A Story About an Otaku Saving Jeanne d’Arc (and Other Stories) by Maki

So, original Twitter comics seem to be a thing in 2021. I guess mangaka got bored at home on lockdown as well?

I got turned on to a series of mini one-shots by a Twitter mangaka known as Inkoshimi/Maki. Baka-updates tell me these were “published” by Twitter, but I scrolled through a lot of inkoshimi’s Twitter feed and never found the originals. They may be there, somewhere? (I did find the other project that Maki is associated with, The Mutant Wants to Kiss His Human Girlfriend., which I have not read, though it is being/was serialized in Shounen Jump+)

However, the shorts are weirdly fun. The ones I found include: “A Story About an Otaku Saving Jeanne d’Arc“, “

However, the shorts are weirdly fun. The ones I found include: “A Story About an Otaku Saving Jeanne d’Arc,” “A Story About a Kitsune Summoning a Devil for Marriage,” and “A romantic comedy about a brother and sister who discover that they are not blood related.

My favorite might be the romantic comedy, since it is one page and is an entirely visual joke. If you click-through, you will wonder, as I did, how these two EVER thought they WERE blood related, given that one of them is a demon. But, you know? How many manga are there where this sort of thing does exist??

So, it made me laugh.

If you are willing to hunt around, there are quite a few others. There are several collected at this site: https://hachirumi.com/read/manga/maki-s-oneshot-collection/ (I did, at least, see the post of one of these lion vlogger ones on Maki’s Twitter feed–so it is probably correct to attribute all of these to the same person.)

At any rate, not much to spoil here, since most of them are not longer than a couple of pages at most. Feel free to click-through, if you are so inclined. The jokes aren’t complicated, but still very entertaining.

Enjoy?

Doraneko to Sakana  by Kurusu Haiji

In order to explain my enjoyment of Doraneko to Sakana, I have to confess that for many years I also kept fish in a home aquarium. I was never advanced enough to have salt water tanks, but I spent many years tending over white mountain minnows, tetras, ghost-glass shrimp, and… well, a giant carp that wasn’t supposed to keep living, but did. I subscribed to fish-keeping magazines.

I was kind of a fish otaku.

So, yeah, this is a yaoi where the meet-cute takes place in a fish store and the romance develops based on a mutual appreciation of fish keeping.

It’s kind of perfect (for me.)

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The official description reads: “Recently dumped, Hajime has been healing his broken heart by admiring the fish at his local pet store. One day he was admonished by the store clerk Hayami as ‘being in the way’ and bothering other customers. However, Hajime really wants to have a pet fish and the best person to help him learn how to be a responsible pet owner is the cold Hayami.”

I am always a fan of manga that teach me things.

I think this is part of the appeal of slice-of-life for me, but there have been several manga that I’ve read over the years where there is also additional back matter that goes deep. Believe it or not, this yaoi is one of those. At the close of each chapter, there is a little informational page explaining the needs of each of the fish featured, complete with color photographs.

For me, that just added to the charm of this ridiculous set-up. So we have our two heroes with names that are almost identical: Hajime and Hayami. Hajime is an out gay man who finds hanging out with fish good for his soul. As the description says, he recently had a bad break-up and so he started hanging out at the local pet store just watching the fish swim around.

I mean, maybe this isn’t as universally relatable as I imagine it is, but this is a thing I have done. When my child was small, it would be kind of an adventure to hit the local Petsmart or wherever and just look at each of the fish tanks. So, I instantly related to Hajime.

Hayami is a character type I tend to like, as well–the blue oni. He’s grumpy, reserved, heavily focused on himself and his own inner obsessions, and, under the right circumstances, super-hot. Particularly, in my opinion, when paired with someone like Hajime–carefree and a little hotheaded.

It starts, as these things often do, with a misunderstanding.

It’s not that Hayami dislikes that Hajime has been coming around. He just thinks that Hajime’s interest in fish is casual and that’s something he simply can’t stand. When it becomes obvious that they both share an interest in fish, love begins to bloom… and it is nurtured when Hajime calls Hayami over to his house when he thinks one of his shrimp has died. Of course, despite a bunch of clumsy flirting, Hajime figures he has no chance with Hayami, since Hayami is OBVIOUSLY straight.

