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The Winter 2024 Anime Preview Guide
A Sign of Affection

How would you rate episode 1 of
A Sign of Affection ?
Community score: 4.2

What is this?


With these hands, I want to tell you that I love you…

Yuki, a deaf college student, is struggling one day when an upperclassman from her school, Itsuomi, helps her out. Itsuomi isn't put off at all by her lack of hearing and interacts with her naturally. As he gradually opens up a new world to her, Yuki begins to develop feelings for Itsuomi...

Thus begins the pure love story of Yuki, a deaf college girl, and Itsuomi, her upperclassman who travels the world with her.

A Sign of Affection is based on a manga of the same name by Suu Morishita. The anime series is streaming on Crunchyroll on Saturdays.

How was the first episode?

Richard Eisenbeis

At first, A Sign of Affection seems to simply be a heartfelt attempt at showing us the world through the eyes (and ears) of a deaf person. We see the daily issues Yuki encounters—most notably the reoccurring issue of interacting with strangers who are unaware that she can't hear what they are saying. It's easy to understand her embarrassment and how her situation makes her feel isolated and alone. However, this anime isn't just about what it's like to be deaf—the themes it's exploring are more universal than that.

When it comes down to it, this first episode of A Sign of Affection is about how so many of us feel trapped in our little worlds—not only the places and people we know but also our inner thoughts, emotions, and dreams. We are worried about unwantedly forcing our way into other people's worlds while, at the same time, fear letting people into our own. After all, it's the people closest to you that can hurt you the most.

In Yuki's case, the walls that separate her world from everyone else's just happen to be a bit taller than most—making it harder for the people who want to get in even if she wants them to. Luckily for her, Itsuomi is a person who loves exploring different worlds. He does this in the literal sense by backpacking across the planet—interacting with people whose lives and cultures are drastically different from his own. He also does this in the more metaphorical sense by learning languages and being exposed to the ways of thinking behind them.

So on one hand we have a girl seeking a deeper connection with someone and a boy willing to put in the effort to try and see the world as she does. That looks to be the start of a cute little romance anime to me.

Rebecca Silverman

This is, so far, a beautifully animated adaptation of the manga. That means, unfortunately, that the things that make me a little uncomfortable with the manga are also here in full force. I'm going to say this recognizing that, as a hearing person, it may not be my place to have these issues; I can only filter them through my own experience of being someone who needs strangers not to get up in my space. So maybe Yuki isn't uncomfortable with Itsuomi continually touching her as a way to get her attention – physically raising her head, touching her back, etc., even after he knows she's deaf. Just because it goes against what I was taught doesn't make it wrong. But it does make me cringe each time it happens, and Yuki does note that he likes to get into people's (or at least her) personal space. Later, when he gets a kiss on the cheek from a foreign woman, the implication seems to be that he's just spent so much time traveling in other countries that he's become accustomed to a higher level of casual physical contact. I'm just not sure that fully excuses it regarding Yuki.

This is something that I found myself increasingly unhappy with in the manga as it went on, and that may be coloring my views of the anime's first episode. And there's still a lot to admire here. Very few shortcuts were taken when it came to talking; for example, when Yuki was meant to be reading someone's lips, more care was taken to animate their mouth so that you could see the shapes of the words. The sign language is also very clearly depicted, which we see more obviously in the preview for episode two when another character who signs finally appears to come in. (I say "finally" because I find it weird that Yuki's mom doesn't appear to know sign language, or at least doesn't use it.) Is it kind of amusing how everyone has brown and black hair on the train until we pan down to Yuki? Yes, but the expressiveness with which she's animated makes her stand out, not her pink hair or Itsuomi's silver. It shows that things were thought through when bringing this to life.

It's also evident that Yuki is ready to expand her world. Yes, she's drawn to Itsuomi's looks and attitude, but she's also attracted to the fact that he's been out there, traveling, and that makes his world so much bigger than hers. When he asks if he can come into her world, he's letting her know that it has value, even to someone as well-traveled as he is, and that paired with his willingness to learn to sign even just a few things, means everything to her. I'm very much willing to admit that my issues here could just be a me thing because this is otherwise very well done and worth checking out.

Nicholas Dupree

I'm always a little wary when it comes to romances about disabled characters. Maybe I was subjected to too many schmaltzy TV movies that asked stupid questions like "Can love overcome blindness?" or whatever. Still, I always worry about shows like this devolving into inspiration porn. I wasn't too concerned about that going into this show, but it was still a relief to see it tackle the topic with thought and maturity, and even more relieving to see all of that build perfectly into a charming romance.

