Thoughts on Tsurutsuru to Zarazara no Aida

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I’ll admit, the cover image for this manga’s fourth volume made me interested. Just look at it. It’s insane. I almost wondered if it was a psychological viewpoint of the male’s anxiety to the female’s objective beauty and the expectations of living up to her qualifications. What lies inside is nothing of the sort, but good on the mangaka for pulling me in through non-bland imagery.

TZA, as I will now refer to it, is about as mentally challenging of a read as a Dr. Seuss book. Everything is straightforward and easily digestible, so much so that the behavior of the human characters is often compared to the behavior of reptiles in the same chapter, signaling the “point” of the behavior. To some degree, this makes the story too blatant in its whimsy, marking it as a soft narrative with inconsequential trifles. If that sounds promising to you, TZA has enough wholesome merit to warrant a look.

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Despite its non-challenging plot, the appeal to this manga lies almost exclusively within its cast of characters. In a very rare turn of events, the manga showcases two young people within a romantic relationship for almost the entirety of the story’s length. This in and of itself makes it somewhat interesting, particularly with the direction the mangaka could take to make the relationship interesting. Unfortunately, the relationship is barely more intriguing than the episodic nature of the narrative, with, again, very little drama or conflict to challenge the state of their relationship, outside of misunderstandings and the oh-so-cliché “Am I good enough for her?” This in mind, one can only assume that the hill TZA will choose to die on will be tranquil and sweet; it’s wholesomeness or bust, the whole way through.

Other characters fare somewhat better, albeit with limited development. As the main couple takes top priority, side characters only sporadically get the chance to stand on their own within the narrative. When this occurs, they not only become as interesting as the main couple, but sometimes even more interesting, as they have situations that benefit from the intrigue of suspense, build-up, or irony. It’s a shame the mangaka didn’t spend more time to build upon the foundation of other potential relationships or character involvement—what was shown throughout 49 chapters, they have some potential with the pen.

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The atmosphere in place, I would assume the true purpose of TZA is to display a carefree and wholesome (this is starting to become a trendy word) display of young love, with all the insecurities and commitment that come with it. Partially serviceable, many times each chapter focuses on having the main couple make each other blush with cute statements or unexpected intimate actions, such as the act of holding hands or calling each other affectionate names. Whatever conflict arises comes in the form of (usually) the male lead thinking he’s not good enough for his partner, only to have the female lead say, “You silly billy! I love you just the way you are! And I’m actually just as nervous around you as you are me.” I would’ve liked to have seen more direct viewpoints from the female lead, so that I could have some confidence that the story isn’t simply self-indulgent male fantasizing, but I can’t have everything.

Aesthetically, the artwork is generally passable, and occasionally cute enough to emphasize the more wholesome moments. Much like one would expect, the mangaka goes all out during moments of peak emotional transcendence, further evoking the feelings of “D’aww!” and otherwise. I did enjoy that no character looked quite like the other, with the mangaka inserting due diligence in sorting characters by facial structure, hair type, and facial features such as freckles or glasses. I wouldn’t recommend TZA for the art quality alone, but it’s something that one can look forward to, if not glide by it as if it’s completely natural.

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One other thing worth discussing is the use of reptiles upon the story, which has become a bit of an ongoing shtick within TZA. One ongoing “conflict” (it’s not, really) that comes between the relationship of the main couple is that the female lead adores reptiles, while the male lead can’t stand them (as his mother ironically owns a reptile shop). As stated before, the reptiles are often used as storytelling devices, mirroring the behavior of the human characters to showcase (or manipulate) the motivation behind characters’ actions. This is fine, though ultimately it feels like a side-point to a bigger projection of young love and a wholesome sense of security during childhood. And as a lot of stories with side-points do, it tends to overcompensate its shtick when it feels it isn’t important enough, so the story features basically every character’s opinion on reptiles, which very rarely lands between love or hate. Those coming for potential reptilian detail and information will likely be disappointed.

By no means a putrid read, TZA somewhat lingers within an aura of wanting more while simultaneously wanting simplicity. Hinting at potential developments between side characters while teetering the romantic relationship between the young leads, it also wants to showcase reptiles and the trials of self-doubt, with no aspect getting enough treatment to feel whole. It’s kind of a mess, which spills over with the ending as abrupt and inconsequential as it is, as though the manga were cancelled suddenly. I can feel the mangaka wanting to make something timeless, but without the time and content available to give everything its proper development, it ends up buried in the deeper recesses of the mind. In the end, it will likely be remembered as “That one cute story with lizards in it.”

The rating for this title and all others can be found on MyAnimeList.

3 thoughts on “Thoughts on Tsurutsuru to Zarazara no Aida

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