This seems to be driven home when Hayami returns to Hajime’s apartment to retrieve something he left behind (his shirt, actually,) and stumbles into this scene…

…the horrible ex trying to get back together with Hajime.

This sets off a classic scenario, where our two boys avoid each other, each thinking that the other one hates them/isn’t interested. They end up getting back together under fairly ridiculous circumstances (a YouTuber who is hoping to do an expose on Hayami’s terrible customer service) and are just starting to become proper boyfriends when the scanlations run out…

I am not having a lot of luck lately.

These may still be on their way? I do believe there likely only one and a half chapters to go to finish this one, so hopefully it will be complete relatively soon. To be fair to the scanlaters, the translation reads well, so someone is putting a lot of effort into this one.

I am also a fan of the art style? I tend to like clean and simple lines and strong, definite characters.

This is not necessarily a great panel to showcase the art, but I thought it was funny.

At any rate, is it for you? Who am I to say? I will tell you that most of the story up to chapter 4 is set-up. There is a bit of kissing and so I have no idea if the rest will be explicit or sweet. We can all hope for whatever our favorite outcome of that might be!

I liked it? But, when it comes to fish, I’m easy.

Gay Fuuzoku no Mochigi-san – Sexuality Is Life by Mochigi

Continuing the theme of sex workers and the sex industry, I discovered this autobiographical manga called Gay Fuuzoku no Mochigi-san – Sexuality Is Life about a gay man who spent his early adulthood working in a “gay brothel,” a place he calls an urisen, in the Shinjuku neighborhood of Tokyo.

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I found this whole thing deeply fascinating.

The art style takes some getting used to as our autobiographical main character draws himself as a kind of lump in shorts–a badly rendered SpongeBob Squarepants. Other people are drawn more realistically, though occasionally another character will appear more cartoony, like himself. (The other character is also described the the characters in the manga as less attractive, so this might be some kind of code the mangaka is using to separate himself from the hotter dudes? I’m not sure.)

We discover in the early chapters that Mochigi is a stage name. It was the name our narrator-mangaka chose for himself when he was first hired at 18 at the brothel, or, as he calls it, the urisen (though Google seems to believe that term simply means ‘rent boy,’ not the establishment.)

Regardless, there’s a very funny scene where he goes for his interview and immediately gets hired. Charmingly, he surprised that no one asks to see his resume.

What follows is informative, but not terribly sexy.

Mochigi makes being a rent boy sound very much like an ordinary job. He focuses the story on the day-to-day business, friends he makes among the people he works with, and the challenges they face with clients outside of the bedroom.

Yet, I couldn’t stop reading it.

I suspect that a lot of what he talks about is white-washed. For instance, there’s a chapter in which Mochigi, who has become a part-time manager, comes back to the main office to discover one of the ‘boys’ who works there stealing a wallet out of the lockers. He randomly mentions in passing amount of times stuff like this happens or how rarely it gets reported since the work they do is not legal to begin with, but that’s not the focus of the chapter. Instead, it’s about how Mochigi has a sit-down with the perp and lays on platitudes and everything is solved neatly and nicely.

I mean, this is autobiographical, so I image this is very much the way Mochigi remembers this moment… or prefers to, at any rate. As with the trans woman’s story of her own life (the The Bride Was a Boy), if he wants to highlight only the positive, that’s his prerogative.

However, it does a bit of a disservice to the audience since it implies that rent boy work is generally pleasant and supportive.

That being said, I think that if you are curious about this lifestyle and/or its connection to what it’s like to be GLBTQ+ in Japan, this story might be for you. There was, for instance, a very interesting chapter about a non-binary sex worker who only rarely worked through Mochigi’s shop because they didn’t feel welcome in a space that was very much male-oriented. They talked about how they preferred to ply their trade in a gay bar, because everyone was welcome there–including trans women, non-binary folks, and cross dressers. None of whom had a place where Mochigi worked.

