Despite centering on a love-triangle between three girls, I don’t think I’d classify Kina Kobayashi’s manga, Nameless Asterism, as a yuri series. While unrequited love and emotional angst are the driving forces behind much of the plot, the type of relationship being celebrated by this manga isn’t romantic love, it’s friendship.
Shiratori, Washio and Kotooka become fast friends when they all start junior high and are soon an inseparable trio who do everything together. But Shiratori has a secret, she’s fallen for the cool and mature Washio and is keeping these feelings hidden so as not to risk ruining their friendship. Then, she discovers that Washio is in love with Kotooka and has been holding back her feelings for similar reasons. Wanting Washio to be happy, Shiratori promises to support her and does her best to put her own desires aside and to encourage Washio to pursue Kotooka. However, these efforts may be futile, as, unbeknownst to either of them, Kotooka is nursing a secret crush on Shiratori!
Readers looking for a romance story may find themselves a bit disappointed by Nameless Asterism, as it’s more of a drama then a straight-forward romance. From the very beginning of the manga, all three heroines are more concerned with maintaining the friendship between the three of them then they are with ending up with the object of their affection. When Shiratori tries to help Washio by setting up situations where she can hang out with Kotooka on her own, Washio gets mad at her for essentially cutting herself out of the group. Kotooka, meanwhile, is constantly trying to find a boy to date and encouraging the other two girls to do the same, as she’s convinced herself that the only way that their friendship will last is if they all end up in “normal” relationships with boys. It’s simultaneously sweet and heart-breaking, and the fact that all three girls are so dedicated to each other, and to staying together as a trio, made this one of the most compelling love-triangle stories I’ve ever read.
I’m not typically a fan of love-triangles as a plot-device, as they frequently hinge on one or more of the character’s involved behaving like a wishy-washy jerk who can’t make a decision. I’ll usually end up frustrated and hating one or more of the main characters and even thinking that there’s no way any of them could be happy together. In Nameless Asterism, however, the tension is caused by the fact that none of the characters feelings lineup, not by one character leading the others on or by someone not being able to handle rejection. They all care about each other and want to keep being friends, resulting in a sort of stalemate where no one feels like they can confess their love without ruining everything. I honestly would have been happy with any of these girls getting together, as they’re all appealing characters and even Kotooka, who’s the most self-centered of the three, is sympathetic. Any combination would have resulted in a cute couple, but I soon found myself more invested in the three of them remaining close friends then in any potential romance, which is what I think the author was aiming for.
There is also a sub-plot involving Shiratori’s twin brother, Subaru, and Asakura, a boy who has a crush on Shiratori. Subaru is a withdrawn boy who’s always struggled with social situations, but the presence of his upbeat and tomboyish sister has, up until this point, allowed him to still feel safe and secure, so long as they’re together. This has resulted in him becoming overly reliant on his twin and Shiratori starts becoming frustrated with him and their parents force them to attend separate middle schools to try and get him to be more independent. As Subaru feels Shiratori begin to grow more distant from him, he starts to dress in her clothes in an effort to still feel close to her and reclaim that feeling of security that she used to give him. When Subaru learns that Asakura, a handsome and popular boy who goes to his school, is interested in Shiratori, he becomes afraid of losing his sister and hatches a crazy scheme to try and drive Asakura off. He arranges to meet up with Asakura while pretending to be Shiratori and acts as obnoxious as possible to try and get him to lose interest in her. This plan ultimately fails, as Asakura is much less judgemental and far more easy-going then Subaru gave him credit for, and he ends up having to carry on meeting Asakura while disguised as his sister. Meanwhile, he simultaneously starts becoming friends with him as Subaru when they wind up on the library committee together at school. This subplot is probably the funniest element of the manga, as Subaru struggles to continue hating Asakura for trying to steal away his precious sister, but can’t quite manage it when he’s faced with what a kind and decent guy Asakura actually is.
There are also some BL undertones to their relationship, as Asakura starts feeling attracted to Subaru, even when he’s not dressed as a girl, and, while Subaru is revealed to potentially be aromantic or asexual, it is implied that his feelings for Asakura may be turning romantic as well.
If you’re someone who likes to avoid spoilers, I suggest skipping to the final paragraph of this review, as I’m going to discuss the ending to this manga next.
I think some readers might find the ending to Nameless Asterism to be disappointing, as it doesn’t resolve in the manner of a typical romance, with two characters winding up together. Instead, none of the main characters end up dating. We don’t even see any of them confess to each other, although some of them do decide that they will tell the others how they feel soon, so that they can all be open and honest with each other going forward. I can see how this ending could feel like a letdown, in some ways it doesn’t seem like there’s been any kind of resolution, but I think that’s only the case if you go in assuming that two characters ending up in a romantic relationship was the end goal of the story. From the beginning, the thing these characters all wanted most was for the three of them to stay together; thus, none of them ending up as a couple was probably the happiest ending possible, as it means no one has been left out. On top of that, it’s important to remember that these girls are all in junior-high and any romantic relationships they have at this young an age are almost guaranteed not to last. Friendships, on the other hand, that are formed during adolescence can often wind up being life-long. The possibility that some of them might end up dating each other in the future is left somewhat open-ended, however, right now, ensuring that the relationship between the three of them endures is more important to them than romance and I’m glad that they ended the series still friends.
From the author’s notes included at the end of volume five, I got the impression that they had hoped to keep the series going for longer than five volumes and that they might have originally had more planned for the story then what we got to see, but, even if that’s the case, I felt like the ending we got worked well for the series and I was satisfied with it. I will say that I would have preferred a bit more of a conclusive ending when it comes to how things are left with Asakura and Subaru, but even they at least end the series as friends… even if Asakura still has no idea about Subaru’s cross-dressing.
Nameless Asterism is an unusual but enjoyable series and I’m a little surprised that I don’t see it discussed more often. It’s dramatic and moving, but it also has plenty of funny and sweet moments. I found all of the characters to be likeable and I genuinely wanted them all to be happy. I would have loved it if the series had been able to continue on longer, but I’m still pleased with how it concluded overall. That said, while I think there is a lot here that would be appealing to fans of yuri or BL manga, I’d caution readers not to go in expecting this story to play out like a standard romance.
Final Score: 7.5 out of 10
For more information on this series, visit Seven Seas Entertainment’s website.
What did you think of this manga? Where you happy or disappointed with the ending? Let me know in the comments.