Good God, this was a hard read. As someone with a track record for despising weak lead characters, this is a test of my patience on a grand scale.
Ranmaru Kurisu is the runt of a family that comprises rough and tough fisherman from a small town. He's delicate and artistic, which leaves him pessimistic and feeling inferior. So, in short, he's exactly the sort of safe-space requiring, self-obsessed, second-guessing and timid character that really rubs me up the wrong way. When there's nothing to offer the main character other than pity, how can you root for them?
The story starts with Ranmaru starting a new school and falling in with the art club. Surrounded by various weird artistic types, he learns how to work as part of a team and put his skills to good use for the benefit of others.
By volume 2 there is at least some hope on the horizon. Ranmaru has flashes of confidence but always followed by long-winded introspection that overplays the soul-searching and left me wanting to slap him. It's probably a generational thing, as coming from a rural background and forced to grow up and adapt at around the same age as the protagonist, I find the constant self-flagellation painful.
Let's tackle the less contentious. The artwork is actually very good, though once again I find the lack of backgrounds across the pages to be distracting. It's actually quite inconsistent in this area, as you'll have detailed panels across a group of pages and then nothing but headshots and white-space across several more. Character designs are sharp and the expressions are well-drawn and engaging.
The surrounding cast is fairly supportive of our main character and there are a few that make the book slightly easier to read for their pro-active and generally upbeat personalities that drag the book away from melancholy.
Ultimately this is a book for those who love a wounded puppy. If you want a character to mother, then Ranmaru is probably one of the most deserving characters ever created, but if you want to read about characters with something about them to root for, you will, like me, find this book enormously hard to stomach.
The book needs to work on its lead character, and I suspect that the point of the series is to watch Ranmaru grow into a more confident and productive young man. Personally, I'm just not patient enough to stick it out - it lacks the humour or charm it needs to carry the journey.