jenny: the dream
Ashley: HAHAHA you would make a perfect romance comic extra
Rachel: i want to be the guy playing ping pong and have one of the main characters open up to me
about her FEELINGS for ANOTHER
and then i want to go to bed lol
Jenny: hell yeah hell yeah hell yeah
Ashley: i mean… in a lot of ways, that’s kind of like comics conventions
Jenny: i would love to be one of these old ladies just gal palling our girls
Rachel: lol yesss
Jenny: butterfly meme but it’s a boomer, lesbians, and “is this…friendship??”
that makes me think of something… which is that, i love the comedic timing in this volume?
Jenny: oh def! i think this one had a lot of fun gags!
Rachel: lol i lost it at that
Jenny: this one-two punch from i used to like drawing bc it made my dad proud of me
Ashley: HAHAHA beautiful
it all has a very Our (Millennial) Generation sensibility
I have never related to a single manga panel more than shimizu in this scene
CC: i submit, for the croneditorial panel, our new motto
Rachel: hahahaha seconded
Jenny: +1 +1 +1
Rachel: also probably how many of our Going Steady pitches began
CC: god bless
I’m so glad
Ashley: omg yes
Jenny: there were a lot of really good, small and tender relatable moments too though!
it’s really hard to be there for people
and sometimes this is all you can do! but it’s still valuable!!
Ashley: YES that scene really stuck with me
good friendship tactic and frankly good writing/arting tactic
Jenny: yeah! it went straight from this to the ‘you’re not my dad.meme’ gag and it felt v real! like yeah that’s how people are!
tender and jokes!
the two genders
as usual, i choose both!!
Jenny: people are complicated! and i feel like this book doesn’t shy away from that!
CC: I also really like the gradual process of shimizu seeing through maekawa’s Big Moods
that kinda reading process as you and another person fit each other (and yr rough edges) into each others’ lives
it’s nice! complicated! very sweet!
CC: maekawa wants people she cares about to see through her attempts to push them away and shimizu is picking up on how maekawa is mostly all bluster
Ashley: yes! and it’s so circular, right, they way they are drawn together and then apart… i think sometimes the stories we read for this series are so eerily linear
when EVERYTHING about human relationships is distinctly not linear
i love that there are no direct paths in this book
they don’t come together easily and they don’t come to terms with themselves easily
but they still hang and joke and do small things for each other
Jenny: yeah def! and these moments do just sort of keep playin1g out
and it’s nice to see how they grow a little bit closer to understanding each other each time
like by the time we get to the work trip — shimizu’s really figured it out!
Jenny: maekawa’s still pulling her shit
Jenny: she gets it (but still has it in her to be jokey)
CC: i just, love them
Ashley: meee tooooooo
CC: I also like that shimizu’s main conflict about love becomes her concern that loving somebody will change her personality
which like, I get it, and it’s an interesting concern
CC: love is weird!!!
Jenny: oh man yeah!!
Ashley: oh boy lmao
Rachel: i also wanna talk about how effectively this book uses black fills!!
it’s mostly a very light/grayscale book but then it’s like FULL FILL and it just sets such a good visual cue
CC: oh yeah I know! a lot of the tonally most intense scenes definitely take advantage of this
Ashley: yes! it’s very instructive, tbh! i’m taking notes…
CC: god yeah there’s also a lot in this volume that is very Real about making comics
Ashley: MMM HMMMM
Rachel: i love comics about making comics
come into my home, this is where i live
CC: this caused me physical pain LMAO:
CC: “then have fun struggling”
L O L L L L L L L L L LL
Rachel: lol DIRECT HIT
i think this story does such a good job of exploring the pressures of making something for Yourself and making something for Capitalism
and how we use it to define our own feelings of success
yeah and also just — christ! it’s so hard to like the things you make when you’re not in a great place emotionally!!
Ashley: uh, yes, this is relevant to everything i’ve ever done
Jenny: Universal Basic Income NOW
Rachel: this was very validating for me because i’ve never been the kind of person who can use suffering to fuel their creativity
Jenny: Comrade Himbo will give us the time and space to learn to love ourselves
gotta take time to process stuff!!
CC: yeah I gotta say, I don’t like any of the creative things I tried to fuel with sadness tbh
I know it works for some folks but not me!!!!
