Entries from the Dead: Jitsu wa Watashi wa

jitsu wa watashi wa

[Dropped after 25 chapters.]

A manga as the subject this time around! Just look at how innovative I’m becoming in my absence.

With this long-running manga finally ending its run of Engish scanlation, I thought it would be appropriate to share my own story of trying to read, and eventually dropping, a story full of clichés and its almost parody-like execution of such. Initially intrigued by the distinct art style, a friend was also belly-deep into it and seemed to find it a decent read. That was all I needed, despite how lousy the anime adaptation was in terms of average score; after all, anime adaptations don’t necessarily correlate to its source’s success.

In this case, it kind of does.

Now, I haven’t seen the anime (nor do I want to), but if it’s anything like this manga, there’s little to be found here. After twenty-five chapters, twenty-five measly chapters of twenty to thirty-something pages of story, I was exhausted. The characters, the expressions, the way characters seem to dance merrily upon the misery of others… it was too much. Shoehorn in the typical interpretation of love, mythical creatures, and two teenagers sticking together for mutual interest only to find that they cherish one another in spite of that, and one has Jitsu wa Watashi wa: a manga that brings nothing new to the table.

One difference, besides zanier-looking expressions and art style, is the parody nature of the series. It reminds me almost of Baka-Test in everyone’s near-disregard for others’ safety and privacy and well-being. Things happen and get crazier and crazier; why? Because they can. Because the mangaka has to keep the ship afloat somehow, so let’s turn the ship into a plane that runs on cacti while escaping the depths of Jupiter’s fourth moon while Guns n’ Roses’ “Sweet Home Alabama” plays over the jungle gym placed neatly within the hair follicles of Ronald Reagan’s corpse. To top it off, serious emotional situations occur all the time, and seem to never leave the once quiet and shy male lead, who apparently cannot tell a lie… but manages to break that one distinction with nearly every chapter.

It tries too hard, frankly. To be funny, silly, serious, satirical, and impactful all at once. I adore innovation in any subject, but Jitsu wa Watashi wa is an example of trying to do too much with too much space available. If this entire post was just me talking about the kind of kooky situations I can come up with concerning the plane that runs on sunflower seeds that seeks out the ruby medallion hidden inside the outer region of the pupil of Lawrence Taylor’s neighbor’s subconscious, terrorized by the looming suspicion that Lawrence Taylor will evolve into a creature unknown to man and flash the neighborhood with its seventh appendage while simultaneously roaring like a savage horn beetle, would it be entertaining? To some, sure, but there is absolutely no coherency present, no reason to care about any of it. One is wasting their time reading my input on the plane that runs on red-colored origami found on the desert planet—

Don’t read it, unless chaos mixed with the clichés of typical high school romances tickles your fancy enough that it may provide some morsel of enthusiasm. Just don’t hope to make it past chapter twenty if you’re not totally committed to abandoning your expectations, while also holding onto them for dear life.

Updated Thoughts on Miman Renai

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I did this in my last post for this manga, too, but I’ll reiterate just to be safe:

I do not condone the relationship between adults and young teenagers. This work is purely fictional and about 50% unrealistic and 50% overpure.

In my first trial with Miman Renai, I thought the series was a cute, albeit unrealistic and uninspiring story of forbidden love between an overly sweet 29-year-old and overly sweet 13-year-old. The fact that both are so overbearingly pure may make this series a turn-off based on how scared the male lead, knowing his position, is of confessing his feelings for what is essentially a child to him. Many others, I’m sure, would be turned off by the taboo themes presented right within the synopsis, but reading through this twice, neither are jumping at the chance to sleep with one another, much less hold hands (The covers are a lie). So, it’s taboo in potential only.

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Upon my second reading, much of my feelings of the story and characters are the same way. Kurose, the 29-year-old, has a behavior around Tomoe, the 13-year-old, that would appear as incredibly creepy if the story were from her perspective. While the reader has the benefit of knowing he has no ill intentions because they follow his mindset and character, from Tomoe’s viewpoint, looking up her school, taking oranges to her, and infiltrating her school on what is essentially a Parent-Teacher Conference are all very vivid red flags. Kurose working at an adult gaming company also doesn’t help. Of course, she doesn’t question any of this due to her incredible naivety. The realism of this manga, only from the perspective of Tomoe, immediately becomes shot because no one would be this trusting of Kurose’s behavior. The fact that she is trusting, and blindly devoted to him at almost every turn, makes for an incredibly eerie representation of what leads kids into being kidnapped, or worse.

