Mangaka: Haruka Fukushima
Otome and Minami have been step-siblings for the past five years, and they get along pretty well. Their relationship is definitely challenged, however, when their grandmother moves in with their family, forcing the two “siblings” to share a room–which Otome immediately curtains off into “her” part and “her brother’s” part. Still, the two work through the complications and face life together with good cheer, if some awkwardness. Honestly, they rather obsess over each other, although it’s hard to tell if that’s in a “sibling” way or in some completely different way. Whatever the case, even when they’re out dating people they like, they’re constantly talking and thinking about each other, to the extent that everyone else is aware of how obsessed they are. . . . Now if they can only admit to their own feelings!
Cherry Juice is, in many ways, your typical shoujo manga: cute, a little sketch, romantic, and funny. The characters are good, although probably not great–enjoyable to read, but not particularly memorable, I would say. I think the same applies to the story–it’s a classic romantic comedy, a little heavier on the drama than the comedy but fairly well balanced. The biggest draw–and also the biggest issue–is the titillation of a seemingly forbidden relationship. Although, I’ve heard that this would be technically legal in Japan (not positive on that), it’s still weird. Weirder still, Otome and Minami’s family is involved and seems to support their relationship. So yeah, weird, but cute and funny if you can get past that. The art is also typical shoujo– cute, but not outstanding and a bit rough at places. Screentone use was somewhat immature, but it seems to suit the early-teens demographic for which this was primarily written. So . . . if you have some time to kill and are in the mood for shoujo, I think Cherry Juice would be a cute way to fill the time (it helps that it’s only 4 volumes long); however, I wouldn’t recommend this for those looking for a serious, well-developed manga.
Note: It’s interesting to note that the major problems I have with Cherry Juice are also present in Me & My Brothers: romantic involvement between step-siblings, less than impeccable art, weird screentones, etc. Yet the impression I take away from the two is completely different–largely because Me & My Brothers is full of amazing characters, the plot is better executed, and the art is stylized in a way that suits the other facets of the story perfectly. I guess what I’m really saying is, if you’ve got time on your hands for a shoujo manga and haven’t read either, Me & My Brothers would be my true recommendation, hands down.