There is also an extra chapter that is a glossary, which lays out how the term ‘uke’ is actually used in the Japanese queer community. (Hint: it’s a verb. The noun to describe the person who enjoys that position is actually, as has been discussed here in the past, “neko.”) Likewise, there are other extra chapters where Mochigi answers reader’s questions, like, “Is it okay for me, as a straight person, to go to a gay bar?”

It’s a fascinating little manga.

If you can get over the weird art, I recommend it.

I will say that, too, that one of the things I enjoyed about this manga is that you can sometimes tell that the author is very much a gay man. The humor in it is a lovely interplay between devastating and self-deprecating, in a way I feel only a certain kind of gay man can pull off.

I mean, here he is drawing himself like a toad saying that it’s no wonder he has a lot of repeat customers because of his “rare natural beauty and unparalleled conversational abilities.” That’s so charming, especially when followed by the return snipe, “Try looking in a mirror once and a while.”

And there are a lot of moments like these? When asked to considered what he wants to be after he finishes university, Mochigi jokes, “A magical girl!”

I feel there are many queer otaku who can relate.

At any rate, according to Baka-Updates, this manga is still on-going in Japan. There are currently three volumes, though the scanlators I found were only up to chapter 17. Once again, this manga is not available for legal purchase, as it has not been licensed in English. So, we are dependent on the pirates for more of this.

Hopefully, they will continue to give it to us.

Oiran Chirashi / Scattered Courtesan by Takano Yumi

This is the first time I’ve read straight smut and I really don’t even know how to feel.

But, okay, I picked up Oiran Chirashi / Scattered Courtesan because I was looking through a list of manga that featured oiran, and this was the first one that someone had scanlated.

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Apparently, it’s pretty common in Japanese fantasy to literally fall into another world. It’s like you’re just walking down an ordinary stairs, trip, and end up in the past. There doesn’t have to be anything magical about the steps, you just have to seriously injure yourself. Honestly, if you get hit by a bus in Japan, you can also travel through time. I mean, I sort of get the connection–it’s a near death experience, and we all agree in whatever culture that being at the doorway between life and death is a very magical space.

Even so, I find this… an odd conceit? But, once you know this is just a thing, it’s easy enough to roll with.

So, the heroine of this manga, Hanamori Haru, is an ordinary office lady, until one day she is hit by a bus. Her accident catapults her back in time, specifically to the Edo period’s Toguwara Shogunate’s Yoshiwara District–which was basically a state sponsored red light district.

I guess you did!

She runs into a very helpful guy, Shouhei, who turns her into the madam of a house he’s associated with as the hair dresser. Yeah, I thought he’d be gay, too, but it turns out not only is he straight–which is only one of a number of unbelievable surprises about him.

But, back to the story.

Haru ends up panickly confessing to Shouhei that she isn’t ready to be a prostitute because she’s a virgin. He’s really sympathetic, but says, “Yeah, well, you have to do what you have to do to survive. We all do.” To be far to Haru at this point, she’s seen how hard core the madam can be and there don’t seem to be a lot of options.

But, she likes Shouhei, so the next time they’re alone, she asks him if he will be her first.

He’s surprisingly gentle and Haru falls for him.

This being a smut, a large portion of the plot revolves around Haru adjusting to life as an orian. We discover it’s not lawless. While she can’t refuse any customers, she can refuse certain acts. As the madam explains to a guy looking for rough trade(bondage, etc.), this is for playing a marriage only (which, I mean, excuse me, some people’s marriages do include BDSM, but okay, whatever.)

Through out all of this, Haru and Shouhei find secret times to be together and get it on. At one point, while they end up in the bath together, Haru discovers that Shouhei has a modern watch. So, he’s a time traveler, too.

When she confronts him, they make plans to try to escape back to their own time together. But, HOW they’re going to accomplish this remains unclear until the establishment is on fire. Then, they have to try to leap out a high window to make their escape… the act of near-death falling propels them back into the now…. where Haru realizes she never ask Shouhei his surname.

Or what year he came from.

