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Manga Review: After the Rain Volume 1

Alternate Names: Koi wa Amaagari no You ni, Love is Like after the Rain, After the Rain (MAYUZUKI Jun), Koi wa Ameagari no You ni
Year: 2014 – ongoing
Author/Artist: Jun Mayazuki
Genre: Seinen, Romance, Drama, School Life, Slice of Life

Yes, I have finally decided to read this sucker, after circling this title for several weeks. What tipped the scales was learning that the series was recently adapted into an anime. Anyway, I liked the premise of this series and, shock-horror, the first volume was a delight to read.

Akira Tachibana’s life took a turn when she had an ankle injury. This forced the promising runner out of the sport and led to her working at a family restaurant. The seventeen-year-old has developed feelings for her fourty-five-year-old boss, Masami Kondou, a divorcee with a young son. We learn, over the span of the first volume how much his presence has impacted her life.
Masami Kondou is well aware that he is not a young man anymore. Whilst he doesn’t know that the mature young woman is in love with him, he is clearly attracted to Akira and spends a bit of time worrying and thinking about her. We also see Akira trying to decipher the meaning of his actions towards her, the product of her lack of experience in matters of the heart.
How will their mutual attraction for each other fair in the light of day. How will the two move forward?

The organic manner in which the relationship between Tachibana and Kondou develops over the span of the first volume is such a delight to watch. They are such relatable characters, and it is easy to root for them. The age gap is not a big deal because Akira is an adult, with a maturity well-beyond her seventeen years. She sees something in Kondou that others are too blind to see. Kondou has some mild flaws, but he is such a kind fellow that shoulders the burden of the entire restaurant. In this, he shows his sense of self-worth and responsibility.
In the background is Akira’s schoolmate and long-time admirer Takashi Yoshizawa. As adorable as he is, Takashi spends most of his time trying to mold himself into what he believes Akira likes to be in order to get her attention. The poor thing doesn’t stand a chance but I cannot help but wish for his happiness because he is such a good-hearted character. The introduction of several other female characters provides some hope for this energetic little bunneh. (Why on earth does he remind me of Tamaki Suoh?) 
The minimalistic nature of the storytelling so far works as reality isn’t just going from one disaster or drama to another. Those lulls in the chaos can tell us almost as much about one’s character as when they are dealing with family problems or trouble at high school. This is certainly the case with Tachibana, who spends a lot of time reflecting on her life now that she cannot run anymore. Whilst she is sad to see an end to that part of her life, her strong character dictates that she has to move forward rather than live in the past. It also gives her a chance to make sense of her feelings for Kondou.
Artwork? The linework and character designs are gorgeous. A lot of folks have commented on the design of Akira in particular. Whilst I concur that her design is awesome, we can’t overlook the wonderful contrast with that of Kondou. He is a little dorky, but I keep smiling when I see the two characters in a scene together. (so cute!!) In any case, the artwork does an excellent job of showing rather than telling us about the characters and the world that they inhabit.

I could go on with some other points about the series based on the first volume. However, I think that you guys should just dive right in. The first volume is a lovely read, with no “lewds” and some solid character development. My verdict? I am willing to give this sucker a rating of nine out of ten. I look forward to reading more of the series in the weeks and months that follow.

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Manga Review: Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun Chapters 11-15

Year: 2011 (ongoing) [English translation]
Author/Artist: Izumi Tsubaki
Genre: Shounen, Comedy, Romance, School Life, Slice of Life

Reviewer’s Note: Chapters 11-15 covers the first half of the second volume of this manga, which covers material from the anime as well. Please note that I’ve also decided to provide an overview of each chapter read, leading to spoilers.

  • Chapter 11: Chiyo and Nozaki go to a shopping mall. They visit various stores eventually heading to a toy store where they meet and discuss figurines with Mikorin. After going back to his place Nozaki tries to get Chiyo to wear a sailor uniform as a reference for his manga. Yes, he does find it difficult to talk about stuff other than work – thanks for noticing!
  • Chapter 12: Ahead of a meeting with Ken, Nozaki, Chiyo, and Mikorin discuss Maeno’s editorial practices. Nozaki offers his usual scathing review of his former editor, citing examples. We see a flashback to his first meeting with Ken after being transferred to a new editor. At the current day meeting, Nozaki and Ken have a meeting about new installments of Let’s Fall in Love.
  • Chapter 13: It is a Seo and Waka chapter this time around. Nozaki, Chiyo, and Seo discuss the way that people react to Seo’s “alter ego” Lorelai. Waka shares his trauma at being targeted by Seo with Nozaki. On a visit to Nozaki’s place, he falls asleep to the music of Lorelai, not realising it actually Seo singing. Waka volunteers to become a part of Nozaki’s manga team in exchange for Nozaki’s song by Lorelai.
  • Chapter 14: In continuation of the events of the previous chapter, we see Waka discussing how to get back at Seo for her constant bullying. He makes the mistake of using one of Nozaki’s shoujo books for tips, managing to compliment her and give a gift of mittens instead of duel-declaring gloves without realizing the mistake… BECAUSE HE IS A MORON! But hey, he is an adorable moron. As for Seo, she is her usual oblivious self as well, but what can you expect?
  • Chapter 15: This chapter begins with Ken pointing out the lack of depth in Nozaki’s male and female protagonists Mamiko and Suzuki. We see Ken prompt Nozaki to think about Mamiko’s motivations, leading to Nozaki bringing Bento lunches to school, him getting into shenanigans with Kashima.

