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What to Watch: Romance Anime ‘A Sign of Affection’

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Let’s be honest: sometimes you need to relax from a long hard day by watching fictional characters experience the joys of first love. Sometimes fake people kissing can heal you. If you’ve been needing that feel-good, lovey-dovey energy lately, oh boy do I have a recommendation for you. A Sign of Affection is an anime currently airing on Crunchyroll, and it is just the sort of touching romance to cheer you up.

This series follows Yuki Itose, a deaf college student who feels isolated from most of the world, as she falls in love with a fellow student by the name of Itsuomi Nagi. Itsuomi is a well-traveled polyglot whose world seems so much bigger than Yuki’s, yet he’s just as fascinated by her as she is by him. Hand-holding ensues. It’s awesome.

A Sign of Affection’s last episode of season 1 airs next week (March 23, 2024); here’s my pitch on why you should check it out!

A Sign of Affection provides a look inside the world of a deaf girl

Don’t worry, this show may have plenty of tooth-rotting fluff, but it has a real heart to it. Although this is a romance, the core of this show is a deaf girl struggling for connection. Given her limited options for communication, Yuki’s world is very contained. A Sign of Affection does an excellent job of showing the audience the world through her eyes as she slowly gets to have new experiences.

The visuals and the sound design come together to put us in her mind. First of all, the visuals are pretty solid, with eye-catching colors and fluid animation. Originally, the art style threw me off, but once you get adjusted to anime characters having lips for once, the character designs are wonderfully expressive.

The colors in particular are great at showing how Yuki’s world gets bigger, not only narratively, but visually. Isolated moments become dull and gray, while moments with her love interest Itsuomi burst with color.

Yuki in A Sign of Affection. (Crunchyroll)

By far the best part of the show is how the visuals and sound let the audience struggle to communicate just as Yuki does. Sometimes, we get to see from other character’s perspectives with full sound (or subtitles, for hearing-impaired viewers) and sometimes the sound cuts out, leaving us with only Yuki’s internal narration and a close-up of someone’s lips as she fumbles to understand what people are saying.

If Yuki instead chooses to write down or type her thoughts for her friends, it works fairly realistically. Sometimes a quick text can flow with a conversation, while in other scenes the audience is left to sit in silence while reading messages sent on a screen being written out at an awkward pace. Along with this comes a further sense of isolation as we see Yuki sit next to someone, both of them looking at their phones rather than each other.

Then there’s the sign language. This show makes me have a feral longing to learn all the sign language that I can. When we finally see Yuki have a fully signed conversation, it’s almost startling how well it flows in comparison to her other forms of communication.

The first sign language sequence is both smoothly animated and fully voiced. It feels like you are finally watching Yuki communicate as everyone else gets to, although with the added sting of the few people who can sign with her not necessarily being the people who make her feel good about herself.

Yuki even describes the tone that people sign in, truly showing it off as a language of its own rather than just a substitution for spoken Japanese. It’s beautifully done. If you watch A Sign of Affection and do not come away with a need to learn sign language, it would surprise me.

This anime series is a well done romance

Romances are hit or miss for me. Sometimes I see a whirlwind fictional affair and go, “Girl, you met him last Tuesday, let’s calm down.” Sometimes, two people who have known each other for a day touch hands and I think, “I’ve always loved the way they love.” Thankfully, this show is pretty solidly in the second camp.

Itsuomi and Yuki in A Sign of Affection (Crunchyroll)

A Sign of Affection manages to make moments I would normally cringe at swoon-worthy. There was a moment early on when I actually giggled. It was a fully audible noise of joy. People at the coffee shop stared.

The thing that makes this pairing so good is that it feels like the two have equal reasons to be compelled by each other. We aren’t just mashing Barbies together and shouting ‘kiss!’. Yuki and Itsuomi’s relationship is a natural extension of their characterization, rather than their character traits being an excuse for romance.

Itsuomi is a well-traveled guy with a love of language and unique perspectives. Yuki is a woman full of curiosity and a wonder about what life could offer. It makes sense that they like each other and that they want to learn from each other. Also, if you’re a fan of relationships where both people are just a little weird, this one is for you. Yuki breaks out into happy dancing out of nowhere, and Itsuomi chases people around with frogs. It’s delightful.

Bear with me here. Technically, this is a love triangle, but it doesn’t particularly feel like one. Yuki’s childhood friend Oushi, one of the few people in her life fluent in sign, is in love with her. He is also a huge jerk. Granted, he’s trying his best, but that doesn’t stop him from hurting Yuki’s feelings, and it doesn’t seem like she has an interest in him at all.

Typically, I am not a fan of love triangles in a show like this, but with the last few episodes, I’ve come around. It feels less like a love triangle and more like Oushi being pulled into emotional competence while becoming better friends with both Yuki and Itsuomi. If you typically stray from this trope, I wouldn’t tell you that’s a reason to be turned off this show.

Watch A Sign of Affection on Crunchyroll or pick up the manga

All in all, this is a very sweet series that is worth your time. If you want some heartfelt romance and an uplifting time, look no further. The series is based on the manga A Sign of Affection by suu Morishita. If you find you enjoy the series and want to check out the manga too, find out more via Penguin Random House.

You can catch season one of A Sign of Affection streaming on Crunchyroll. Are you planning to check out this anime series or the manga? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord!

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