While she was back in the Edo period, however, her phone had picked up a message from our time. She was able to open it and there were kind words of encouragement. So, thinking on this, she decides to reply now that she has a signal again.

Turns out, Shouhei was from four years earlier and he’d been searching for her this whole time.

That’s… I mean, pretty romantic, Mr. Hairdresser! The story ends with them happily-ever-aftering in the now.

I ended up enjoying the story, but I am still fairly traumatized by the straight sex. This is labeled as ‘smut’ on many sites, so the sex was fairly graphic, although more “R” rated, than “X.” We got a lot of her boobs and a lot of positioning from him, but none of his salient bits. I have no idea if it was sexy, I kind of boggled at a lot of it, honestly. However, I suspect 90% of you might find it to be your sort of thing. In which case, I would recommend it, I think?

Your mileage may vary due to passing interest in sex work. As has been discussed here before, I am almost always up for any story involving sex workers. I don’t know why. It’s just a fascination I have, I suppose. That was, in fact, why I started looking to see if there were any stories I might enjoy with oiran.

The art is on the wispy side? I never found our heroine, Haru, to be terribly cute, though Shouhei isn’t bad–though very blandly bishi, IMHO.

For me, it was more of an experimental read. I’m not sure how the experiment worked. I’ll get back to you on that.

Warera Contactee / We are Contactees by Morita Rui

Apparently, I am attracted to very weird stories lately.

Warera Contactee/We Are Contactees is a story about hope, but the kind of hope that people perusing a likely unattainable dream have. The conceit of the story is that a burned out office worker runs into an old classmate of hers who is building a rocket–not to go out into the universe with, but with which he wants to project movies to aliens.

Yes, he wants to send a movie projector into space.

Yeah… I’ll explain more under the cut.

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The story opens with our burned out office worker, Kanae, getting sexually harassed at a nomikai, an after-work drinking party. She leaves the party early and runs into an old classmate of hers who initially seems like a creepy stalker, Nakahira Kazuki. Kazuki is weird, but what he wants from Kanae is not a date, but to show her the rocket he’s been building, afterhours in his and his brother’s factory.

Something happens to Kanae when she sees the engine test that Kazuki performs for her. Something that had been dead inside her, lights up.

Initially, it’s dollar signs.

Kanae would really, really, REALLY like to quit her job, but she needs money and she initially figures there has got to be a way to monetize Kazuki’s rocket–maybe through crowdfunding or a rich backer. She actually tries to go the rich backer route, but that falls through.

And… she sort of forgets about trying to make money off the rocket, because she discovers that the reason Kazuki is so obsessed with building the rocket is because of a moment from high school that the two of them share. While out filming Kazuki’s indie film, they both saw a UFO. It’s described only as odd lights in the sky, but the event clearly affected both of them deeply.

Kazuki has become singularly focused on wanting to show the finished movie to the aliens.

To the point of becoming a rocket engineer.

It should be a stretch, but it sort of works for me? Kind of like the art? It’s very crude as you can see above, but it ends up, like the story, having a certain kind of irresistible charm for me.

The story eventually expands to include a neighborhood woman who runs the shop who is sleeping with Kazuki’s older brother. The older brother owns and manages the factory. He and Kazuki don’t get along for reasons that we are only beginning to understand when the scanlations stop. They were last updated in January of this year (2021), so there *is* a chance that the scanlators are still working on it, but I have my doubts.

I was sufficiently into this story that I considered trying to buy it legally, but it has not been licensed in English, much to my deep sadness. It doesn’t surprise me. The art is not flashy and story is complex strange–and very adult. This is not the kind of story that markets well to English-speaking librarians, which I suspect is the main market for a lot of the manga coming to the US (though maybe not. Feel free to drop a comment if you know the answer.) Alas, I have no hope of reading this in its original language since it was published in the category of seinen, which means no helpful Furigana for someone like me, who is barely at shounen reading level.

The manga was nominated for the Manga Taishou Award, which is voted on by bookstores and awarded to new manga with eight or fewer volumes. So, booksellers liked this one.

So did I.