Taboo/icky possibilities aside, the struggles of this forbidden romance are fairly standard, as well. People tell Kurose (and vice-versa with Tomoe) that they shouldn’t be seeing one another, while the two leads themselves struggle to find a balance between being friends and remaining faithful (Though the latter is more just from Kurose’s mindset). A lot of the drama could’ve been further improved by letting it fester within the minds of the leads (God knows Tomoe could’ve used some depth), as instead the manga decides to bring it up as a means of driving the two apart only to get back together some two or three chapters later. Not to mention, there’s a lot of underlying side conflict, including Kurose’s traumatic past of being bullied and his relationship with his game company’s busty president, that are barely explored whatsoever. This one-track mindset keeps the focus primarily on the leads’ relationship and nothing more, which is disappointing with how wishy-washy a lot of it is, mostly through misunderstandings.

With how I describe it, one would think that this series was rather unimpactful. On the contrary, after reading this for the second time, the score shot up tremendously and catapulted to among my favorite manga. So what makes this series so wonderful?

Expression

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Vitality

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Look at this wonderful burst of energy, enthusiasm, a love for character exuberance and a passion for drawing and artistic expression! This type of illustrating style that allows the characters to pop, to become more than just drawings on paper! This intoxicating display of pure, unadulterated vigor is so wonderfully executed that I cannot help but love it! It reminds me a lot of Studio Trigger at their finest, the sequences of series such as Kill la Kill or Little Witch Academia that stray from the realm of reality and take on a level of artistry that becomes so enveloping from passion alone.

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Of course, this level of pure fun isn’t present at all times, but the mangaka does what she can to make both the small, inconsequential moments and serious periods of self-reflection all the more alluring with her vividness. Some examples (like the picture above) can be criticized for being too simplistic in an effort to ease up on the workload. For me, this doesn’t matter if I’m laughing at how amusing all of these character transformations look and how it impacts the rampant enjoyment I’m getting out of reading it. Miman Renai is one of those rare examples where a manga, in an objective sense isn’t worth more than a five out of ten, is launched into much higher territory from a gargantuan amount of subjective love.

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Despite the taboo themes, the standard story, the unsatisfied potential of side plots, the brilliance of Tomoe’s naivety, and the tiring, self-inflicted, off-and-on romantic endeavor, Miman Renai is a manga that gets by with its emotional gusto and artistic flavor. It is among my favorite manga because it managed to completely override my mechanical circuitry and allow my heart to dance in the way most “normies'” would upon seeing a new trailer for the latest Star Wars film. While not mentally moved by my passion for deep, multi-layered stories of love and loss, Miman Renai has that once-in-a-lifetime quality that speaks to me on an absurd personal level, an intangible quality that is hard to really articulate into words. All I can do is spam more pictures from the story because I love them.

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I reread this manga on a whim, fueled only by a slight desire to revisit the wacky faces of the characters. What I unearthed was an undiscovered, but always present adoration for a story that really probably doesn’t deserve it. It’s a simple tale that only sticks out based on the huge age gap between its characters and the innocent manner it portrays it with. Despite everything else, Miman Renai executes itself through means of giddy expression, one that had gone relatively unnoticed by me for nearly a year and a half. I stick by it, too; the only reason I have to recommend this manga is due to the mangaka’s lovely expressiveness and nothing more. Perhaps it’ll give you, the reader, the same appreciation for art it did for me.

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

Thoughts on Sekine-kun no Koi (Spoilers)

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Sekine, according to most synopses for this manga, is a jack-of-all-trades and a master of none. This is not even close to the truth. He is an ace-of-all-trades. Every opportunity to embellish the fact that Sekine is an incredibly talented, yet flawed human being is taken all the way to the bank. He’s amazing at ping pong, amazing at knitting, amazing at his job, amazing at unintentionally luring women to his side, and amazing in his own density. What the synopsis may imply is that Sekine cannot find love due to his mid-tier ability at everything, while in reality, his ability to do everything without much practice is what allows the story to further develop his empty inner shell.

