For me, Pink Lemonade can be divided into two distinct parts: The first half of part 1, which is contrived and kinda stiff, and the rest of the comic, which is a superb character study featuring some impressively well-portrayed drama.

Pink Lemonade’s gimmick is as simple as a rock: Guy likes girl but girl is absurdly dense. I’ve never liked this trope. Nagatoro, Torodoro, Tomo-chan - it’s in every shoujo plotline ever and I’m sick of it.

It’s not like denseness isn’t based in reality. In fact, my own parents had a similar relationship for years. A couple in all but name, until their colleagues began teasing them for it. But in these sorts of romance plots it gets so over-the-top that it becomes aggravating. I mean, right at the beginning Kou literally says ‘I want to be more than just friends, I want to be someone special to you’. After a certain point it stops being ‘denseness’ and starts becoming ‘denial’.

Now, later in the comic we see that other people have approached Yuna like this disingenuously and used it to toy with her feelings, so it makes sense she’d be skeptical that a gigachad like Kou would be into her, but then why wouldn’t she assume Kou was also acting disingenuously here? As the extras show, she was already skeptical that he even wanted to be her friend and was very slow to trust him in any capacity.

But of course, if she kept her distance like most people in her situation probably would, there wouldn’t be the power fantasy of having the most popular, attractive, and charismatic guy in a 20 mile radius interested in you exclusively. Except there absolutely could be! There’s tons of ways this could work out more believably while still keeping the power fantasy and the comedic overtone.

For example, she could tell him ‘let’s just be friends’ and he could begrudgingly accept that, but over the course of their friendship they become gradually more infatuated wile continually trying to deny it to each other and themselves in the face of mounting evidence. Or, the wording of Kou’s confession could be slightly altered to make it somewhat more ambiguous, causing Yuna to initially misinterpret Kou’s confession just due to being in a hurry at the time or preoccupied with something, but then after moving in with him, quickly ‘realize’ what he meant, and struggle internally with her own feelings towards him and whether she should break it off with him or not, resulting in Kou receiving mixed messages from her to comedic effect. Or, Yuna could turn him down initially, but then they get paired up together somehow, like in a social event or university-related project, and the comedy could come from having to work together while trying to sort out their feelings for each other.

But honestly, I don’t see the need to do this at all. The comedy is mostly dropped by the second half of part 1 and it’s the least interesting part of the comic anyway. Kou helping Yuna to grow and heal from traumatic situations in her past is far more engrossing.

That’s basically what Kou is - Yuna’s therapist. He’s a guy who got all his stats dumped into charisma, and is also almost unbelievably gentle, patient, and kind-hearted. He never forces anything on her, and what makes his romance with her so compelling is that it’s basically the equivalent of trying to get an abused animal to trust him.

He’s completely smitten with Yuna, which is part of the power fantasy, but honestly, it’s totally believable, because despite what the internet will tell you, Yuna’s the kind of girl Alpha males tend to go for. Not the fake Youtube Guru kind of Alpha where they’re buff and powerful and very very rich, but real Alphas. Men who are emotionally stable and not driven by obsession. Men who are charismatic, but not machiavellian. Men who are good-looking not just because of their genetics, but because they have good fashion sense and take the time to groom themselves properly. Men who who can pick themselves up and keep going after a humiliation or painful experience, who are tough rather than strong.

Men like this go for girls like Yuna because they don’t need eye candy or submissive attitudes from their significant other to feel masculine. They want someone worthy of spending the rest of their life with. Someone who will remain gorgeous even as youth fades and fun to be around even if nothing’s happening. Someone they can trust with their deepest secrets and most personal feelings.

Yuna might be short and frumpy, but even though her hair is often messy and her fashion sense revolves around ‘baggy sweatshirt and tight jeans’, she doesn’t just give up when it comes to her appearance and tries to make herself look at least somewhat presentable despite her low self-esteem. It's a sign that she won't give up when the going gets tough in other aspects of life either, and that she's someone who sees the value in taking care of herself.

More than just herself - Her empathy is like an endless ocean. That’s what gives her a beauty all her own. The extent to which she cares for the people around her, despite doing her best to distance herself from them emotionally, is endearing, and her simple dream of being an animator, combined with her physical and emotional frailty brought on by a lifetime of being manipulated and exploited, makes it easy to root for her. It’s nice to see her finally start standing up for herself in later chapters.

As for the writing… the grammar is pretty poor at times, but that’s something you have to expect from ESL comics. It’s not like Fallen Star at least, where the grammar was so bad it was almost unreadable. Still, it’s a bit jarring.

If, like me, you enjoy shoujo comics for cute romances and endearing characters, check out Pink Lemonade - it’s worth reading!

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