I do not know if this will appeal to anyone besides me, however. I am, as many long-time readers here know, very much a fan of quiet slice-of-life stories that kind of go nowhere and do nothing. One of my favorite anime of the previous season was Super Cub, which is literally about a girl who gets a motorcycle…. and rides it around and occasionally, when the drama is high, fixes it up.

So, yeah.

Do with that information what you will.

Mazu wa, Hitokuchi by Moto Haruko

You know what I’ve always said: any romance can be improved by FLYING PIGS!

Actually, no. Not only did I never say that, I’m not sure anyone, anywhere has ever said that, much less thought it. No, wait, apparently that’s EXACTLY what Moto-sensei said when she sat down to write Mazu wa, Hitokuchi.

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So, yes, Mazu wa, Hitokuchi is a Boys’ Love romance story about a pig farmer, Oda, and his childhood friend, Hasegawa, where the conceit is that the secret that Oda and Hasegawa share is that Oda’s pigs FLY. I mean, they are both also harboring a secret crush on each other, but, yeah, the big drama revolves around the fact that Hasegawa might have spilled the beans about the flying pigs to a reporter while drunk.

I briefly thought things were going to turn sexy when the reporter shows up at Hasegawa’s office and shows him what amounts to a blackmail photo (Hasegawa and the flying piglet that has attached itself to him.) At that point in chapter two, I thought, “Oh, okay, it’s going to get hot because the reporter is going to be all ‘have sex with me or I expose your friend’s secret!'” But, that’s not how it goes? In fact, the threat gets dropped and then nothing much happens. The set-up seems to be an excuse to have Oda worry about what’s going on with Hasegawa and maybe cement his feelings towards him? When the final conflict comes and the reporter kicks Hasegawa’s little piglet, it seems like the solution will be that Oda is going to punch the reporter’s lights out. Except, that’s when Oda’s mom shows up, drops some sage wisdom about how love is part of raising and the reporter…. walks away?

I suspect we were supposed to make a connection to the fact that the reporter has a daughter and maybe Oda’s mom put some thought in his head about that? Like, maybe he should go take care of his own instead of picking on the boys and their pigs???

It’s not really clear.

Then, despite love confessions having been dropped in the previous escapade, we do not get sexy times, but instead get a whole other plot involving a girl who is a fan of Oda’s mom????

I do like the art, quite a bit–the boys and the piglet are awfully cute, but I am a little unclear, by the end, if this relationship is actually going to work out. Oda is VERY into it, and Hasegawa is NOT. They never seem to resolve this? I guess they’ll get it together WHEN PIGS FLY. (Ha, ha. GET IT??)

But, in all seriousness, I suspect there’s some kind of humor thing going on here that I am completely missing. This is clearly meant to be a silly story with a romantic backdrop.

It’s complete in one volume, though. There’s not a LOT to recommend about it, from my point of view, but there’s also nothing awful about it. If the silly concept amuses you and you can roll with plots just fizzling out, then I say check it out.

Kounodori : Doctor Stork by Suzuki Yuuju

I was actually looking for a little fun yaoi to read when I came across this medical thriller, Kounodori: Dr. Stork. about an jazz pianist who has a secret life as an obstetrician.

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I am really not sure why I ended up reading all of the scanlated chapters currently available… especially since the manga reads very much like any one of a million hospital dramas, with the exception of it being entirely focused on pregnancies and the complications therein. It’s even fairly episodic, in that–for the most part–each chapter is a self-contained complication, which is usually the title of the chapter. In each, you get to know the pregnant mom, her partner, and their situation much, much more fully than you do the doctors treating them.

That’s not to say that the main doesn’t get character moments of threads of plots, but they really aren’t the focus. Not even the title character, Kounodori Sakura. In fact, it’s only by the last chapter currently available at the time of this review (40,) that we get the full extent of his backstory.

I think Kounodori: Dr. Stork ended up holding me in its thrall, because it reads a bit like watching an episode of “House” or “ER” or any number of popular doctor dramas… with an added amount of Cells at Work? One of the things I found myself really enjoying with Cells at Work was all the random medical information you’d get about what happens to the body when it experiences any trauma–from a sneeze to a heart attack. This very much as the same thing going on, except, unlike Cells at Work, it focuses on problems specific to WOMEN.

