Yuki is enjoying her life as a college freshman and she even has a romantic meet-cute with an attractive upperclassman on a train ride. The meet-cute is a little unorthodox however — Yuki is deaf and Itsuomi swoops in to help when a foreigner asks her for directions and doesn’t understand why she won’t (or rather, can’t) talk back. Yuki recognizes Itsuomi from a club at school that her friend belongs to and, little by little, it seems like the two of them are becoming a part of each other’s worlds.
A Sign of Affection runs in the aptly-named manga magazine Dessert which is aimed at both shōjo and josei readerships, which explains why A Sign of Affection evokes all of the sweet and fluffy feelings of a shōjo romance even if all of the characters are adults in college, not high school (and it certainly helps that nearly all of suu Morishita’s previous series, including Shortcake Cake, are also shōjo series). Readers may have already come across this title ahead of its physical release since it’s one of Kodansha’s better-known simulpubs and available on all-you-can-read services like Crunchyroll manga and Comixology Unlimited, not just pay-per-chapter services, and of course disabled protagonists are relatively rare in manga so any title featuring one generates a little buzz due to that detail alone.
In the extra pages of these first two volumes, Morishita explains how they approached showing Yuki’s Signed Japanese in still form, and why they’re using Signed Japanese instead of Japanese Sign Language, which I found interesting from a technical perspective. As a hearing person, it didn’t feel like the story itself was going out of its way to explain Yuki’s disability to me and simply explained aspects of it when they had an impact on the story. This does mean that it’s often Itsuomi, not Yuki, who is the point of view character as she explains some basic details about her specific situation to him, and begins to teach him Signed Japanese. Even if Itsuomi is only interested in Yuki as a friend, and takes this as an opportunity to learn Signed Japanese, at least he’s interested in it. It’s sad to see that Yuki’s own family never learned any signed language to communicate with her, despite sending her to a school for the deaf/hard of hearing and how her childhood friend even learned it to mess with her, but that absolutely tracks with stories I’ve heard about some deaf children born to hearing parents in the US.
There is a lot of snow imagery (apt considering Yuki’s name) when Yuki considers her world and it’s an accurate description of her relationship with Itsuomi in particular right now. Yuki’s relationship with Itsuomi feels like gently falling snow, a fluffiness that is gradually accumulating and expanding over time as the two of them hang out and grow closer every time. It seems as if this will be a slow burn type of romance; Yuki has a clear crush on Itsuomi but at this point it’s hard to tell if he likes her romantically or merely as a friend. I have my suspicions (I mean just look at the title), but at this point it seems like Itsuomi is still feeling out his relationship with Yuki. He already has a number of other friends who speak languages other than standard Japanese, he’s trilingual and actively learning a few more languages, so it’s just a matter of time before Itsuomi decides if he wants Yuki to be simply another of those friends or if the connection they’re forming goes even deeper.
I’m not the biggest fan of slow-burn stories but A Sign of Affection is so cute (and I also like the background relationship between two of their friends that is also developing) that I plan on sticking around and seeing how things progress!