Gazing at the Star Next Door Volume 1 Manga Review

Looking at on the Superstar Subsequent Door Quantity 1 Manga Assessment

With this second series released in English, Ammitsu has officially become one of my favorite creators. In Gazing at the Star Next Door, she takes the childhood friend trope, combines it with the celebrity romance, and somehow manages to come out with a story that’s warmer and more appealing than 90% of the series that have tried that combo before. This perhaps isn’t a surprise – her previous series, Ran the Peerless Beauty, took the trope of the elegant, sheltered beauty and made it into something greater than the sum of its parts, so it may be safe to say that Ammitsu is a creator able to work with the tropes rather than around them.

This series follows Chiaki and Subaru, childhood friends who remain close. This is despite what happened in middle school: Subaru was scouted as a model and has worked in that industry ever since. Now in high school, his career is beginning to take off, and when the story opens, he’s just landed his first acting role. Despite what Chiaki feels is a lack of actual acting ability, she’s proud of him. Still, she’s also aware that this means that he’s about to get even more popular and recognizable. To this end, she tries to distance herself emotionally and, at times, physically, although that’s a somewhat greater feat since they live next door to each other and spend a lot of time together. She’s uncomfortable with his increasing visibility, but she doesn’t know what to do with that because neither of them wants things to change.

Part of this comes down to her being fed a lot of social nonsense about how she’s not a “threat” or “good enough” for him, which does damage. She feels not good enough for Subaru, even as a piece of her realizes this as patently ridiculous – he’s making it clear that he wants to remain a duo. What he’s less good at showing is that he very likely has a crush on her, too, and that he’d like to change their relationship to something a bit closer. But they’re sixteen and dancing around the fear of something different and the various social pressures that they’re both under. Chiaki and Subaru are both struggling with his celebrity and what it means for their feelings, and she’s desperately afraid that he will keep moving farther and farther out of her reach.

One of the greatest strengths of this book is the easy sense of closeness that we get. Ammitsu has a flair for writing comfortable high school banter (and credit also goes to translator Nicole Frasik for keeping the tone cringe-free), which lets us see just how close Chiaki and Subaru are. There’s a noticeable difference between how Chiaki talks with Subaru versus her female friend Ha-chan; there’s a sense that she’s holding a little something back, reading the social cues in a way that she doesn’t feel she needs to with Subaru, even as she’s trepidatious about his celebrity. Interestingly enough, this comfort level seems to contribute to others around them not seeing them as a viable couple, which is directly opposite to how this scenario often works in shoujo romance; no one suggests that she’s got an in or that she ought to act before it’s too late. They also seem to all be entirely unaware of Subaru’s obvious (to us) interest in Chiaki. That’s fascinating in terms of the tropes Ammitsu is working with, including Chiaki waking Subaru up in the morning, him climbing from his bedroom window to hers, and barging in on a group date to extract her. In most other series, all of those would be big, shiny pink flags signaling his affection for her to others. Here, people just seem to see it as further evidence of their friendship, although Ha-chan may not be as oblivious as she seems.

Also worth noting is the fact that Subaru’s mother is rarely home. There’s no mention of a father, and while it’s possible that she likes to work, it also feels like Subaru may be working in the entertainment industry out of a desire to help support his family. This is just conjecture, but it seems worth watching because it could ultimately inform the romance plot that Chiaki is desperately trying to keep bubbling beneath the surface.

Gazing at the Star Next Door isn’t anything special on paper. It’s another childhood-friend-turned-celebrity romance that takes its cues from the many similar shoujo titles before it. But in Ammitsu‘s hands, it takes on a coziness and warmth that many other series lack, and it’s easy to get invested in Chiaki and Subaru as a couple. If you like sweet shoujo goodness, this is a series to pick up.

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