What may be obvious from other stories that have received a lot of praise from me, Sekine-kun does a good job of creating an atmosphere of self-conflict and relating to what drives that inner turmoil. It’d be easy to make this series just another romcom about a good-looking guy who’s perfect at everything meet a girl who’s resistant to his charms. Instead, Sekine-kun takes a somewhat rare approach to the perfect male lead. While in, say, a harem fantasy, a male lead who is essentially perfect uses that for the sake of being all and pure and loving towards everyone, Sekine is a much different case. Without sounding entirely biased, his character is fairly relatable on an emotional level, one who dislikes uncomfortable atmospheres and does the bidding of others on the basis of simply avoiding that tension. This “eagerness” to allow people to do what they want with him has given him a history of intertwining events that make up how little he feels for anything in general.

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If this seems a little too extravagant, look at it this way: Sekine has been sucked dry of any passion. His constant willingness to suit the mood has left his own self unwilling. Almost like Pavlov’s dog in the sense that he’s learned to lie down and wait for things to be over with whenever someone pushes him.

Sekine is the sole reason this manga differs from most others and he is essentially the only thing that makes this story interesting. His behavior and inability to break through his shallow self-loathing makes for a refreshing lead character, one who actually feels like a human being as opposed to a walking harem machine. Unfortunately, he is not a perfect lead by any stretch of the imagination.

While introspective, depressing, and justifiably lost, his inability to function like a normal person when confronting pressure is quite amazing. Many times throughout the manga, a lot of the common tropes that come with the struggling budding of a romantic relationship is taken advantage of by his stuttering mindset. His character is perfect for emotional filibusters. As time grew on and later chapters began becoming shorter and shorter, one can feel the effects of a slowly-staling character quirk come to pass. There’s only so much one can do to with such an oddball introvert, who secludes himself from the public and can count his friends on one hand, when it comes to pursuing romance. Criticize himself for past mistakes, bury himself in the only hobby he has, dream and fantasize about the woman he adores; none of this becomes as interesting when he’s spent the last twelve chapters or so doing it. And without any true supporting characters to take the weight off of his spotlight, his once-intriguing persona becomes as monotonous as this story’s ending.

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Note I said “true” supporting characters. Supporting characters definitely exist, and a lot of them receive some attention throughout. The only issue with this is that they’re all pieces of a much larger puzzle. Sekine is obviously a developed character. The female lead? Not quite on his level, but well enough to remain consistently likable. Anyone else is what makes the manga somewhat harder to defend upon further reflection. Sekine has a friend from work and his wife, whom he never even realized he had feelings for (Okay…). There’s another character who’s introduced to serve as a sort of rival lover for Sekine, but is only a scapegoat as his intentions were only vaguely pointed in that direction. Even he doesn’t seem to serve any real point in the end, despite some segments dedicated to his fascination with a kinda-sorta-but-not-really family member. Then there’s the female lead’s grandfather, who acts as the catalyst for Sekine’s eventual pursuit of his granddaughter and in confronting his own feelings of contempt. One would think that would mean he would play a role in unlocking Sekine’s future happiness… but disappears off-and-on for a good portion of the story and serves little real impact.

What may be the biggest punch to the gut is the aspect of romance. Almost on the level of my thoughts on the main couple of Yuri!!! On Ice, Sekine and Sara, the female lead, don’t really feel like a couple. Sekine obviously loves her, as his devotion to her is borderline stalker-levels. It’s Sara that becomes so perplexing as the chapters roll by. She never really has a reason to develop feelings for Sekine, aside from obvious comments about how good-looking and gentlemanly he is. I always pictured her looking at Sekine like a pet project, and as heartless as that sounds, he’s proven how broken he really is. Perhaps it was due to that desire to help him that she began to feel closer to him in the long run, as it’s even stated in dialogue from others that Sekine triggers women’s “maternal instincts.” Still, I can’t help but question whether Sara truly had a reason to look at him as a life partner or if the story bribed her with some teddy bears to go along with it.

