Total time progressed: –
Total time progressed: Roughly two years.
Total time progressed: Roughly two and a half years.
Total time progressed: Roughly five years.
Bonnouji is a story about two souls. These souls intertwine by “fate,” as the synopsis would entail, and eventually progress into something more. What better way to show this progression than by time skipping? After all, who wants to see a bunch of boring chapters about building a sense of familiarity and comfort between two or more people over the course of a story?
Bonnouji does, because it does just that. With the added benefits of time skips.
The bulk of this manga’s story is spent as a sort of slice of life narrative, showing the progression between the two main characters as they slowly begin to realize their feelings for one another. This is shown through a number of, ahem, eventful situations present in the male lead’s room. Now, you may be wondering, “How can one guy be so eventful through just his room?” The answer is simple: he gets free shit from his brother, who travels the world and sends him random stuff that he no longer cares for. Said garbage includes (but is not limited to) the following things: alcohol, cigarettes, condoms, porn magazines, coffins, kids’ toys, samurai swords, blow-up dolls, and other romantic goodies. With how convenient this set-up is, one would think that this story would be one of self-exploration and risk-taking. And it is. To a very, very small minimum.
One issue that arises is the aforementioned time-skipping. Over the course of 36 (technically) chapters, about five years expire, with two years passing in the final chapter alone. Putting math into the equation, if one were to find the average range of time spent between each chapter, they would find each chapter spans a month in time. Of course, this isn’t the case for each chapter, as some have specific times set, but it’s not entirely far off. It’s almost like skipping to “the good parts” of a story, completely neglecting the build-up and finer details that make it better overall. Not to mention, it makes the sudden interest between characters feel sudden and underwhelming. A fatal mistake, especially in romance.
Underwhelming is one term that could also describe the characters in Bonnouji. The male lead, Oyamada, is nonchalant, understanding, and entirely accepting of every situation. In one way, a nice guy; in another, a doormat. To be blunt, there is absolutely nothing interesting about him at all. The only reason the female lead, Ozawa, comes back to this room in the first place is because of her curiosity towards his brother’s packages. The entire reason this story exists in the first place is because of his room. Hence the room’s name being dubbed “Bonnouji,” which means “Temptation Temple” (according to the manga translation). It comes off as superficial and entirely unrealistic that Ozawa should fall for someone because he just happens to be placed in a favorable situation.
Ozawa isn’t too great of a character herself. She’s 26 years-old, but still comes off as a teenager at heart. Her romantic struggles and inner insecurities are ones that someone of her age should probably not be too worried about.
Do I like him? Oh, my god! I don’t like him! That’s ridiculous! He’s just a friend! Let me just blush and look cute so he’ll fall deeper in love with me! Oh, no! We’re holding hands! Oh, my god! I’m still blushing! Maybe I do like him?! Maybe I’m just horny?! Blue-balled?! Is it the alcohol talking?! I’m gonna think about how I held his hand for the next month! I really wanna go see him after work and use his room as an excuse, instead of the other way around because that makes sense! SEX?!?!?!?!?!??!?!?!?!
A quick tidbit: during the earlier chapters, it showed Ozawa drinking and smoking quite a bit. As the story progressed, it showed this less and less. Now, one can infer from this that she’s becoming more comfortable with herself and her surroundings and she doesn’t feel the need to do so anymore. At one point, she even quits smoking, but continues to drink socially. However, this arises near the end of the story:
It seems she picked the habit back up, but this is never shown. Hell, it never even shows her smoking again after she claims she quit earlier in the manga. Why is this? Did the author get complaints from readers about it? Did the author feel there was no point to? If that were the case, why do it earlier?
I have a certain theory: the author did it to make her seem mature. After all, what better way to show someone is an adult through alcohol and cigarettes? That’s the only way, right? Seriously, someone tell me, because I don’t know. I’m just a kid, after all. I don’t drink or smoke.
Assuming I’m right, that’s pathetic. Assuming I’m wrong, it’s fun to theorize.
Though, I’m being harsh. Bonnouji’s characters are actually far more developed than most other stories I’ve encountered. However, is that really saying much with manga in general?
What fluctuates more than the mood of the story and characters is the art style. Notice the differences between Ozawa in the first picture and Ozawa in the most recent picture. The more recent picture seems more mature, more polished. I suppose a lot of practice and experience will do that, but to notice it in detail is staggering. The art style grows along with the story, and eventually becomes something nice to look at. I had no major complaints about the overall art style of this manga, but it’s an added benefit to see such subtle changes arise over time. The only thing that would come to mind specifically would be Oyamada’s overall design. The author intentionally made him look bland and insipid. It gives more fuel to complain about his appeal as a character.
If I were to read this story earlier, I may have enjoyed it more. The way I am now, I simply can’t enjoy it. There are too many faults with the development between characters. There are too many leaps being taken with the romance. There just isn’t any chemistry. There’s no tension. The drama feels silly. The romance feels too unnatural. The ending is absolutely painful to read. The moral of this story is that when you fall in love with a boy who’s open to everything, you can make the story end however you want it to. Too bad no such human being exists. For better or for worse.
Personal score: C-
Critical Score: C-