On of my biggest complaints about Cells and Work and Cells at Work: Code Black is that the mangaka was very willing to tell us all about what happens when a guy can’t get it up in Code Black, but the body of the person in the original was entire sexless. I know that there are spinoffs that go into Babies and a few other things as I reviewed them here, but, as a woman, I really noticed that the initial default bodies seemed to be male (or if the first one was supposed to be a woman, there was no discussion of her sex life or her period.) So, it’s nice to have something like Kounodori: Dr. Stork that deals very much with issues unique to women… and doesn’t shy away from any of it. It’s all there, all talked about, with diagrams. There are even chapters that deal with things like domestic abuse, as well as other emotional effects of childbirth and pregnancy loss.

The sub-plot of Kounodori’s musical persona “Baby,” is probably the least interesting and underdeveloped part of this manga (at least by chapter 40; there are 32 volumes published in Japan) so it may get developed more later. It seems that Baby exists to give Kounodori a venue to express all of his complex emotions dealing with birth and death and loss and joy every day. I mean, it makes a kind of sense, but it’s not really focused on much in the manga–except that everyone on staff at the hospital seems to be very into “Baby” and, of course, almost none of them know that they’re talking about someone who works with them. It’s a kind of a running joke? It’s just that the joke is sort of lost on me since I’m not that interested in that part of Kounodori’s life at this point.

We do follow a few of the side characters, although the one that I’m most interested in, the surly Shirakawa, has only had a few hints dropped about what makes him tick–one of which is quite heartbreaking.

The art style is odd? It took some time for me to get used to how Kounodori, himself, was drawn? But, as the series progresses the art actually improves, IMHO.

I don’t know, do I recommend it? It really depends on your interest and tolerance for medical mysteries and, frankly, tragedy. The outcomes are not all heartwarming. In fact, several of the chapters are deeply heartbreaking. However, if you’ve ever want to learn about pregnancy, this is definitely one for you. There’s just a LOT of medical information packed in here.

Also, if you are interested, there is a live-action drama of this. It was a mini-series produced in 2015. If want to check it out, the first episode is here: https://dramacool.bz/watch/kounodori/episode-1.html

I definitely enjoyed this, so you may as well.

Sekai no Owari ni Shiba Inu to / Roaming the Apocalypse with my Shiba Inu by Ishihara Yuu

This full-color, yonkoma manga might not be the weirdest post-apocalyptic manga I have ever read, but it certainly is the cutest.

Sekai no Owari ni Shiba Inu to/Roaming the Apocalypse with my Shibu Inu is the story of a girl and her talking dog, Haru, as they wander a world filled with space alien farmers, kindly kitsune, prank playing tanuki, and philosophical talking insects.

I’m not going to do my usual spoiler break because there really isn’t much more to say about this odd little manga. Its art is absolutely gorgeous. The doggo is especially well-drawn and adorable.

My sense is that some of the humor is lost in translation, if you ask me, but it’s easy enough to enjoy just for the bonkers nature of the whole scenario. There are several running jokes, including the idea that Haru thinks a bit too hard whenever his master asks him a question.

But, I don’t always have to understand every moment to appreciate a manga. To be fair, strangely, I am a fan of post-apocalyptic slice-of-life, which this totally is.

Act-Age by Matsuki Tatsuya

Not knowing any of the controversy around the mangaka, I picked up the first two volumes of Act-Age.

I only read the first volume before deciding it was not for me.

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The way I do reviews for this site is that I pick up anything that looks interesting, read it, and, often in the course of writing a review about it, do some very basic research. You know, anything Google decides to tell me on a quick scan. It was in this last phase when I discovered the news that Act-Age‘s mangaka, Matsuki Tatsuya, was arrested and convicted of molesting random teenage girls on the street. https://www.animenewsnetwork.com/news/2020-12-23/court-hands-suspended-sentence-to-act-age-manga-writer-tatsuya-matsuki-for-indecent-act/.167765

This manga was popular enough that it was still running in Weekly Shounen Jump when the mangaka was arrested last year. VIZ Media Shueisha had released twelve tankoban of Act-Age. Viz apparently only managed 2 English-language editions. (Thanks for the correction from a MangaKast reader, Margaret O’Connell.)

