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“A Sign of Affection” Warms this Cold Spring— A Romance with Sign Language and Cultural Exchange

Amongst the spring anime of 2024, “A Sign of Affection” looks to be the cozy romance of the season for not just anime fans, but also a much wider audience. With its pilot episode airing on Jan. 6 on Crunchyroll, the story follows Yuki, a deaf college-aged girl, and Itsuomi, a trilingual backpacker who spent a good portion of his life living in Germany and visiting many different countries.

Jannette Emmerick

Amongst the spring anime of 2024, “A Sign of Affection” looks to be the cozy romance of the season for not just anime fans, but also a much wider audience. With its pilot episode airing on Jan. 6 on Crunchyroll, the story follows Yuki, a deaf college-aged girl, and Itsuomi, a trilingual backpacker who spent a good portion of his life living in Germany and visiting many different countries.

As the series progresses, the two obviously develop a romantic relationship, but there’s more to it than that. Itsuomi, a chronic polyglot, learns sign language to communicate with Yuki not simply because he likes her, but because she made him realize that even though he had traveled the huge world, the world Yuki possessed through her signs and expressions was unknown to him.

Conversely, Yuki, who has been deaf all her life, has never been outside Japan and in general has lived a rather sheltered life. Her relationship with Itsuomi allows her to explore the broader world of languages and culture alongside romance and friendship.

“A Sign of Affection,” or “Yubisaki to Renren” in Japanese, is adapted from Suu Morishita’s manga, which began in 2019, and the anime breathes life into the artist’s stunning manga style. The animation is clean, the fashion is stunning, and the characters are beautiful. Not just that, but the use of text and music (and sometimes lack of sound) really elevates the setting and atmosphere of the world Morishita has created.

The series incorporates other kinds of romantic relationships with other cast members, including unrequited love. Unlike many romance tropes or plot devices, “A Sign of Affection” does the unthinkable— The characters communicate thoroughly and healthily, meaning that the misunderstandings and miscommunication often so common in the genre do not exist.

The characters are realistic, but also maintain a wholesomeness and comedy that propels the story forward. One character in particular named Oushi, serves as the common romance trope of Yuki’s childhood friend and Itsuomi’s romantic rival. Yuki calls the way Oushi signs “harsh,” and he is indeed a character that is rough around the edges, however, the series does a good job of humanizing him beyond his trope. Though, it should be noted that there is no love triangle because Yuki does not reciprocate despite his feelings.

Romance genre aside, this series circles around themes of language, communication, and the transition into adulthood independence. Much like the movie “A Silent Voice,” which also features a deaf girl, “A Sign of Affection” carries a weight of reflection to the current awareness in society towards hearing disabilities. However, unlike “A Silent Voice,” this series is not as dark, with an all around warm and fuzzy aesthetic. In particular, I enjoyed learning Japanese Sign Language (JSL) and the German phrase “Ich drücke dir die Daumen,” meaning “I’m pressing my thumbs” which is the German way of saying “good luck” or “do your best.”

While the manga is up to volume 10 by now, the animated series has only four episodes with the first three episodes being free to watch in Japanese dub on Crunchyroll, the English Dub is also available for premium subscribers. The show or manga is great for romance lovers but also for those interested in learning about other worlds.