Romance Roundtable #33: Still Sick (Volume 3)

Welcome to Romance Roundtable: a feature where the editorial POME Crones gather together to discuss Romance Manga. Today we’re recapping Still Sick, Volume 3 by Akashi — the final installment of this wholesome and deeply relatable romance manga about office ladies who are in love and make comics. Come say goodbye to this lovely series, and bask in the glow of some truly inspirational comics editing content along the way.


Rachel: ok today!! we are recapping!!! the final volume of STILL SICK!!!

Jenny: so i def had to re-read our old romance roundtables!
it’s been a while since we did volumes 1 & 2
but mostly what i got was: our two beloved office lady comics creators (maekawa and shimizu) are falling in love! we last saw our heroines on a work trip to the hot springs and shimizu is ready to put herself out there for real.

Rachel: yes!! volume 2 ended with a real cliffhanger!

Ashley: fortunately vol 3 picked up exactly where it left off, with the two having a Talk about What Is Going On Here

Rachel: yes, thank hera

CC: and now they’re gfs!!!!!!
so happy for these two dummies

Rachel: ok i wanna talk about the conversation they have when they get together

Shimizu to Maekawa: "I don't want you to prioritize me all the time, you know."

Rachel: THIS
just a nice, healthy, supportive dynamic for a partner to have!!!
idk i love it, Shimizu is so great

Ashley: haha yeah! i love how Maekawa was like, i did my job i bet you’re MAD about it
and Shimizu was like… “no??”

Jenny:

Shimizu to Maekawa: "So! I want to get closer to you... and I want the responsibility of a relationship. I love you, Maekawa. Choose me."

CC: that four year age gap…..not problematic age gap but what a gulf in what you learn about being an adult human between 24 and 28 L O L L L L L L

Rachel: SHE LOVES HER AHHH

Ashley: SO SWEEEET

Jenny:

Shimizu shakes Maekawa's hand after confessing to her: "Y-yeah! I'm glad you agree."

Ashley: it’s pretty cool that this volume starts with them getting together and then spending the rest of it exploring the deepening of their relationship

CC: I like how direct Shimizu is about all things

Jenny: feels v going steady tbh

Ashley: yes! also similar to bridgerton, where it was nice that the wedding was in the middle instead of at the end

Rachel: YES
also love that they don’t spend several volumes debating about kissing

Maekawa and Shimizu kiss!!!

Rachel: THEY SMOOCH IMMEDIATELY
none of this “should i hold…. her hand?????” internal debates for 1,000 pages
idk i just like the normalization of emotional and psychical intimacy

Jenny: yes but also

Co-workers walk in on Shimizu and Maekawa tumbling around on a futon.

CC: oh but also let’s not forget about

Jenny: nightmare of nightmares

Rachel: HAHA true

CC:

Internally, a bear wearing a tshirt that says "LUST" busts through a door.
Caption: "Shimizu-san's carnal desires have been released!"

CC: teddy bear of lust

Rachel: LUST BEAR

Ashley: HAHAHA yes best panel

Rachel: i just like that being together and being intimate isn’t what scares them
we get these brief glimpses of domesticness and affection
and it’s not a plot point at all

Jenny: yeah their relationship fears feel v much like any other relationship fears

Shimizu thinking: "I don't want to doubt her, but..."
Shimizu imagines Maekawa saying: "Things are different now that we're dating, so let's go back to being friends. Bye!"

CC: v relatable feelings!!!
and I think Shimizu does really understand Maekawa
for better or worse

Jenny:

Shimizu: "I was a little lonely too."
Maekawa: "I'm sorry. I haven't been paying much attention to you lately, Shimizu-san."
Shimizu: "Why bring that up now? I couldn't be with you if I cared about that kind of thing."

Ashley: hahahahaha

Jenny: yeah this felt like a good moment of growth
like in the first 2 volumes, there were moments when shimizu had some doubts around how maekawa would treat her sometimes, but now it feels like she really just understands maekawa and it cool with it

CC: and maekawa is also trying to do better

Jenny: it’s true!!

CC: trying to be less selfish and to understand others better
rather than being just like “this is who I am and u gotta deal with it”
well, not 100% like that the way she starts the story (imo) anyway

Jenny: yes!! and she admits that part of that positive growth comes from knowing shimizu, which is nice

Maekawa: "I sensed how much of you is a part of me. I was happy."

Jenny: like, when her editor kidnaps her to make her work as an assistant to another comics creator, she’s able to swallow her ego and both identify and execute what she needs to do to best serve the book their working on
and she thinks: what would shimizu do?