Rachel: yeah! i think art as processing and therapy is so powerful
but i also think there’s this myth that to be a truly Great Artist, you must suffer
and if you’re ever happy, you’re not an Artist
Ashley: yeah, that’s a super pervasive and destructive myth. and it seems to genuinely be at play in Maekawa’s attempts to divorce herself from her feelings
Rachel: yeah! and i love shimizu being over here like, i make yuri because i love it and it brings me joy, and i love bringing others joy through the yuri i draw
art can be that simple!
sometimes art is just two girls kissing!!!!
Ashley: there’s actually a really interesting tension between them artistically, where Shimizu is completely motivated by having a space for her own desire, whereas Maekawa is 100% motivated by external approval
i think they make such a compelling pair because they balance each other’s extremes
CC: you really hit the nail on the head!!!
Jenny: this might be a little niche for the bbc merlin fans out there, but — two sides of the same coin, etc etc
I really appreciate maekawa’s motivation because personally
I think most of the fun I have in writing something is knowing at least one specific person will enjoy it
if I write something I know y’all are gonna love, it’s easier for me to fall in love with it too
but I struggle to Make Art For Art’s Sake [for myself, by myself]
I like thinking of art / creation as a collaborative process!
and thinking about the difference in maekawa’s and shimizu’s motivations is really interesting for this reason! the different creative forces that drive people, etc
Jenny: and I think that’s kind of where maekawa ends up! bc even though they’re on a break when she finishes her manga, she says in the text she wanted to tell this story to shimizu, and that’s what motivates her to finish!
what a cerebral romance roundtable
we’re really bringing our biggest brains to the table this time yall
just goes to show how good this manga is, i think!
Jenny: def! it’s complicated! and layered!
Ashley: but also like… maybe this is the perfect book for us, right now? i know we’ve all been struggling artistically with these things ourselves, lately.
Jenny: also has some more overt symbolism
Jenny: for the jokes
Ashley: HAHAHAHAAH THAT KILLED MEEEEE
just like, very slowly and methodically shoving herself in the closet
Jenny: at just the same time as she backpedals in her work and pushes shimizu away
Jenny: frustrating but also believable
Rachel: ahhhh poor shimizu
Rachel: it’s hard to love someone who doesn’t love themselves
Ashley: BIG NOD
CC: you know, I’m amazed by how well shimizu is taking it all in tho
Jenny: that was such a good moment! esp bc of the contrast between shimizu and the random ex-boyfriend from the start of the volume
Jenny: who broke up w her bc she was cold to him after a while
Ashley: oooo, yes, good callback
CC: maekawa irl
Rachel: lollll extremely true
well, do y’all wanna do final thoughts??
mind if I go ahead?
Rachel: go for it!
CC: my final thought is
who wore it best??
Ashley: oh SHIT
CC: (also yall should definitely read “the way of the househusband” LOL)
Jenny: hell yes
Ashley: man, the aviators are pretty good but Shimizu’s manic smile really pulls the look together imo
CC: tru tru
Jenny: my final thought is also in praise of shimizu
Jenny: love this corny dad
Jenny: alt: this is her carrie bradshaw column
mr big may have been good at debugging computers, but could he learn to debug other people?
Jenny: i’m only familiar w the meme, so it feels little bit like i’m the robot who got fed scripts and this is what i came up w
too young for even the TBS reruns~~
which admittedly I only watched a few times tbh but that seems to be along the lines that I remember!
an adequate simulation
Ashley: it exceeds expectations
okay here is my final thought:
Ashley: me and the boys refusing to do sexual harassment!!!!
Rachel: they’re good boys!
Jenny: you love to see it
Ashley: i dream of being the powerful gay who leads the good boys into heaven!
Jenny: they just want to do group karaoke!
no harassment allowed
Ashley: we have to be the change we wish to see in the world….
Rachel: lol i believe in you Ashley
Ashley: hahaha thank u
Rachel: this is my final thought, which is good at capturing how i felt at the end of the book
Jenny: TRULY!!! WHAT A CLIFFHANGER!!
Ashley: HAHAHA, yes, chef’s kiss!!!!!!!!
CC: I really can’t wait for volume 3!!!!!
Rachel: i want to hang out with this manga artist
she seems like she’d be fun
Ashley: she does seem like a total riot
Rachel: my hopes for vol 3: be gay do crimes???
only time will tell!
CC: in the meantime, we’ll have to find some other romance to read!!!
Ashley: * rolls up sleeves, cracks knuckles *
CC: hell yea
Join us next time for even more love story shouting in our next Romance Roundtable! 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.