This week’s five chapters play out as they did in the anime series, but it isn’t an issue because the various moments are, at least for an avid fan like myself, repeatable. Love it! Love it! Love it! Time to let out a fangirl squeal of approval… *squee*
I’ll soon be coming to the end of the material adapted for the anime series. It feels a little bit weird but I am also oddly excited to meet some of the other characters, such as Chiyo’s younger brother and Nozaki’s younger sister. I want to see what other silliness this series can provide as well. I am really looking forward to it.

As a side note, I am considering changing my ratings for comedy categories to Aguris or Mikorins based on who the lead is now. I believe it is fitting given that these two idiots exemplify a spirit of whimsy and silliness. In any case, enjoy this adorable gif of Mikorin.


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Manga Review: Monthly Girl’s Nozaki-kun Chapters 6-10

Year: 2011 (ongoing) [English translation]
Author/Artist: Izumi Tsubaki
Genre: Shounen, Comedy, Romance, School Life, Slice of Life

Reviewer’s Note: Chapters 6-10 cover halfway through episodes two five of the anime.

In chapters 6-10, we are introduced to Hori, Ken the Editor, as well as Nozaki’s previous editor Maenoshi who has a tanuki and elephant obsession. We then move to Mikorin’s (Mikoto Mikoshiba) sleepover where he and Nozaki bond over a dating sim. Enter Yukari Miyako, a college student who is Nozaki’s neighbor and one of Maeno’s long-suffering manga artists. Kashima becomes jealous of Hori and Nozaki’s friendship. And some of the cast practice some lines from a script, which confirms Mikorin’s inability to act.

This week’s chapters added in a bunch of new characters and character dynamics to the manga. We also see Mikorin noticing Nozaki’s preference for a girl that looks like Chiyo in the dating sim that he’s introduced to during a sleepover. He reasons that her game storyline is supposed to be the best, which I would assume is a nod to Nozaki’s younger sister Yumeko being scrapped as the lead character of this series.
Whilst there wasn’t any new material added this time around, we do see how well Izumi Tsubaki makes use of each panel. An example of this is when Hori is introduced. As we learn more about his acting, a bunch of dialogue regarding his height in the anime is broken down into a single panel. It was a pretty good demonstration of polish from a storytelling point of view. This series continues to surprise me with things that I didn’t notice in the anime as well. In any case, I will be continuing to read it each week because the bizarre world of Umetaro Nozaki continues to entertain me.


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Manga Review: Domestic Girlfriend Chapters 101-114

Year: 2014 (ongoing)
Author/Artist: Kei Sasuga
Genre: Shounen, Drama, Romance, School Life

Reviewer’s Note: This review covers the last few chapters of volume 11 and all of volume 12. This review contains spoilers.

After helping reconnect Rui with her father and in the pursuit of her culinary career, Natsuo continues her writing apprenticeship. Following the end of summer break, the students return to school. With three days all to themselves, Natsuo and Rui are interrupted during pre-coitus by the storm outside. After Al learns that their parents are away, he uses it as a chance to gauge Natsuo’s interest in Rui and lays down the gauntlet for Natsuo to make his feelings clear to Rui or step out of the way. As the school’s cultural festival arrives, several of the cast will make their move, leading up to Natsuo finally making a decision about Rui.