Ashley: i think that ^ was my absolute favorite scene

Jenny: it was really nice!!
to see what a good influence shimizu is on her and how much she wants to be a better person for her

Ashley: it also didn’t like, come out of nowhere you know? all of their experiences and conversations were leading up to it in a satisfying way

CC: yeah like, imo the best thing about this story is how rounded out these gals are
they have full lives outside of one another, and they learn how to support each other and grow as people both inside of and outside of the relationship

Ashley: right! which isn’t to say it’s all like, a linear progression either, because this scene also leads to a huge misunderstanding where they both withhold information to try and protect the others’ feelings

CC: i gotta say: idk if this is a controversial opinion but i love this weirdo editor

Ashley: omg i’m obsessed with him

Jenny:

Maekawa, talking about Toudou: "He'll do anything for manga. I bet he'd go anywhere on Earth, or even to space! He's such a weird guy. Plus he was staring at me today."
Shimizu: "HNGH?!"
Maekawa: "Although he's pretty interesting too."
Shimizu: "That worries me. Don't agree to do anything weird wit him."

Ashley: the couple chapters at the beginning with all the editor drama just really hit hard for me
also it made me think that when Maekawa said she was going to do a new story about people “behind the scenes” i thought it was going to add a 3rd level of meta and be about editors, hahaha

Jenny:

Caption: "I want to be an editor who can help comic artists more than anyone else."

CC: finally: the comics editor yuri manga content we’ve all been craving
also YES jenny hashtag editorspiration

Ashley: yes!!!! it’s the pome ethos in one panel
not to like, toot our own horn or whatever but like, toot toot bitch

Jenny: but tbh i really loved the way maekawa’s relationship with toudou evolved

CC: I have never sought out a deep freeze facility to give better edits for comics about subzero temperatures but you know what? I feel inspired to start
also yes!!! agreed

Jenny: like in vol 1 he’s just some asshole who runs into them at a con
but now, when maekawa’s assigned to work with him

Maekawa to her editor: "I understand what you're trying to say. I'll draw something with so much emotion it'll punch you right in the gut."

CC: the pome ethos continues

Jenny: like, spite is a great motivator imo

CC: is it any wonder that we love this book so much

Ashley: it really feels made just for us

Jenny: but also it was fun to see her come around/learn how to take criticism and also to see her relax a little around her editor
like, this moment

Maekawa: "Toudou-san!"
Toudou: "You were planning on walking right by me even after making eye contact, huh?
Maekawa: "Yep! I have a bad feeling about this."
Toudou: "You have good intuition."

Jenny: i think i did laugh out loud

CC: love that rallying “what a surprise” L O L

Jenny: like, she’s still kind of an asshole but she’s so charming about it
and this scene does directly lead into the scene where she helps out the other creator

Ashley: hahahaha i also lol’d

Jenny: it was nice to see her keep her personality while also growing

CC: honing her pettiness like a well sharpened blade
only using it at the right time
u love 2 see it

Rachel: to your point about how she thinks about how Shimizu would react in this situation
i love how we get to see how their relationship affects their lives OUTSIDE of the relationship
most romances are so focused on the two people involved
you don’t get to see how being with someone and how you grow can affect how you interact with others!

Jenny: agreed!!!
ex:

The team Shimizu manages: "Our leader has finally discovered love... she was so against it before..."
Shimizu: "Shut up and get back to work!"

CC: yeah for real!!!!!
I love Shimizu’s supportive boys

Ashley: true comrade himbos imho

CC: love them so much!!!

Jenny: but also:

Shimizu's boss: "Hmm... you could always choose to polish your skills as an engineer... but the managers at our company get paid better!"
Shimizu: "Please do something about that unfair treatment!"

Jenny: part of this scene
has the boss saying that shimizu is really good with people
that her boys are such loyal hard workers and it’s in large part due to shimizu’s leadership skills
and while shimizu is motivated in part to take this promotion because the money is better and maekawa’s income is less stable (doing comics full time)
part of it is also motivated by (i think) the extent to which shimizu’s learning to understand and manage maekawa, as well as shimizu’s growing acceptance of her own self, has given her more confidence around others and has made her a better and more empathetic person (a better manager)
but also obviously i do agree w her point
please do something about that unfair treatment, re: manager being paid best

Ashley: haha yes
it’s true though – i think maekawa gaining the courage to allow herself to have a real relationship pushes her to actually enjoying testing her limits, expanding her boundaries, etc
it feels… really nice (and somehow kind of rare) to read a story where you see how the relationship brings out more of the potential of each individual
especially a girls love story

