SCRAMBLUES GN – Review – Anime News Network:IN

Some of my favorite romance stories are ones that function as good character pieces that flesh out the individual issues of their characters before moving forward with any major romantic progression. This is one of the greatest strengths of SCRAMBLUES, as it puts some of the traumas and insecurities of our two leads at the forefront while the actual romantic development of the relationship almost feels secondary. In fact, Haru and Eddie spend half of the book apart from each other reflecting on their past or what the other might be going through. That might not sound the most exciting, but I think the book’s confidence in its approach and the relatability of these personal struggles helps SCRAMBLUES‘ story stand out compared to others.

Eddie initially comes off as your typical and misunderstood prodigy. He’s very aloof and seems to be annoyed with the way that people perceive him. However, this attitude stems from how his past has clouded his association with and love of music. When the person that originally taught you how to be an artist ends up leaving your life, it can become difficult to move on and open up to others, which is necessary well before pursuing any romantic relationship. Everyone needs support during those difficult periods, but Eddie’s story was surprisingly touching and arguably the heart of the entire book.

Haru’s journey isn’t as layered as Eddie’s, despite the fact that Haru is mostly our eyes in character and the one that opens up the story. Haru’s feelings also come from a place of insecurity even if it’s a little bit more mundane. It’s far from bad and that simpler perspective definitely helps him come to answers easier than Eddie, but I just didn’t find Haru’s hangups as interesting comparatively. Despite the fact that these two are in different industries and come from different upbringings, they both share a desire to be pushed on by a special someone and to be able to create art that they are satisfied with. There’s a lot in connecting these two, even if there aren’t a lot of romantic moments between them.

Which brings me to one of my biggest issues with the book: it doesn’t do enough to establish the romantic chemistry between its leads. The thematic parallels between them are great, and by the end of the book it makes sense that these two would be the people that help the other realize what it is they need to do for themselves. However, just because two people go through similar character arcs doesn’t necessarily mean that they would make great romantic partners for each other. I think it would’ve been to the story’s favor if there were maybe one or two more chapters specifically focusing on these two building more of a romantic rapport with each other. The closest we get are a few side chapters at the end of the book showing some rather cute moments of them already as an established couple, but I don’t think that serves the same effect.

Unfortunately, SCRAMBLUES‘ art is also another drawback of this volume. While the presentation and panel layouts are pretty standard, the book’s character art isn’t the most varied or interesting. In fact, there are some characters that look identical to each other with only minor differences in hair shape, and there were moments where it became a bit confusing as to who is being framed in a scene. The book does make up for this a bit with great facial expressions, which impressively helps lend a cute side to adult characters that have a lot of angular and boxy features in their faces.

Overall, I feel SCRAMBLUES suffers a little bit as a romance story given that there isn’t enough real estate in this single volume to fully flesh out the romantic chemistry between our two leads. However, you could make the argument that wasn’t the main priority. What we have here is a very simple and effective character study about two people who’ve spent most of their lives looking for something and through happenstance, were finally able to find it in order to move on. I definitely think this is a story that most people should be able to relate to on even the most basic of levels regardless of whether they are a fan of BL or not.

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