Chapters 101 to 114 did a good job of making things come to a head for several of the series couples. Whilst our male protagonist Natsuo made numerous mistakes throughout, we see noticeable change as he finally makes a decision regarding Rui. As for Al, we see him doing what he can to make Rui happy, even if that may lead to her ending up with Natsuo. Whilst he would prefer her to choose him instead, he is willing to set his own feelings aside because he genuinely cares for her. This makes Al the best boy in the series. It will interesting seeing how he will be dealt with moving forward in the story.
We also see several other characters to make their own decisions about their love lives. The choice to either confess and/or actively pursue the person we have feelings for is something we can all relate to. The first step is determining if it is a simple crush or love. The next step is making a decision as to how to move forward and sticking with it. The latter is one of the big focuses of this series as that transition from child to adult. By making a choice we are also the consequences of that choice.
Which brings us to the biggest thumbs up for this week’s collection of chapters. Two words: No Hinata. Hinata Tachibana is one of the more irritating parts of this story. She is a train wreck that continually makes her own problems. She rarely follows through with her decisions, which makes her annoying to watch. Thankfully, chapters 101-114 only eluded to her by mentioning the incident in Oshima where she tells Natsuo to move on. The story is much better without her messing things up.
Finally, chapters 101-114 also added a ticking clock before Natsuo, Rui and several other cast members graduate. We see a certain degree of urgency on the part of several characters to make the most of that short period of time before they have to transition to the next part of their life. In the case of Natsuo and Rui, they’ve also decided on their future vocations.

In conclusion, chapters 101-114 did a good job of moving the story forward and in helping several characters grow. Whilst there were a couple of WTF moments (one of which brings back Masaki Kobayashi wearing his infamous duck cod-piece), it was a really enjoyable reading experience that moved along at a reasonable pace. I look forward to reading more of this series.


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Manga Review: A Kiss, For Real Vol 1

Alternate Names: Sekirara ni Kiss (Japanese), True Kisses (German)
Year: 2015 (ongoing)
Author/Artist: Fumie Akuta
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, School Life

Reviewer’s Note: Each volume of this series includes four chapters. Most of the conflict in the first four chapters are internal rather than external.

Chitose has been living a lie since she was little. She’s convinced that by trying to please everyone that she will be happy. However, she never really feels at ease with revealing certain interests and talents with several of the people that she calls friends. When she is saved from a pervert on a train by a handsome boy named Itsuka, her savour dares her to live the authentic life. Whilst Chitose initially starts art classes in order to get close to Itsuka, his words force her to rethink her motivation and finally chose to do something for herself rather than somebody else.

The first four chapters of this series are really cute. The character growth of Chitose in a small period of time because somebody dared her to herself is refreshing given how a lot of manga series try to hard-sell specific products such as articles of clothing and cosmetics to their female readers. I could go on with a little philosophical debate about how physical things degrade over time but then I would also have to acknowledge how the mind can also degrade over time, which could create a rather boring diversion from this review. In any case, A Kiss, For Real feels a lot less like a big advertisement than a lot of modern series.
One of the important locales for this series is an art school. It provides a good background for Chitose to make new friends and improve her artistic ability. However, it does take a nudge on the part of Itsuka at the beginning for Chitose to genuinely take a genuine interest in art. The romance element is there but we also see Chitose figuring out a lot of stuff for herself by engaging in art. It quickly becomes both a challenge and an outlet for the teenager. We also see Chitose make meaningful connections with some of her fellow students.
As for Itsuka, he is a bit of an interesting character. Whilst there is an ample amount of male protagonists that give zero f*cks, Itsuka has a level of insight, intelligence, and talent which are demonstrated without laying it on thick. We also see his obvious affection for Chitose even though she has some mental obstacles. His encourages her to be someone to contend with rather than a fangirl. I can dig it.
There were a lot of other characters in this series. These figures give us further insight into how both Chitose and Itsuka think. This provides further opportunities for storytelling.
The artwork for this series has neat linework but the character and background designs aren’t exactly special. There are good enough to make the characters easy to discern, as well as help convey locale, action, and emotion.

In conclusion, I like what I’ve seen of this ongoing series so far. The artwork is clean and I like the focus of the story. It is certainly enjoyable enough so far for me to continue reading this series. I look forward to reading more of this series in the future.


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Manga Review: Domestic Girlfriend Chapters 1-100

Year: 2014 (ongoing)
Author/Artist: Kei Sasuga
Genre: Shounen, Drama, Romance, School Life 

Reviewers Note: Chapters 1-100 include part of the way through the eleventh volume of this ongoing character-driven series. The first episode of the anime adaptation also went live this current anime season.