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While I have no stake in the matter as a heterosexual, what exactly makes Sekine so attractive? His appearance isn’t too bishie-fied and while he’s tall, slender, and has sharp eyes, he simply looks plain to me. The art style of Sekine-kun did little to showcase what exactly made him so physically attractive. What is noteworthy is how Shoujo-ish Sara looks, along with most other female characters. Big, perfectly-symmetrical eyes and chubby cheeks. It makes me wonder if the mangaka is accustomed to writing Shoujo (or even BL) manga. I liked the random little symbolic showing of inner feelings and the like, but there were far too few! A constant showing of threads and unwinding is the only thing that always sticks out, and by the time it actually makes sense, it feels overdone. A dream sequence could’ve been really neat. No overall complaints, though I wish the mangaka incorporated more elaborate psychological imagery.

I blazed through this manga due to Sekine and his gloomy nature. By series’s end, it almost seemed like a facade, due in part by how standard the resolution to it all ensued. Sekine-kun is both cliché and non-cliché, it only depends on what aspect of the manga one holds with more importance. Characters feel real and interesting (notably the leads), though the story could’ve been handled with a little more creative finesse (and provided more of an impactful ending). In the first ten chapters, I was ready to give the series a gold star and recommend it to everyone. Now, it feels almost wasted in its own darkened drivel.

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

Thoughts on Subete ni Iya Girl

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Obviously, when someone sees a synopsis for a story about a middle school girl with an arrow through her head, they’re required by law to give it a shot. Though, I’m American, so I’m not sure this law spans across any other country. Despite the silly premise, there’s an air of realism that surrounds the opening chapters. A clear introduction is presented and the major characters, the girl with the arrow and the boy interested enough to pursue the girl further, exchange a relatable tension between normalcy and absurdity. Clear intentions are made to establish the introduction of an intriguing backstory of a girl just within the boundary of lunacy. Unorthodox, sure, but it works for what’s presented. And once the chapters begin to find a rhythm, the writing shows how spoiled it really is.

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There are times when manga can be silly. Notable examples come from the parody genre, with titles like Onidere or Fujimura-kun Mates. I think they’re parodies, anyway. These two titles and others have a tendency to completely subvert the expectations of the viewer by making random or wacky situations seem normal. Things like melons coming to life to sprinkle salt upon the noses of newborn children (I made that up, but I wouldn’t say it’d never happen in manga), only to have the major characters stop them. Subete ni Iya Girl, or The Hating Girl, is another one of these stories, though one wouldn’t be able to see it at first. Indeed, the opening chapters of Hating Girl are rather normal, outside of the obvious arrow-themed jokes, with a pragmatic approach to humor and character interaction. It isn’t until twenty to thirty chapters in do the situations become more than “daily school things.” It is also at this point where the manga becomes nearly intolerable.

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Humor is very subjective, understandably, but Hating Girl tends to appeal to the lowest common denominator, complete with a buffet of sex jokes and random obscenity. A majority of the aforementioned “spoiled” writing takes place within the humor. Things that would never, ever happen in real life are taken advantage of within the lax universe of Hating Girl, providing an unfunny plethora of filler chapters that don’t mean anything. Really, does a chapter dedicated to two random characters enticed with the idea of feeling the female lead’s breasts mean anything? There’s too much of an emphasis on the unrealistic possibilities presented for humor to have the reader care about the occasional bouts of character development. Yes, there’s an effort to make these characters relatable and multi-dimensional, in-between chapters dedicated to the female lead accidentally giving the male lead a handjob. That statement is only slightly exaggerated.

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If the humor were better and served more of a purpose to each chapter, Hating Girl would definitely be more enjoyable. With the imbalance of humor type and the characters being nearly literal walking misunderstandings, it makes it hard to see it as an impactful story. It feels more like a draft, a sort of sandbox style of writing that it may serve better without an overarching narrative. If not for the dramatic moments dealing with the female lead’s past, that may as well be what it is. The manga is unsure of its strengths and weaknesses, with its rapid-fire changing of moods and scenarios, doing whatever it can to mix things up… without actually mixing up the sexually-tinged humor. There’s even a chapter dedicated to making the female lead into a live-action girl!

The art isn’t anything to write home about, either. A lot of the characters have weird looking heads, ranging from bowling pin-like to completely round (something that’s joked about). The style of facial features reminds me a tad of a poor man’s Akira Toriyama, with slanted eyes and similar pupil styles. And noses exist. It, like many other manga, improves its style over time, but never to the point where anything outside of exaggerated faces are anything to the point of attractive. One will likely have no trouble getting used to it, but at no point was I really amazed by what I was seeing. It’s rather ordinary, if not a little off.

