Kemutai Ane to Zurui Imoto: Battan

To be honest, as much as I have loved Battan’s work up to this point (and I have truly loved it on an unabashed fangirl level), the obi copy on this one had me a little concerned. “Sisters’ adultery battle” sounds a lot like sisters adultering with each other or having some kind of adultery-off to see which of them can be the most adulterous of all, and I’m not particularly interested in reading about either of those things. Although I might be able to get into a Shonen Jump style battle manga where the battle is fucking around with as many people as possible in new and creative ways. But I’m pretty sure that already exists as a hentai manga somewhere. 

At any rate! The adultery battle is neither of these possibilities. And the battle itself is more about the sisters and less about adultery. The cheating is just the battleground, as it were. Jun has not spoken to her younger sister Ran in eight years when they are reunited at their mother’s funeral. This is not a happy reunion, and not just because of the whole dead mom situation.

Ever since Jun can remember, Ran has taken and taken and taken from her. Toys, clothes, and eventually the love of her life. That last one was the final straw, and she breaks off all contact with the fervent hope that she never sees her sister again. As an older sister myself who had a rocky relationship with her younger sister for most of our childhood and young adulthood, I can definitely relate to this sentiment. And I think the younger sibling taking stuff from the older sibling is not an uncommon thing, however infuriating it might be for the older sibling. 

What I cannot get, though, and what made me seriously question whether I wanted to even keep reading was Jun’s subsequent decision to move into their childhood home with Ran in the first chapter, immediately after Battan has very clearly demonstrated that Jun can barely stand to be in the same room as Ran. She pushes her away at the funeral in front of all their relations and storms off. She has flashbacks to all the things Ran stole from her. But when she goes to clean the house and pack up their mother’s things, Ran shows up and declares her intention to move in. With her husband Ritsu, the stolen love of Jun’s life. And this is apparently a slight too far for Jun? She will not have her childhood home stolen by her little sister. She announces that she will also be moving in, and so their shared life begins. 

Maybe I have just had enough therapy to know better than to move into a house out of sheer spite with someone I hate, but this premise made me want to rip my hair out and yell at everyone involved. It would be a different story if Jun or Ran were in some kind of dire straits and their mother’s home was a godsend of a safe haven. But they are both making comfortable livings with good jobs and good apartments. Neither of them needs to move into their mother’s house. And the lead-up to them moving in together sets up Jun as the rational one and so firmly against her sister that this decision feels out of character and baffling. 

One thing I hate in all forms of storytelling is unearned conflict, putting characters into situations where they will bounce off of each other just so they will bounce off of each other. Like half of the rom-com/shojo stories out there, where if someone just used their words, there would be no conflict. And that’s definitely what this story of sisters forced under one roof reads like. 

I almost had to annoyance-quit reading this title. But you know I love Battan’s sharp-nosed ladies with their cat eyes and strands of hair everywhere, so I kept pushing forward and found a lot more to like, including a much-needed window into Ran’s side of this story. 

Ran is the pretty one, the flakey one, the social one. And she seems to lead a charmed, happy life. But it is one spent in the shadow of her older sister. She’s always known that their mother favoured Jun, and she was never able to get the attention from her that she craved. Art-wise, Battan pulls out an interesting trick here, and elsewhere when one character is perceiving another as beautiful or amazing or in love with someone/something else: they draw balls of light or glitter or shimmery blobs around the person in question. It’s a nice visual shorthand to highlight both the emotions of the characters involved and to let the reader know just what we should be paying attention to. 

There’s also lots of smoke wisping around across the pages and ribbons streaming across panels. These bits trailing over the artwork really encapsulate the languid feel at the heart of pretty much everything Battan has drawn. And as the story goes on (up to volume two now), Battan digs deeper into motivations and personalities and conflicts in a way that is much more satisfying than the initial set-up and also reminiscent of Otona ni Natte mo, in the complexity of the emotions underpinning all these relationships.

By the end of the second volume, I was definitely interested in reading more. And I will pick up volume three when I am finally back in my favourite Tokyo bookstores in a few weeks (hit me up, Tokyo pals! I’m coming baaaaack!). But a part of me wishes Battan had devoted the energy she’s putting into this series into a yuri love triangle instead. They’re just so ridiculously good at drawing hot girl on girl action.   

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