First and foremost, I appreciate that the show doesn't need to talk down to the audience about Yuki's deafness. They show her living her life and the various frictions and workarounds that come with living while deaf in a world designed for able-bodied folks. Stuff like being approached by a stranger and being lost about how to tell them she can't understand them, or a friend intervening when she doesn't hear someone – all mundane moments that let us connect with her even if we've never had that exact experience. Her condition is a part of her, but it is not her sole defining feature, nor is her life depicted as an endless and tragic struggle.

More personally, all of those elements tie into the distance Yuki feels between her and the rest of the world. My favorite moment is when she thinks about asking for Itsuomi's contact info but feels that writing the request out would be coming off too hard. It's a small but key example of how something most people wouldn't even think about – casually asking for somebody's number – can take on a completely different character when you must write or type out everything you want to say. I like that part of what makes Yuki interested in her crush is how worldly he is by comparison. He goes overseas and speaks multiple languages, and can casually make friends with foreigners, all while she feels insulated from everything but herself. It's a striking contrast that gives texture to our main couple, perfect for building a more robust conflict for Yuki to struggle with. There's a sense that pursuing Itsuomi isn't just about liking him, but about pushing herself to expand her horizons as she enters the larger world, and that's a much richer theme than just asking, "But will this cute couple smooch?"

It helps that everyone here is cute as all hell, too. The character designs' very defined lips take a bit of getting used to, but are rendered excellently. I love the use of color and lighting throughout, letting the world become awash in warm pinks or cool purples to reflect the mood of our protagonist, while still making room for cute chibi asides and expressions. As you'd hope for a series that regularly features sign language, the character animation is also quite nice, depicting body language and more subtle expressions alongside their hand movements. Non-audible communication will be massively important to this story, and everything in this episode says they've got that down pat.

Altogether, it creates an extremely cozy and pleasant watch that still has the substance to avoid feeling fluffy and is far and away the show to beat right now.

James Beckett

This is one of those occasions where you can adjust that score up there by at least half a star, if not a whole one, based on your personal preferences for romance stories. So far as Sign of Affection's premiere goes, its execution leaves very little to complain about. The art and animation look good, and the atmosphere strikes that dreamlike tone of misty, all-consuming first love. For her part, Yuki is a friendly and pretty leading lady whose lack of hearing is never treated in a cloying or exploitative way; she has a perspective of the world that is going to be very unique compared to most anime heroines, and the differences in communication styles will certainly make for good storytelling fodder. Still, thankfully, Sign of Affection avoids coming across as a gimmicky PSA or something of the sort. Yuki's friend Rin is a delight, too, which means we'll probably have a good cast of side characters to get to know. As for our leading man Itsuomi, well…

So, here is where I have to butt in with my pesky "personal preferences" and say that Itsuomi is one of the elements of Sign of Affection that made it so the show left me feeling rather cold, despite how much I could appreciate its production values and all. This might not mean much coming from a very straight male critic. Still, even when I'm personally not attracted to a character in a romance story, I always try to put myself in the headspace of someone who could be, and Itsuomi is just one of those anime hunks that I do not get the appeal of. On a conceptual level, I can see how this young and seemingly naïve girl would be so interested in a guy as worldly and in-your-face as Itsuomi, but in practice, he comes across as a bit of a bore. The one defining character trait we get other than his linguistic skills and his willingness to help a girl out of a slightly awkward social situation is his strange habit of patting and sometimes even shoving Yuki's head with his palm. Is this…cute? Sexy? I guess there could be something to the way his disrespect of social boundaries goes very much against the grain for your usual Japanese leading man, but I don't know. Maybe I'm just tainted by the memory of the one incredibly awkward science teacher I had in high school who would do that to students sometimes because he thought he was being funny and quirky, but to me, it makes Itsuomi come across as a jerk. And not one of the "His gruff attitude belies a deeper level of emotional depth that gets the ol' engine revving" kind of a jerk, either. He's just sort of…weird.

Sadly, when 50% of the pairing that gives your romance anime a reason for being falls flat, there isn't much left to leave you excited to see more. Also, if I'm being totally honest, this series' particular brand of shojo stylization doesn't do it for me, either. I don't dig that Yuki's fingers are shaded, so it looks like she suffers from a circulation problem. While the plush and pillowy lips look perfectly fine on Yuki herself in the more dramatic shots, they just look goofy on Itsuomo. It's like he's constantly doing the Blue Steel pose from Zoolander.

Granted, as I said above, all of these are incredibly personal nitpicks that don't exactly speak to the quality of A Sign of Affection itself, which is pretty good overall. I don't know if I'll ever check back in with it myself, but I'll be happy to hear if it finds a loyal audience of folks who can appreciate it in all of the ways I can't.

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