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This ended up being short than I anticipated. There isn’t really much to say about Hating Girl, it has its negatives and negatives. Very little positives. There’s some effort into making the story feel alive and relatable, especially when delving into the history of the female lead’s arrow, but it’s too swamped by unnecessary cockteasing and incredibly awkward sexual humor. With one last note worth mentioning, the characters are more oblivious than the standard harem male lead—to the point where they’ll immediately assume one thing and do nothing to try and collect more information despite it happening on multiple occasions. If that isn’t enough to scare one away, The Hating Girl won’t likely be The Hated Girl.

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

Quick Thoughts on Natsu no Zenjitsu

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Unfortunately, I’ve been putting off writing about this manga ever since I finished it about two weeks ago. If I don’t write something about it soon, I’ll end up just not writing about it at all. So, let’s make this post short and sweet; much like this story.

First off, this manga is a wonderful experience. So much passion and pure, unperturbed emotion and insight into the human psyche is explored within the confounds of the narrative. It’s a wonderful example of the exact type of romantic development I look for in stories. Well, perhaps not exactly, but it hits the mark for more accurately than most.

The characters have a penchant to follow their own paths within the story, never really yielding to the idea that they need (or even desire) one another’s affection or acceptance to push forward. It revolves around the friction of sexual desire more than the aspect of finding one to complete the two-person whole that romanticists strive for. Mincing words isn’t Zenjitsu’s forte, instead going for the jugular and providing all the lust and carnal desire human beings of a young-adult age typically carry with them. And through this, end up developing a bond that could conceivably be seen as love.

There is more at stake, however, as aside from romance, the other most important aspect of Natsu no Zenjitsu is self-discovery. Finding one’s place in this world and the value of one’s own abilities. It’s so hammered into the story that one might actually be turned off by the main character’s impression of his worthlessness. Having the means to accept one’s own faults and shortcomings is something very rarely established in other forms (especially Anime, where every male lead is a self-insert). If not for the fantastic focus on emotional cognition and adult-oriented romance, Natsu no Zenjitsu is a breath of fresh air from the same old, same old.

It’s very possible that this manga simply caught me off-guard and I overrated it, but the amount of enjoyment gained from this was stupendous. Inconceivable. Stupid. I cannot recommend this manga enough, though I understand there are a few instances that make me question why I loved it so much in the first place. If one has the chance to read it, read it. If one has to think about it first, don’t think. Thinking is forbidden. Just read. Read, and enjoy.

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

Thoughts on T-Rex na Kanojo

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Allow me to shed some light on some curiosities one might have discovering this manga for the first time:

  • Yes, the manga really is about anthropomorphic dinosaurs living among normal human beings.
  • Despite being tagged as “ecchi” by a few sites and databases, this is only done because the female lead is topless for the first few chapters. This manga is by no means sexually exuberant.
  • Despite the English translation of the title, the two leads are not actually dating, but have a relationship defined by trust and tsundere-levels of affection.
  • No, there is no mention as to how normal humans and dino-hybrids are supposed to become “intimate.”
    • “But wouldn’t it be like normal?” Perhaps, but if that were the case, why would society allow the dino-hybrids (which are primarily female) to run around without any pants on?
      • “Because they don’t make pants that fit dinosaurs?” True, but it’s shown within the manga that society has adapted to the dino-hybrid existence and even sells specific items catered to their interests.
        • “What are we even talking about anymore?” Whether female dinosaurs have vaginas or not.

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T-Rex na Kanojo is a cutesy, trite little manga about the relationship of a human male in college and and t-rex hybrid female who’s dumb, but innocent. One could likely tell from the premise alone, but the manga is not one offering an engaging, immersive tale of emotional growth and/or overcoming adversity. Slice-of-life is in the driver’s seat, and dino-fetishists (I guess) are calling shotgun. And backseat. And roof.

