The Gentle Empathy of Misaki Takamatsu’s Skip and Loafer

Source: https://sevenseasentertainment.com/series/skip-and-loafer/

By: Beata Garrett  | @clearsummers

In celebration of Skip and Loafer’s anime adaptation, I want to recommend the manga to those interested or on the fence about reading it. I can safely say that Misaki Takamatsu’s manga is one of the most feel-good mangas I’ve read in a while.

Skip and Loafer begins with country girl Mitsumi moving to Tokyo and beginning high school. She has a frighteningly precise map of her entire life planned out and is determined to succeed in everything so she can return home as “an upstanding citizen” (Chapter 1, Skip and Loafer). 

Mitsumi’s naivete is great because she feels like a genuinely optimistic yet serious character. I also like that she’s not leaving her hometown because she hates it and idolizes the big city, but because she wants to help her town after building a successful career in the government. She’s also independent and confident without it coming off as forced:

Source: Chapter 1, Skip and Loafer

In contrast, the male lead, Sousuke, is a carefree, verging on careless, boy whose good looks carry him easily through life. Mitsumi is excited for the school’s entrance ceremony, but Sousuke couldn’t care less. However, Sousuke’s a genuinely nice guy underneath the easygoing exterior. He helps Mitsumi take the right train to the school so she can give her student representative speech at the ceremony. Their first interaction isn’t the typical meet-cute as Sousuke is put off by her intensity, but it is endearing.

At the ceremony, Mitsumi’s rose-colored dreams of her future are shattered when she vomits on a teacher and becomes known as “the puker.” On the bright side, Sousuke becomes her first friend. 

As the volume progresses, Mitsumi’s vomit incident introduces an important, recurring theme in Skip and Loafer–looks are deceiving, and everyone is going through complex internal processes not visible to others.

More Than Meets the Eye

Source: Chapter 1, Skip and Loafer

As I read the volume, I was reminded of Hyouka and My Youth Romantic Comedy Is Wrong, As I Expected. In both those works, the protagonists are cynical youths with a condescending outlook on their classmates and high school. As the plot progresses, the protagonists have to reflect on the ways in which they’re wrong and how their jaded natures are just defense mechanisms rather than objective ways of viewing the world. 

Skip to Loafer is special to me because it accomplishes the same thing as Hyouka or My Youth Romantic Comedy without shaming any of the teens. While there are other manga and anime set in high school that doesn’t feature cynical protagonists, Takamatsu’s manga is light-hearted while still treating the characters’ struggles seriously. 

This is most evident with Skip and Loafer’s depiction of Mika. She’s initially presented as the mean girl when she’s cold to Mitsumi, and warns her to stay away from Sousuke because many girls (including her) are interested in him. Mika undercuts girls who threaten her in any way like with Mitsumi, who’s friends with Sousuke, or, another classmate named Yuzuki, whose looks draw attention away from her. 

As the series progresses, we get more insight into the self-loathing and low self-esteem issues Mika’s dealing with. Even though Mitsumi’s first impression of Mika is as a cute and stylish girl (Chapter 1, Skip and Loafer), Mika constantly compares herself to others and isn’t as confident as she appears. She feels superior when she thinks she’s better-looking than Mitsumi, but grows gloomy at the presence of more beautiful girls, like Yuzuki. Mika’s discomfort around Yuzuki reveals that Mika’s proud to be stylish but doesn’t actually see herself as physically attractive.

Source: Chapter 5, Skip and Loafer

Similar to Mika’s dislike of how at ease Yuzuki seems with her looks, Mika’s dislike of Mitsumi stems from envy that she can be her true self. In Mika’s eyes, Mitsumi has never faced the same pressures she has had to go through to be conventionally attractive and to live an ideal life. 

Source: Chapter 8, Skip and Loafer

Of course, Mika isn’t happy even though she has achieved a glamorous life filled with glamorous people. It’s strongly hinted that she has an eating disorder as a result of this struggle to keep pretenses. Mika’s past experiences lead one to believe that, ultimately, her dislike of both Yuzuki and Mitsumi comes from the fear that despite trying so hard, no one will ever want her the way they would want other girls. 

