Graphic Novel Review – Manga – “Arisa” Volume 1

Volume 1
Written By
Natsumi Ando

Graphic Novel
Female Lead

Tsubasa thinks that her pretty and popular twin sister, Arisa, has the perfect life. Everyone at school loves Arisa—unlike the hot-tempered Tsubasa, whose nickname is “the Demon Princess.” But when Arisa attempts suicide, Tsubasa learns that her seemingly perfect sister has been keeping some dark secrets. Now Tsubasa is going undercover at school—disguised as Arisa—in search of the truth. But will Arisa’s secrets shatter Tsubasa’s life, too?

This was a random selection that I picked up at my local library. I decided that I wanted to try to read and review a manga series. I have watched some anime and enjoyed it, but I had never really had the opportunity to read much manga. I decided to check out that section of the library and came across Arisa. I read the synopsis and was like “this appears to have an interesting mystery element to it, which is something I enjoy. I will try out this one.” This is how I came about this first volume and the second volume is sitting on my shelves, checked out from the library, ready to be read. 
Near the beginning of the story we get that twin sisters, Tsubasa and Arisa, have been living away from each other. One with their mother and the other with her father, for reasons that do not seem to be fully explained. It had been awhile since they had visited each other, so they decide to visit. This is where the plot starts to nosedive off into the mystery that develops within the series. While they are visiting each other Arisa tries to kill herself! This moment shocked me. Even though I had read the synopsis when it happened in the story I was floored that I felt a panic in my chest. I did an audible gasp. I couldn’t understand why this girl that seemed to have a lot of friends would do this to herself, but then when Tsubasa visits her in the hospital and decides to become Arisa once again (yes, there is a moment that she was her before this, but spoilers). This is when we start to see this perfect world unravel that Tsubasa believed Arisa lived within. Arisa is not as beloved as she seemed to be. There are secrets running throughout this school. People may not be who you think they are or have the motives you think going into the story, even by the end of the first volume. One of the people I liked from the onset of their introduction turned out to be one of my least favorite characters by the end of the volume. This switch was SEISMIC in nature. I hated this person so fundamentally after this volume because I understood that their heart was dark and that they would almost hurt anyone to get their own way. People wanting to hurt other people for their own gain is something that I despise in real life, so to see a character like this made this villain number 1, even though there is a larger villain at play here.
When part of the plot was introduced I was taken aback because it felt like it was being forced into a different type of manga, but as it progressed I understood and enjoyed that THIS was the manga. Not what I had built up in my own mind that it was supposed to be because Tsubasa was investigating her sister’s life. I had wrongly assumed it would be some slice of life or minor mystery story, but this has elements of so much more. It has a bit of a horror and tech twinge I was not expecting. It has a thriller element as well, as there are questions on who you can trust within the story. There are layers upon layers that are already starting to form in this singular volume of a 12 part series. 
This was a fairly easy and quick read for me to get through. The story drags you into and keeps you engaged. For someone new to manga, this felt pretty darn important because I could have easily got distracted and may have wanted to read something I was more comfortable reading. This never occurred though and I have to probably think Anda for their writing and artwork for that. While there were all these other elements to the story (i.e. thriller), he took an approach that was somewhat beautiful and more akin to animes that have that slice of life element to them. I can see this changing as the series continues and the story takes on a darker note, which I can tell is going to happen from this volume. As more of the mysteries of Arisa unravel, I can see this becoming a mess of a story. A good mess and one that I definitely see myself reading until I have reached volume 12.

Natsumi Ando has also worked on “Kitchen Princess”, which was also available at my local library. I will be alternating between volumes of these two mangas for review!!

2 Replies to “Graphic Novel Review – Manga – “Arisa” Volume 1”

  1. Janine

    Would these be middle school appropriate. My daughter loves Japanese anime and this looks like something she would enjoy if it’s age appropriate. Thanks!

    • Cassie Post author

      I have only read the first volume, so far. The first book, while it has a bit related to death and suicide, I would still say overall the book would be appropriate. This is just this first volume though. I cannot be sure about the remaining 11 at this point. Due to the content of this one and the direction it seemed to be taking, I would be a little cautious. It felt like it was going in a darker direction near the end of the book. Thanks for reading and allowing me to comment on this volume!


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