So how exactly are dinosaurs alive and well in this day and age, and why are they half-human? Fear not, your questions will be answered as soon as the first chapter, when the male lead’s colleague explains that dinosaurs managed to survive throughout time by adapting to human culture via evolutionary tactics. And that’s all the explanation the reader is given, as the rest of the story is dedicated to the slow progression of closeness between the two leads. Not only is the explanation incredibly vague, but it’s frank and regarded as an afterthought. Filling in the biggest blank so that the mangaka can continue forth without worrying about something as silly as contextual explanations. This isn’t necessarily an issue (they at least tried), but it sort of closes the window on anything more this manga could have been. Could you imagine the things that could be done should they have made a sort of species-ism point prevalent? Aside from the “aughhh dinosaurs scary aughhhhh,” which is played off for laughs. Alas, T-Rex na Kanojo is but a straightforward story of “ooohs” and “ahhhs.”

Simple or not, the manga has a few things that make it enjoyable (and easy) to read. The type of comedy is somewhat different from what people expect out of a standard manga comedy. Defiance of expectations is the major focus, with a lot of irony taking center stage. Personally, I feel the humor is a tad too heavy-handed in its execution to be consistently funny, though it has the enthusiasm present to make it memorable at the least. Jokes tend to become a tad overused by the series’ end, especially ones that rely on setting up a joke in one panel, then revealing the punchline (and straight man reaction) afterwards. Still, its quality is a step above most… that being completely unfunny.

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Those that make the cast of T-Rex Kanojo are a vivid representation of whatever the mangaka wants them to be and nothing more. The female lead is an all-brawn, no-brain tsundere who’s stubborn and simple-minded. The male lead is obsessed with his “girlfriend,” while also showcasing some depth with his past as a delinquent and “I know more than I seem” demeanor. This automatically makes him more interesting than 92% of all other male leads. The female lead’s sister is a bright-eyed hustler, the male lead’s former underling is obsessed with the female lead’s sister, and the female lead’s co-worker and eventual friend is bad with expressing emotions but is actually super nice and caring. Very rarely does the manga ask these characters to change what they know best, and why should it? They work well with what they have and the consistency makes the more personal moments all the more endearing. If only there were more of those that didn’t lead into a punchline.

Accentuating cuteness is imperative for an artist, who must do their absolute best to make characters as moe-able as possible. How can you make dinosaurs cute? Well, first of all, don’t make them look anything like a dinosaur from the stomach up. Except razor fangs. Those are pretty moe. Oh, and little horns on the head! Those are pretty moe, too. Of course, they have to make them a little more dinosaur-like, or else they won’t truly be dinosaurs! Alright, alright; below the waist, they are complete dinosaurs. Long, powerful legs. Ferocious tail. Hell, give ’em dinosaur arms, too. Why not? As long as the torso is intact and their faces are ferociously moe, the manga’s golden. But does it work? Absolutely. I was charmed with the details present and the amount of comedic firepower surroundings the dinosaurs’ features. In color and shaded, it looks a tad off, but black-and-white sketches give the characters a lot of life and character.

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Romantics beware! T-Rex Kanojo is far more focused on the comedic aspects of life than the romantic ones. While present, a lot of the enveloping romance is overrode by the obliviousness of the female lead and the mangaka’s dedication to the comedy. Expecting romantic developments? Sorry, it was a leap-up to a joke. Want some romance between side-characters? Sorry, most are unrequited. At least you have a wide variety of dinosaurs to look at! Like Tyrannosaurus, Pterodactyl, Ankylosaurus… and… yeah! Why even try and blend dinosaurs with humans, anyway? How do they even mate?

With only twenty-seven chapters spanning eight to ten pages on average, T-Rex Kanojo won’t take a reader more than an hour or two to read through. Whether or not that time is spent wisely is dependent of your expectations. Should one go into it expecting a nice, atmospheric romance of young lovers from two different sides of life, they will be immensely disappointed. Should one go into it expecting a borderline nonsensical, carefree comedy with baited bits of romance for emphasis, one will have the time of their life. Could the manga have been longer? Absolutely. I found myself a little disappointed at the relative quickness. However, with as little as it offered within that span, one can’t help but find the experience somewhat pointless. Like a quick blast of an average firework, it’s all bang and no impact.

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

Thoughts on Nana to Kaoru

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To finally see the end of this manga is a very gratifying feeling. I started this back in May of 2013, the seventh manga I had ever started (not counting one-off manga based on Nintendo titles I purchased throughout my life). Even then, I was enamored with the possibilities of manga and the wider range of ideas that could be presented through this medium that couldn’t with anime. One such idea that intrigued me (along with its high rating on MyAnimeList) was a manga dedicated to the blossoming romance between two polar opposites through a mutual passion for S&M. Of course, the female lead wasn’t keen to the idea at first, as a story based upon something such as S&M, which is slightly taboo for many people, should probably require an entry-level character to experience the sensations of the subject along with the reader.