Jenny: def def def

CC: also a romance that isn’t about kids still in school
ah yes, the highs and lows of……changing jobs and navigating promotions
love this for all of us

Jenny: LOL

Ashley: love to indulge in the fantasy of being praised for my work and asked to take on a more advanced role………
(this has literally only happened like twice in my working life)

Jenny: the dream tbh
do we want to talk a little about this volume’s central conflict?
shimizu sees maekawa get out of toudou’s car early in the morning, after maekawa had cancelled plans with shimizu the night before
shimizu assumes that maekawa is cheating on her
maekawa lies about where she was because she doesn’t want shimizu to worry about how hard she’s working/how little sleep she’s getting

Rachel: ahhh the old “i’m trying to do something nice but then it leads to misunderstandings!!”

Jenny: classique!

Ashley: i mean…. i’m here to argue that lying to prevent your partner from worrying SEEMS like something nice when you’re doing it but is actually selfish
in that you’re trying to prevent a reaction from your partner that you don’t want to deal with

Rachel: oh yes for sure!

Ashley: (thanks, years of therapy)

CC: oh yeah like, are you lying to spare them from worrying or lying to spare yourself from navigating their feelings

Rachel: love that the moral of the conflict is “JUST TALK TO EACH OTHER”

CC: also love that they did and then they got to the bottom of it pretty quickly!!!!

Ashley: yes!! and that they even kind of got mad at each other but in like a loving way

Rachel: but yes it did take one of them finally getting the nerve to confront the other

Jenny:

Shimizu: "Actually... no, I don't get it. I thought I'd be fine... as long as you were happy."

Jenny: and this confrontation is what finally gets maekawa to articulate her feelings

Maekawa: "I love you, Shimizu-san!"

Jenny: and it’s CUTE!!

Ashley: ❤️ ❤️ ❤️

Jenny:

Maekawa, aggressively nuzzling Shimizu: "I love you, Shimizu-san. I love you so, so much!"

Ashley: also i gotta say, i think it’s genuinely hilarious that poor Shimizu thinks of all people that Maekawa would have a torrid affair with her extremely single-minded manga editor

Jenny: lol yeah
but tbh i think that shimizu and toudou are not necessarily so different

Shimizu: "I'm the type of person who becomes obsessed once I fall in love with something! I don't care if the original work comes to an end... or if my interpretations differ from canon! Even if you're selfish or troublesome or are sometimes cruel, I don't mind! A-anyway, I'm super happy that you got jealous over me."

Jenny: like, shimizu’s relationship w her comics work feels (to me) p similar to toudou’s passion/devotion to his work

Ashley: HMM…. interesting
and i mean, tbf Maekawa was open about having cheated before and not even thinking much of it
but like, i feel like Toudou gives off “i would only kiss for comics research purposes” vibes

Jenny: oh yeah — i think shimizu’s fears were absolutely founded in her growing understanding of maekawa (the same one that made her into such a good match for her)

CC: v girls monthly nozaki kun vibes
from Toudou I mean ha ha
also Maekawa is the Moving On Quick queen LOL

Shimizu, internally: "Still, I'm pretty anxious. Maekawa has some weird views when it comes to relationships."
Past Maekawa: "I don't want a serious relationship. I always break up once I get bored. It's not cheating. It's just a period of moving on."

Ashley: JUST A PERIOD OF MOVING ON omg
her carefree expression saying this insane thing lololol

CC: but I hadn’t thought about Shimizu and Toudou being similar in disposition! both have high expectations from Maekawa and drive her to do better
lol i love maekawa but she is a hot mess express, especially earlier on
love to see her doing better……but love to see that she is also still fundamentally the same in some ways hahaha

Ashley: very relatable

CC: look, to my point earlier
24 is so very young!!!
just barely alive at that point tbh
like a baby deer running on wobbly legs, maekawa is running towards the life she wants to live
look, I’m shooting for some good comics editor one liners here

Jenny:

Shimizu: "You should have a serious talk with him. Since we're... uh, dating..."
Maekawa: ".. alright. I won't tell him today."
Shimizu: "Yeah, I think that's for the best."
Maekawa: "But I want to tell my parents one day. Since I'll be spending the rest of my life with you."

Rachel: THIS AHHH

Ashley: casually dropping the question but it’s a statement and in the department store

Jenny: i think shimizu does guide her towards some more temperate decisions, but i agree that maekawa retains her personality throughout
really feels like growth and not like she’s just magically fixing everything that’s wrong with her

CC: before we wrap up, I just want to talk about my very favorite scene in this volume

Shimizu to Maekawa's dad: "My name is Makoto Shimizu, and I'm dating your daughter."
Maekawa's dad: "Huh? You're Akane's... but... you're..."
Shimizu: "Putting that aside..."

