ADVANCED REVIEW: ‘Signs of Affection,’ Volume 1

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Signs of Affection Volume 1 - But Why Tho?A Sign of Affection Volume 1 is a new shoujo romance manga by creative duo suu Morishita. Shoujo fans might recognize that name from another title: Shortcake Cake, which is currently being localized and released by Viz Media.

A Sign of Affection Volume 1 was translated by Christine Dashiell while Carl Vanstiphout handled lettering. Additionally, Lys Blakeslee—a powerhouse of a letterer that all fans should keep an eye out for—will be doing some additional lettering on this series. Both Ben Applegate and William Flanagan serve as Signs of Affection’s editors. Finally, Adam Del Re handled the cover design, which is just so, so pretty.

Yuki is your typical college co-ed. She likes her friends, loves social media, and delights in catching a good sale. Yet when she has a meet with a cute fellow student, and tall boy, Itsuomi, her world starts to open up. Still, there’s a bit of a gap between them. While Itsuomi-kun is well versed in multiple languages, Japanese sign language isn’t one of them. Can these two learn to communicate on equal ground, right as their budding feelings begin to bloom?

I will admit, upfront, that I am a writer who, while living with non-visible disabilities, can see and hear in a non-disabled way. After all, the world is structured for abled bodies. That’s a horrific priviledge, but a priviledge nonetheless. As a reader who tries to read outside my own experiences, I find this is extremely common in manga. So, it’s nice to see A Sign of Affection Volume 1 pushing back against that kind of world.

Specifically, I think this manga pushes back on the norm well because suu Morishita did a lot of research. In fact, this was a deliberate decision on behalf of Nachiyan, the half of suu Morishita that serves as the artist. In fact, a Kodansha interview with the creators mentions them doing extensive research, including consulting members of Japan’s own Deaf and Hard of Hearing community.

Because of the deliberate decision to center on Japanese Sign Language (JSL) and disabilities, A Sign of Affection Volume 1 transcends being another well-written shoujo. It becomes an important text that sees disabled readers and gives them a character to relate to directly. 

Yuki, our female protagonist, is your everyday girl. She likes fashion, dresses super cutely, and goes to classes. Sometimes, she goes out for dinner after school or hits up a sale. True, Yuki lives with a disability. However, the story doesn’t pity her for that. Actually, when other characters try to baby her, the story clarifies that that’s not the way to treat others.

If anything, A Sign of Affection Volume 1 heavily reinforces the simple fact that everyone deserves a seat at the table. If they desire it, a romance that treats them like a person with a full life and identity. I think it’s really quite wonderful to see that in a manga. Hopefully, readers who are hard of hearing or deaf will find themselves in this series. I think we all have a right to see ourselves in the content we engage with.

In the end, I found myself engrossed in this really tender love story. It’s not just a story about a cute boy meeting a cute girl. It’s a story about love and communication. Rather than just constantly texting Yuki, Itsuomi has to become a more flexible person. For him, that means regularly meeting Yuki where she and her needs are. I find this much more valuable than Yuki changing to meet the demands of an inherently ableist world.

In fact, I think Yuki is a really lovely character. A Sign of Affection Volume 1 treats her with a lot of respect. In fact, the story treats Yuki’s as a natural part of her life. Her friends also meet her where she is. Eventually, Itsuomi starts to do the same. Ultimately, Yuki’s deafness isn’t what she needs to overcome. Rather, the ableist world we all inhabit needs to adapt to her and meet Yuki where she is. I really feel like suu Morishita realizes that world in A Sign of Affection Volume 1, especially as two (presumably) non-disabled creators.

I read A Sign of Affection Volume 1 in 2020, back when it was released as part of Kodansha’s Digital-First line. My second—perhaps third or fourth—read of it was just as delightful. I really fell in love with Yuki and Itsuomi, and want to see their love grow. And honestly? I can’t wait to cover A Sign of Affection Volume 2 for the site and myself.

Fans who want to see disabilities centered and celebrated in manga would do right by themselves to pick this volume up. Get it digitally, get it physically, or be like me and double-dip. Just get it, period, especially if you’re like me and want to see disabilities become normalized in manga.

A Sign of Affection Volume 1 will be released physically on February 23, 2021. The digital edition of the series released on March 31, 2020. At the time of this article, the Kodansha Digital-First digital edition of A Sign of Affection Volume 1 is widely available through various stores.


A Sign of Affection Volume 1
5

TL;DR

Fans who want to see disabilities centered and celebrated in manga would do right by themselves to pick this volume up. Get it digitally, get it physically, or be like me and double-dip. Just get it, period, especially if you’re like me and want to see disabilities become normalized in manga.