When a friend told me that when she recommended Ganbara, Nakamura-kun / Go For it, Nakamura! to her comic book reading club and no one bothered to read it, I thought, well, hell, it’s only one volume, so why not?
Turns out? It’s really quite cute.
The basic story is that we have Nakamura Okuto, who self-describes as a “shy gay,” who has been in love with his classmate Hirose Aiki since first clapping eyes on him during opening ceremonies. At the beginning of the story, Nakamura has finally screwed up enough courage to give it a try–he’s going to talk to Hirose for real, in-person (instead of just in his imagination.)
The manga then follows the series of Nakamura’s comical misadventures along the way that leads to a lovely blossoming friendship between the boys.
As you know, gentle readers, comedy is often a hard sell for me (I miss many of the language and cultural references/jokes and I don’t tend to like slapstick humor, in general,) but the hook of the romance kept me reading. To be fair, there really ISN’T a romance, per se. All the sexual tension is entirely one-sided and the biggest confession in the entire volume is Nakamura finally asking Hirose if it would be okay to consider him a friend.
But, as someone who was a “closet gay” in high school, herself, I feel Nakamura’s plight on a very personal level. I was in the almost identical situation in my own drama club, where, I was playing opposite the object of my attraction and the role demanded that she fall in love with me (THANK YOU, SHAKESPEARE, FOR ALL THE CROSS-DRESSING!) So, I mean, some of this, silly as it was, felt very relatable.
I would 100% recommend this, though maybe not to my comic book club, if only because it is very stylized. Though this was published in 2014, the art is intentionally retro and could be off-putting if don’t recognize or appreciate the sort of Akira look of the late 1980s.
I got used to it very quickly and quite enjoyed the look of it–it added a kind of nostalgic charm even, perhaps?
Your mileage will also vary depending on how easily you can consume humor. Personally, I felt this one was very accessible, but comedy is very subjective. Also, it will depend very much on why you read BL/yaoi. If you’re in it for the sexy bits, this has none. There are a few semi-erotic imaginary daydreams that we see in Nakamura’s head, but LITERALLY nothing else really happens that could normally be considered sexy (there is a scene where Hirose is trying to get a bug out from under Nakamura’s shirt that Nakamura finds VERY stimulating, but it is done entirely with innocent intention, and, unlike any other BL/yaoi, we don’t even get a close up on Nakamura’s “distress,” as it were: no pants bulge. This is played entirely for humor, not sexy times.)
It’s cute as heck, though, and, ultimately, very heartwarming.
Of course, what is not shown is the heartbreak Nakamura will face when, after they become close friends, Hirose leaves him for a girlfriend. (Believe me, this was my high school and it wasn’t, at least from my perspective, particularly heartwarming or funny.) But, this isn’t that manga.
This is just a silly, situationally humorous, sweet story.
Which, you know, wouldn’t have killed those comic book book clubbers to try.