The Girl with the Sanpaku Eyes, Vol. 1

Google the term sanpaku, and you’ll quickly discover why the word resists easy translation. In its most basic sense, sanpaku means “three whites,” a condition in which the iris sits a little higher or lower in the eye than normal, exposing more of the schlera. The significance of having sanpaku eyes, however, seems hotly contested, with some websites proclaiming it a curse and others declaring it evidence of great emotional turmoil. The heroine of Denpa Books’ newest series is neither doomed nor crazy, just deeply frustrated that her chronic Resting Bitch Face makes it difficult to show Katou, her crush, how cool and awesome she thinks he is.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of The Girl with the Sanpaku Eyes is the artwork. The illustrations are rendered in a warm, pink palette that captures Amane’s agitation more effectively than deformations and sweat drops alone could do. The character designs are somewhat generic—Katou is a standard-issue shojo prince, right down to his mega-watt grin—but Amane and her siblings are drawn with genuine individuality, revealing their shared family curse: all three look meaner than they are. Amane, in particular, stands apart from her galaxy-eyed peers with her cat-like pupils and scowling expression that make her look more like a bosozoku gang member than a sweet, timid high school student.

Though artist Shunsuke Sorato convincingly shows us how flustered Amane becomes in Katou’s presence, there’s almost no dramatic or comedic tension in this series; by chapter three, it’s obvious that the sweetly hunky Katou likes Amane, too, and is eager to reciprocate her affection. Therein lies the biggest problem with The Girl with the Sanpaku Eyes: the story is so one-sided and predictable that it barely registers as a rom-com, since there’s almost nothing at stake in Amane and Katou’s exchanges. For middle-school readers navigating a first crush, Sorato’s storytelling approach will feel reassuring, but for older teens The Girl with the Sanpaku Eyes may be too anodyne to be truly engaging.

A review copy was provided by Denpa Books. Volume one will be released digitally on August 25th at the Denpa Books website and September 1st on additional digital platforms. The print edition will be released on September 15th.

THE GIRL WITH THE SANPAKU EYES • ART & STORY BY SHUNSUKE SORATO • TRANSLATED BY DAVID GOLDBERG • LETTERING BY GLEN ISIP • DENPA BOOKS • 128 pp. • NO RATING (SUITABLE FOR READERS AGED 10+)

5 thoughts on “The Girl with the Sanpaku Eyes, Vol. 1”

  1. LG says:

    “Sanpaku eyes” was also used to describe a character in Log Horizon. I don’t think it was ever explained what it meant, and I didn’t look it up, so I came away with the impression that it meant “someone with evil-looking eyes” due to the way people viewed that character.

    Hm, this has aspects that would normally be my catnip, so I may at least give it a shot via library checkout.

    1. Katherine Dacey says:

      That’s how Shunsuke Sorato is using the term: to mean that the heroine looks evil or crazy. I hope it’s clear that I didn’t think Sanpaku Eyes was bad; it just felt so familiar that I had a hard time getting excited about it.

      1. LG says:

        No, that came through, but I think I’m hitting the point in my manga reading too – I’ve read so much stuff over the years that titles I might have liked more, say, 15 years ago just don’t stand out as well now. Those kinds of works can be worth a library checkout to me, but not necessarily a purchase (and my precious, ever shrinking shelf space, since I still haven’t jumped on the digital manga bandwagon).

        1. Katherine Dacey says:

          I hear you! I was a much more prolific reviewer when all of this was new to me. I don’t know how anyone works as a professional television or film critic; I think I’d run out of things to say after a while.

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