Source: Chapter 8, Skip and Loafer

During practice for a class competition, Mitsumi asks Mika to teach her volleyball. Mika later confronts Mitsumi about why she didn’t ask a nicer person for help instead. Mitsumi admits that she knows Mika is “harsh” but tells her, “You’ve worked very, very hard to get this far, and it shows” (Chapter 8, Skip and Loafer). It’s not meant to absolve Mika of her mean comments towards Mitsumi, but it is an acknowledgment of Mika’s determination even if it was directed at an unfulfilling goal. 

The manga shows how much this means to Mika as she reflects on how she denied herself food, learned makeup, and practiced volleyball so she could have a “glamorous” life. Skip and Loafer could’ve easily shamed Mika by portraying Mitsumi as Not Like Other Girls and Mika as repulsive, but it extends a hand to her instead. We empathize as we see that while learning to unravel the internalized shame of not fitting beauty standards is important, it’s also important to recognize the work (and by extension, the pain) girls put into fitting them too. 

As a result, Mika and Mitsumi become actual friends. Mika compares herself less and less to other girls and even helps Mitsumi make up with Sousuke after a fight (Chapter 11, Skip and Loafer). Mika also reflects on how she judged Sousuke too quickly and that her feelings for him were rather shallow:

Source: Chapter 14, Skip and Loafer

This consistent character development is unusual for the character often relegated to being the “mean girl,” and it’s part of what makes Skip and Loafer special. I love Mika because the manga takes the time to flesh her out and doesn’t use her as a plot device or a character to discard after the lesson is learned. 

Mika is constantly growing as a person and her struggles to see herself in a kinder light strike a bittersweet nostalgia within me. Even if you don’t end up liking Mika, there are plenty of other characters who receive great character development too throughout Skip and Loafer, like Sousuke or Tokiko. It’s something to appreciate from Takamatsu’s work. 

Positive Transgender Representation

Another reason I love Skip and Loafer is because of the positive transgender representation in it. Like the manga’s other characters, Mitsumi’s transgender aunt, Nao, is humanized with a subtlety other works (Boy Meets Maria, for example) could use. 

I often feel as if fictional works that represent transgender folks place them in a very serious light, and uses them to teach readers a lesson or to earn brownie points. However, Nao is shown to be funny, supportive, and fashionable–all of these things help establish her characterization, and the manga doesn’t shy away from the fact that she isn’t always read as a woman.

Source: Chapter 2, Skip and Loafer

This moment gives the reader enough clues about Nao’s transgender identity without burdening the character with having to explain, come out, or even justify their identity. The moment passes quickly too, as Mitsumi continues their conversation but holds her aunt’s hand in a show of quiet support.

It’s also important to see the acceptance of Nao’s identity so casually in other interactions. For example, in Chapter 14, Nao meets Mika, and Mika is briefly confused about whether Nao is Mitsumi’s aunt or uncle. They quickly clear things up when Nao asks Mika to call her “big sister.” 

In the next chapter, Nao asks Mitsumi to make sure her friends know Nao’s gender identity to avoid any awkward reactions. The group is still a little awkward at the beginning, but quickly grow to like Nao. It’s nice that the manga conveys this but quickly moves on. It’s similar to what I wrote in my review of Sasaki and Miyano in the sense that more positive and casual depictions of LGBTQ+ people have a positive effect in real life. 

Go Read Skip and Loafer

There are many more great characters who get their turn to shine in Skip and Loafer, but I’ll stop here and encourage you to experience the manga for yourself. The growing romance between Mitsumi and Sousuke feels realistic and not overly saccharine or convenient. I genuinely root for the two to know each other better but also love spending time with everyone else in Takamatsu’s manga. Skip and Loafer has everything I like about the slice of life genre, and it pleasantly surprises me with how much care it gives to every character. 

Overall, I’d rate this series 10/10. You can buy Skip and Loafer digitally through BookWalker for $8.18 per volume. 

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