Growing up is hard, and it’s even more so when one’s shy. People go about in life, not noticing the shy girl in the corner that desperately wants to be friends with someone. As with all girls, the shy girl has a crush, but too shy to even speak to the boy, she only looks from afar. Such is the plight of a shy girl. I know, because I’ve been there.
This is the premise of Koko Ni Iru Yo (published as I am Here!) Ema Toyama’s (of Pixie Pop fame) latest translated manga. Shy middle school girl, Hikage Sumino vows to change herself, and come out of her shell of loneliness. Hikage’s hobby is to blog, and through her blog, she’s made two friends, one named “Black Rabbit” and the other, “MegaPIG”. Hikage takes pictures of the places she’s been, and of the sunflower plant that she grew. Like the flower, Hikage starts to slowly bloom and shine. She catches the attention of popular boy Hinata Muto and his friend, Teru Mikami. With their help, she slowly begins to come out of her shell. However, this path isn’t without a few obstacles, and as Hikage learns to stand up for herself and have confidence, she becomes a “sunflower” – bright, shining, and beautiful.
Teru and Hikage, Hikage and her friend, Hinata and Hikage
What makes I am Here! a more poignant story than Kimi ni Todoke, a similar story of a lonely girl that learns to be more confident, and open is that I am Here doesn’t include a 100% success story. Despite Hikage and her friends best intentions, sometimes it fails. Not everything in life will be a success, despite the intentions, and that’s what makes I am Here! more of a “real” story than Kimi Ni Todoke.
Although cliché sounding, I am Here! is a sweet story of a shy girl that grows out of her shyness, and learns to be confident, and believe in herself. Filled with wonderfully detailed panels that have meaningful monologues, I am Here! is a must read.