A psychologically driven manga about bullying, The Love and Creed of Sae Maki is off to a strong start.

The Love and Creed of Sae Maki: SAE-ISMTitle: The Love and Creed of Sae Maki: SAE-ISM
Genre: Psychological, Horror
Publisher: Akita Shoten (JP), Media Do International (US)
Creator: Tohru Uchimizu
Serialized in: Champion Cross, Motto!
Translation: Krysta Uyekawa
Release Date: November 7, 2017

There’s not too many manga about bullying in English. There are manga that use it in their work — for example, GTO with Noboru — but the one I can think up at the top of my head that centers on bullying is A Silent Voice, which has a strong hook (deaf girl dealing with a horrible boy/classmates), and seeing how it was resolved was refreshing.

The Love and Creed of Sae Maki (SAE-ISM) is what you would call a normal story about bullying on the surface. A young girl is not liked by her classmates and needs to be saved. She does find a savior that stops the bullying and changes her perspective on life.

… That’s when things change dramatically for Misao.

The Love and Creed of Sae Maki, translated fairly well by Krysta Uyekawa/Sky Japan, inc, is a manga that Akita Shoten serialized in two magazines. Not sure which it was in first (Champion Cross or Motto!), but it’s a series that lasted four volumes in Japan. I hope it’s because Tohru Uchimizu, who once had a manga serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump, ended it as best as possible and not because people hated it. I mean, that would make me crazy for liking its start.

Misao Kuniki transferred to Seirinkan High School, and she is avoided by everybody. Quiet and not a standout beauty, she caught the eyes of only a few students, and those students call her trash. They throw things at her during class. Essentially, she’s the Rina Hasegawa and the Noboru of this manga, and that’s not a good thing.

However, things suddenly change when Sae Maki returns to school. The class seems enamored by Maki’s beauty, athleticism, and brains. Misao also seems to admire her too, which, even to the bullies, is too much for them. When they threaten Misao to give up her assigned seat, however, Maki catches them and tells them to stop. She then asks to be Misao’s friend, which Misao accepts.

For the next few weeks, Misao looks and acts like a more cheerful person. With Maki with her and no longer being antagonized by her classmates, everything is fantastic. But then comes Maki flatly stopping Misao from going to karaoke with classmates. Maki slamming down a pair of clothes Misao liked at a store. Misao’s wondering what’s going on all of a sudden, and then she finds herself in a situation where she no longer can escape Maki’s desire to have her.

Now she has to figure out a way to get out.

Bullying is forever bullying. It’s not good, and it shouldn’t happen. In this manga, we get different forms of bullying. The first is the new kid who doesn’t present herself that well. Misao comes across as someone who can’t stand up for herself, which made her a prime target for classmates at her old school to bully her, and nothing has changed in her new school. It’s a case where the teachers aren’t informed, and then it’s a case where the students may want to do something, but can’t. Ending bullying is never easy. You really hope someone or some people can step in and put a stop to that nonsense.

Which leads to the second form of bullying. At first, Sae Maki stepping in was a case where someone chose to do the right thing. However, Sae Maki’s only doing it to satisfy her kink, and that first warning sign — when Misao was invited to go sing with a few classmates, only for Maki to jump in and say no — is not great. It then builds, little by little, and then reaches a point where Misao is trapped mentally. Two things are now at play: she’s obviously being bullied by Maki, but she’s also in her debt for saving her in the first place. She’s at a place where it’s hard for her to escape, and it’s psychologically damaging. And it’s terrible.

And yes, also compelling. Uchimizu’s artwork and story telling so far is really good. You set up a pretty good villain, and now I want to see her fail. The only thing is, how do you rescue her? Well, you set up a character who has seen what Maki has done to people, and try to get that character to save Misao. The question is, I still wonder about the dude who wants to save her, Wataru Kokai. After personally witnessing Maki’s twisted personality, he’s now determined to stop her by any means necessary. At this point, he comes across as someone who might have something hidden up his sleeve. And with him wanting to just about end Maki in any fashion, he’s got a tough road ahead, but unless he makes a sacrifice, I’m inclined to believe there’s more to him than benevolently helping Misao.

All of that said, in volume 1 at least, it’s not gonna be easy for them to solve Maki. It seems she has the backing of her former victims (that’s just my guess), if the ending of this manga is any indication. I really just want to know how she became this way. The only thing hinted so far is she lost her mother when she was young and now lives with her dad. Did her dad drive her this way? Does he even know about her issues? There’s a lot of ways this manga can go… and I really want a resolution to all this, so I’m probably going to keep reading the manga.