CC: “My name is Makoto Shimizu and I’m dating your daughter”
so cool! so direct!!!

Ashley: this made me cry and then immediately laugh
absolute chef’s kiss moment

CC: just like, we don’t have time to unpack this, you gotta get it together and show up for your daughter or else; sincerely, your daughter’s gf

Jenny: def!! felt really good! and felt like a big step for shimizu

Ashley: hahahahaha YES! to his credit, he immediately moves from like “i have a gay daughter????” to “please have a shitload of free food”

Jenny: YES!
like, objectively, i think it went pretty well!
and i think it was able to set up one of my favorite scenes

Shimizu's mom: "I talked with your father... but I still don't know what to think."
Shimizu: "Well, that can't be helped. It's a completely different lifestyle compared to you two. But this is who I am."

Jenny: where shimizu tells her mom that she’s dating maekawa
she’s so confident and casual about it!
really feels like a far cry from vol 1 shimizu, who loved yuri but denied that she was into girls herself
and i think she’s rewarded for that confidence

Shimizu's mom: "... right. You're an adult, after all. Be responsible and take good are of Akane-san. Bring her to meet us some time."
Shimizu: "Huh? No way."
Shimizu's mom: "Why not? She's cute, isn't she? I want to meet her!"
Shimizu: "It's too embarrassing!"
Shimizu's mom: "Where's your filial piety?!"

Jenny: bc her mom absolutely comes around!!

Ashley: yeah!!! i actually kind of like that since we kind of have the coming out scene with Maekawa’s dad, this convo actually skips past the actual moment Maekawa comes out to her mom and skips ahead to the part where her mom is like, “be a good daughter and take your girlfriend home to meet us!!!”

CC: i just love this series so much ;__;

Ashley: it’s just like, very gentle, very good vibes without ignoring the hardship of being gay in a not super accepting environment

CC: ❤️

Rachel: it’s so nice and i’m a little sad it’s over!!!

Jenny: love gentle good vibes tbh

Rachel: dear readers, if you have more recs in the line of Still Sick, please let us know

Ashley: yes plz

CC: yes!!! I would love to read any comic that brings my heart this much joy

Rachel: on that, do y’all wanna do some final thoughts??

CC: yeah!

Jenny: my final thought
is really just that i love drawings of food

Shimizu's co-worker: "Shimizu-san, you brought your lunch today?"
Shimizu: "Yeah, it was forced one me."
Co-worker: "Your partner must be a good cook."
Shimizu: "I feel bad, especially since they're busy with work too. I guess this is what people mean when they talk about how nice it is to have a family."
Co-worker: "What a corny line."

Jenny: and also i’m happy for them
love to live my corniest life

Rachel: drawings of food in grayscale too!!!
ahh i want to eat it

CC: my final thought is
I love Toudou so much, and aspire to say cool things like this to every artist I work with

Toudou to Maekawa: "Use your idea to create a new series. I want to read what you have inside of you right now."

CC: truly: love to see comics editing the way I love to think about it, which is to say: working together to make comics that punch you in the gut with feelings

Rachel: 💜
my final thought is that, shimizu is just so relatable

Maekawa judges Shimizu as she stands in front of boxes and boxes of manga and fan comics she's packing up.

Rachel: me, anytime i move

CC: LOL so real

Ashley: OMG hahahaha rachel i picked the same panel for my final thought!!!!
except instead of doujinshi it’s my z-eye-nes collection

Jenny:

The poster of the movie Signs, but it says Zigns.

Rachel: LOL
this comic is just so so great and i would love to read more like it
i’m just putting this out there, manifesting it
if there was ever going to be a time when I’d use the Secret, it’s for this

Jenny: i think probably this would be the purest use of whatever dark force powers The Secret
more gentle comics about loving yourself and other people

CC: this is pretty much all I want to manifest with what’s left of 2021, so love to see the POME ethos in action as part of this book yet again

Jenny:

Maekawa and Shimizu embrace, with the caption: "We may go through hard times... or experience sadness. Still..."
Caption: "As long as we're together... we'll be able to keep drawing... a story in which we face tomorrow with a smile."

Ashley: 😭 😭 😭


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.

CC Calanthe

CC Calanthe

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!!
Jenny Mott

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.
Ashley Gallagher

Ashley Gallagher

Ashley writes comics and emails from zir burrow in the Pacific Northwest. Ze is a sentient subtropical swamp fern whose favorite food is old words.
Rachel Weiss

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.
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