A few weeks ago, I spent a bit of time checking out some English translations of various manga series over at MangaRock. There was a lot of franchises that I was unfamiliar with across the wide spectrum of genres but I ended up with my usual focus on romance titles. One of the manga that I ended up giving a run was the curious series of Domestic Girlfriend. I won’t bother writing a quick synopsis of this series as MyAnimeList did a pretty good job of explaining the premise of this series. You can find it here.
What I will say is that this series was oddly compelling and managed to quickly turn into a drama rather than my initial expectation that it would simply be another ecchi harem comedy. In many regards, it reminded me of Scum’s Wish but with significantly less bitchiness. Sure, the love triangle of Natsuo and the Tachibana sisters is frustrating, but it quickly becomes an exercise in voyeurism at the bizarre love life of three rather troubled human beings.
The art in this series is decent enough, pretty similar to Kei Sasuga’s GE: Good Ending, which I read years ago. I do, however, have issues with the periodic fanservice panels included in between scenes as they feel out of place. Sure, the story deals with adult themes such as sex, but the sequences that are included in this manga are tasteful. Perhaps it is some attempt at further convincing the reader that the series is Shounen.
To the elephant in the room, what is up with the cafe that most of the characters frequent? Many of the cast confide in the gay former-Yazuka and occasional crossdresser Misaki Kobayashi well within the earshot of other customers. All a character would need to acquire all of the neighborhood drama and gossip is to either leave a listening device in the cafe or simply hang out there. With all of the secrets floating around the place, how on earth do they remain secret? Just sayin…

Anyway, I would best describe Domestic Girlfriend as entertaining trash. The drama is compelling even if a bit drawn-out at times. I also didn’t hate the cast of characters because we can understand the motives of the people that inhabit the world of Domestic Girlfriend. As such, I will be continuing to read this series. I look forward to reviewing more of this series in the coming weeks.


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Anime Review: 3D Konojo Real Girl Season 1

Year: 2018
Episodes: 12 (English-subbed version)
Genre: Shoujo, Romance, School Life, Slice of Life, Drama

In stake contrast to the Isekai and ecchi series I have recently reviewed, I decided to give an unfamiliar series a watch. A quick series showed up a few shows with the romance listing that wasn’t another rom-com. In this case, I went for the first season of 3D Konojo: Real Girl. It turned out to be freaking adorable and appealed to some of my own nerdy interests. Be aware of several spoilers below.

When socially-isolated anime and game nerd Hikari Tsutsui defends the attractive but blunt Iroha Igarashi from a pushy ex-boyfriend, he gains her full attention. Their relationship will affect the lives of not two but eight people.

Based on internet chatter about this series, the franchise seems to elicit strong emotions on either side of the spectrum. Simply put, people either love it or hate it. In my case, I loved it. It is a coming-of-age school romance with a ticking clock. It was one of those series that also manages to place importance on individuality rather than collectivism.
I found the characters to be sufficiently complex. They are flawed but deep down none of the six teenagers that are the main focus of this series feel out of the scope of what is possible. Teenagers are brash, weird, and often don’t think of the consequences of their actions. They are also capable of kindness even if their ability to convey how they feel is sometimes a mess.
In the case of Tsutsui, he is in completely unknown waters and it is easy to feel for him when his girlfriend isn’t open with him. It also goes to the idea that Igarashi is somewhat clueless about relationships herself. Whilst their relationship is the central focus of the series, we also three two (legitimate) love triangles (Ayado to Hikari and Yuuto to Ayado) and the relationship of Tsutsui’s younger brother and the younger sister of Mitsuya Takanashi. I won’t even count Mitsuya’s crush on Iroha as a love triangle as this is more of a way for him to meet the rather troublesome Arisa Ishino.
Arisa’s own love life is a complete mess. Her friendship with Hikari and Iroha helps her gain a bit more perspective of what a more-functional relationship should look like. (Notice that I didn’t say that HikIro’s relationship was perfect because they are still figuring things out.) Then she starts harassing Mitsuya to date her. This results in some amusing dialogue between Arisa and Mitsuya. It worked really well overall.
Over time, we see growing friendships for the various cast members, as well as several love triangles. This plays out tastefully, with the case of Mitsuya Takanashi being especially interesting. Whilst he initially comes off as a bit of a douche, we also see pride being a big obstacle for him becoming friends with Tsutsui.
Of all of the characters, my personal favourite is Hikari’s best friend Yuuto Itou. Yuuto is a sensitive young man that shares Hikari’s love of games and anime. His trademark Neko beany reflects his child-like naivety. He is such a treasure and cute as a button. YuuAya FTW!!!
The art design wasn’t anything out of the ordinary but it was easy to discern each character, with appropriate backgrounds. The use of color and visual effect was done well, helping evoke certain emotions.

In conclusion, the first season of this series was a pure joy to watch. It was freaking adorable. However, it did draw things out a bit too much at times. It wasn’t to Dragonball Z levels, mind you, but it was still noticeable. This seemed to lessen my enjoyability of the series itself. That being said, I still enjoyed this series a lot and look forward to binge-watching the second season when it is complete.