Even not knowing anything about what was literally last year’s news, I just didn’t much like this one. The concept was a tough one for me.

Act-Age centers on a young woman named Kei and a genius director Sumiji who meet at an audition for rookie actresses. Kei Yonagi comes from a poor family. Her father ran out on her and her two younger siblings, leaving her to fend for the family herself after their mother’s death. When the opportunity comes to chase her dream of becoming an actress, Yonagi jumps at the chance. Catching the eye of Director Sumiji Kuroyama, Yonagi’s opportunity to shine has come. However, Yonagi’s talent for acting comes from her extreme and innate ability for Method Acting, one that various individuals note as potentially self-destructive.

Method Acting has always struck me as weird. I honestly think that part of any appeal this manga had was wrapped up in just how strange Method Acting and Method Actors can be, in fact. It’s sort of the secret thrill of watching a train-wreck, right? And, to be fair, many of us–myself, included–are often on board for all the crazy of other people as entertainment. If that weren’t true, things like Reality TV shows would never be popular.

And there is something wrong with Kei, our main heroine.

Other characters in the manga comment on it, and even her own family says that she can be scary. Matsuki-sensei draws her very blank-eyed/dead-inside. She seems to be almost a sociopath, getting all of her emotional reactions from movies and/or other outside of herself sources. Part of the story’s drama is whether or not Kei has anything of her own? She seems to, but apparently that can be overwritten by these other characters she becomes while acting.

I’m sure, subsequent to Matsuki-sensei’s arrest, people have analyzed all of the implications of the fact that this whole dramatic tension is reminiscent of brainwash or mind-control porn. But, I actually think this question could have been an interesting one. In the first volume, we see a scene where Kei has been brought in as an extra to be part of a crowd that witnesses a child being murdered by an evil samurai. Kei, being a Method Actor, initially has a hard time separating herself from the drama–what would YOU do if you saw someone murdering a child? You’d interfere, right? She does this a couple of times because she keeps imaging HERSELF in the moment. The skeevy director who has picked her up and is training her, Kuroyama, explains that no, your job as an actor is to inhabit the body of someone who WOULD watch a child die in front of them and not interfere.

That’s a sort of interesting thought.

The problem I had with the story was that is was one of those where the action felt very choppy to me. Scenes just sort of jump around as does the tone? Like it will be serious one moment and then kind of over-the-top silly the next? Also, there is a very strong consent issue going on, wherein Kei, at first, literally runs away from the director and he stalks her in his van to capture her. I mean, these sorts of scenes appear a lot in manga, but you notice it a lot more once you know what you do about Matsuki-sensei.

I also wasn’t a fan of Matsuki-sensei’s art style in general? But, I don’t think I would have stuck with the story, regardless, because I used to be a theater person and it’s not news to me that theater geeks are all human garbage fires and drama kings/queens/lieges. To put it another way, this is the sort of train wreck that I have already seen enough of in Real Life ™.

Recommendation? It’s up to you? At this point, I suspect Act-Age is one of those manga people will read BECAUSE a scandal is associated with it? And, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you want to do a little armchair psychology on Matsuki-sensei by reading and analyzing his work, go for it. For me, I just wasn’t that into the story or the art. I’ll be moving on without reading the second volume, even though I have it in my hands.

Tsukiatte agete mo ii ka na / So, Do You Want to Go Out, Or…? by Tamifuru

I don’t know why there is this trend in yuri to have almost too-true-to-life protagonists that are kind of bad at getting it on, but I kind of dig it?

It’s probably not really a trend, since I’ve really only seen it twice. Both here in Tsukiatte agete mo ii ka na / So, Do You Want to Go Out, Or…? and My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness (and its sequel, My Solo Exchange Diary, which I reviewed.)

