People really enjoy a sob story. That much is obvious.
At the time that I am typing this, Annarasumanara is ranked #55 among MyAnimeList’s top manga/light novel selections. Why is it ranked so high? Because it’s a good story? Because people are too emotionally-attached? Because one of the main characters look like this:
The answer is all of the above.
Well, to say that this manga has a “good story” is somewhat misleading. It had a good atmosphere, like Attack on Titan or Hanasaku Iroha had a good atmosphere. In terms of story, Annarasumanara gets points for trying, but ultimately comes off as faulty. There are a lot of noticeable plotholes that surround its story, almost like the female lead’s leggings at the beginning of the story. The more the characters are fleshed out, the more the story’s holes develop.
If I sound as though I didn’t enjoy the story, it isn’t intentional. The story in itself was sweet. It has a lot of charm to it, despite the fact that it’s been done to death. Your childhood is nice. Don’t think becoming an adult means giving up on your dreams and all that. A story of growth, redemption, and throwing old guys off of buildings. Don’t ask, it’s never actually clarified. And we have our first plothole.
I have to look up the names for the characters, because they’re bizarre for the English speakers. The female lead’s name is Ah-ee. She’s the focal point of this story, in terms of reality. She’s poor and alone with her little sister. Where are her parents? I would say, but I’d rather not spoil it this time. Her life is barren. Full of misery. Tough. Awful. Dark. Woe is me. She makes the best of it, in every way she can. Her development throughout the story is noticeable, though not well-crafted. Then again, with the theme of the story being “Don’t grow up too fast,” would it be better for her to denature instead? She’s likable enough. Perhaps not to hold the entire story.
Il-Deung is the male lead of this story, who becomes important later on in the story, as the beginning portion belongs to Ah-ee. His head made me laugh. Many times. How could I possibly take this story seriously with his fuckin’ head the way it is? More on that later. He’s the model student who’s serious about everything. Of all the characters in the story, I felt most connected to him. Not through my fascination with the shape of his head, but because of his growth all throughout. I believe one of Annarasumanara’s greatest strengths is Il-Deung’s character development. While cliche, it’s a subject that was handled well enough to make him an enjoyable character.
Finally, there is the enigma of the story: L. The so called “real magician.” The one who breaks Ah-ee of her forsake lifestyle. Sort of. He’s also the one who causes most of the story’s plotholes, especially because of his very existence. His entire presence, in the beginning, makes him out to be this deity of sorts. Someone who is capable of performing feats impossible of normal beings. Saving the day at the final moment. Making an otherwise gray world into something beautiful. However, as the story progresses, it is revealed that he is not quite what he seems. This sort of pseudo-magic possibility, mixed in with a down-to-earth reality, is one of the shining factors of Annarasumanara. Unfortunately, the way it executes it leaves many questions for the reader to ponder, both rhetorically and realistically.
Is magic real? Can L perform magic? Can L make all of Ah-ee’s problems disappear? Can L make his own problems disappear? Many questions arise. Some are answered. Some aren’t. Hell, most aren’t. The plotholes are enormous. And, to some degree, it makes the characters feel less identifiable. That’s the biggest flaw with this manga. It wraps up the story in a pretty little bow. No questions asked. No answers given. Everyone lives happily… if “everyone” only included the three central characters.
What is perhaps the best part of this story is its use of symbolism. Through way of color, drawing style, and angle shots, a lot is shown underneath the surface. It evokes a sense of wonder out of an otherwise trivial storyline. It makes the emotional instability of the characters all the more traumatic. It makes the magic feel warm, comfortable. It makes the shape of Il-Deung’s head make sense… I guess. If Annarasumanara did anything truly spectacular, it was through its art. I was really impressed most of the time. The rest of the time I was annoyed with all of Ah-ee’s close-ups.
Is it overrated? Absolutely. In the same way that Our Happy Hours is overrated. Is it bad? I wouldn’t agree. It’s a cute story. And it tries. To some extent, that’s all I ask of a story. That it at least tries to make me cry. To make me laugh. To make me care about its characters. To cover up its plotholes (Tough luck there). For that, I’m thankful. More than I can say about other stories of its kind.
Personal score: B-
Critical Score: B-