SPOILERS

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The general story of Tsukiatte agete mo ii ka na / So, Do You Want to Go Out, Or…? is that one night, after a boy/girl mixer, Saeko and Miwa drunkenly come out to each other. After talking about how hard it is to find dates with other women, they agree to just try it out with each other.

What follows is a VERY MESSY, very realistic relationship manga.

It’s also very gay, in that the manga tackles all sorts of issues with being queer–from homophobia to just random observations and ruminations about queer life. Like the time that Miwa realizes that everyone tends to assume everyone else is straight, like they are.

The women are fairly dysfunctional, but, as I said, in a very realistic way. There’s a lot that happens that is very familiar to having that first girlfriend for the first time and all the awkwardness about it all–who do you come out to? Is it okay to have sex in your family home? What do you say when people give you the side-eye, or worse, suss out that you are, in fact, together? What about sex? Can you “count” lesbian sex as “real” sex?

I mean, maybe this resonates with me because I’m an old queer. I have no idea if this feels real to people who are coming out as queer today. Miwa and Saeko are very ALONE and that fear of never being able to find someone else like them definitely motivates a lot of their more dysfunctional decisions. This was written in 2018, but there’s no sense that Miwa or Saeko are aware of the larger internet community of queer folk out there, although we do see that a lesbian couple on a TV show was instrumental in Miwa’s coming out. (Representation matters!)

There was some debate in the comments section on the site I read this on about whether or not the story would follow the arc of the one-shot (which is included as a chapter 0 in the link I’ve posted above.) Readers seemed disappointed that two women who stumbled into a relationship together might find happiness somewhere else.

I’m not so sure I agree.

I sort of like the idea that they are just doing some figuring out together and that maybe their “true love” exists elsewhere. That’s not a story we get very often? I would really, really love it if they broke up and stayed friends like so many of the lesbians I know in real life. It wasn’t even that long ago that I called an ex to help change the brakes on my car, and there’s usually this big, understood joke that we all just sort of stay in the same deeply fraught friend group, after.

You don’t see that part of lesbian life depicted much.

Also, I really liked that the mangaka gave some thought to the straight people in Miwa and Saeko’s lives. The majority of Miwa and Saeko’s friends are straight and some of them know about the couple and some of them don’t. Saeko has a really great guy friend, who is straight, and Miwa has a guy who crushes on her but decides to be a good best friend. Again, these are not relationships the you often see modeled in a yuri.

To be fair, the initial picture I posted is about as steamy as it gets. We never get full nakedness or many active sex scenes. Instead there’s a quick jump to the sweaty afterwards, talking, and more talking, while lying together mostly naked in bed, with all the salient bits fairly well covered.

I feel the average shounen fan service gets smuttier than this.

Speaking of, Miwa’s crush is the ubiquitous otaku. He has a backstory flashback–like a lot of side characters get, actually–and we get this lovely line when he first meets Miwa.

I have no idea, however, if I should recommend this one. It will really depend on why you read yuri.

If you’re in it for the sexy-times, there really aren’t a lot of them. Saeko talks about being horny a lot, and, they do get it on, albeit off screen, but it’s not what I would call “smutty” by a longshot.

If you read yuri for the relationship and the romance… I don’t think this one is going to work out in a traditional sense. Read the one-shot and decide from there, I would say.

I probably enjoyed this because it is deeply slice-of-life. There’s a lot of people just hanging out and living their lives as college students in Japan. If you’re weird like me and that’s your jam, you will probably really enjoy this one.

The other consideration, if you start this, is that it seems to be still on-going. You may have to wait for scanlators to do their thing.

As I’ve said, I like it? I’m not sure I LOVED it enough to anxious be waiting for chapters to drop? But, if I stumbled across the tankobans, I would probably buy them. I like the art style. I find Miwa very attractive, actually. It can be a bit cartoon-y, but it’s the kind of cartoon-y that I tend to like.

Edited to add, according to Mangakast reader Marfisa, this is “…up to volume three and has been licensed in English by Seven Seas, with the slightly altered title ‘How Do We Relationship?'” THANKS for the additional info, Marfisa.