As a means of an early spoiling of the tone of this post, let it be known that I dropped this manga prior to its finish. The only reason I went back to finish it is because by the time I had dropped it, I was unaware of when it would ever conclude. Conveniently enough, some weeks after dropping it, I noticed that the end had been announced and I was but a short twenty-five or so chapters away from the finish line. While still waiting for the manga to be scanlated, an earnest sense of being able to finish and score the title became the sole motivator of continuing, as the manga’s story and characters had well worn their welcome by that point.

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A good place to start is to speak upon the elephant in the room. Nana to Kaoru is about S&M; not the kind of squeaky, innocent S&M that might be watered down to appeal to every audience, but dirty, raunchy, and in some ways sadistic (Pun intended) ways of dominating and humiliating another human being. There’s a reason the act is frowned upon by some, as on the surface, it’s a disgusting fetish that may promote a number of more serious deviant activities. Prejudices aside, the one thing Nana to Kaoru does well is place the act of S&M into a moral equilibrium. In this case, S&M is more about the people who partake in it rather than the act itself, with a lot of dedication and love put into perfecting the craft to fine-tune the “comfort” between two (or more) people involved. A lot of what is shown within the manga may be a tad uncomforting, however the (relative) purity of the major characters help alleviate some of the darker undertones the activity provides.

What better way to help showcase the intensity of something like S&M than with very vivid and detailed artwork? While the style could come across as “uncanny valley,” Nana to Kaoru has a fairly distinct style that’d be hard not to recognize from the male lead alone. Kaoru’s face is very toad-like, with a rounded jaw and wide, oval eyes. This better suits his “deviant” persona, almost like a symbolic representation of society’s view of him and his interests. Nana, on the other hand, is beautiful, busty, and uptight; the very image of a prime and proper dutiful young woman of society (with an enlarged bust). Something of an emphasis on both characters are the lips, which are accentuated in the more… explicit scenarios. It does well to make it stand out from others in its genre and/or target demographic, and the constant use of sexual fan service (justified by the act of S&M) is sure to attract more than a few. One last great emphasis in play is the use of little, but abundant sound cues and symbols parading the panels around the characters faces and bodies to stimulate quick breathing and involuntary sounds. It cranks up the intensity of the “breathers” that Nana and Kaoru take part in and, admittedly, make the act more stimulating to read. If there’s one thing Nana to Kaoru does very right, it’s the intensity of its central subject influenced by its accurate and lustful design.

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However, this is just about all it does tremendously well, as the strong start and set-up is quickly dissolved into a far too drawn-out, pseudo-emotional tirade of the two main characters trying to figure one another out without being direct. Literal entire chapters occasionally dedicated to one of two main characters moping that they can’t understand what the other is thinking or what they need. If not that, crying about their own perceived uselessness and inability to be of use to the one they cherish most. I chalk a lot of these events up to the tremendously long chapter count of the manga, as I feel it would’ve been better suited chopped in half. The last forty chapters or so feel like a filibuster of sexy proportions, full of S&M without the added passion of what made it so appealing in the first place. So as to not give away too much, the characters are, whether literally or figuratively, running away from one another out of fear. The ending is incredibly anticlimactic and beyond sugar-coatedly cliché. Had the manga decided to resolve a lot of these issues earlier (and faster), Nana to Kaoru may have been recommendable. Unfortunately, no amount of chained-up cuties can save itself from a frustratingly slow pace and lackluster conclusion that effectively paints the characters in a trivial light.

Nana and Kaoru are not the only characters, although. There are the occasional side-characters-turned-major situations that crop up every so often. The most notable example is Ryouko, a track star that attends the same school as Nana and Kaoru. Her presence within the manga serves as an enjoyable side story (and another love interest) for Kaoru and his S&M fetish. She evens takes part in a few of the breathers, with or without Nana there (much to Kaoru’s dismay). Of all the characters, I feel she’s the most relatable from a “normal” standpoint, and her development is nicely fashioned to suit her “Kind of important but not entirely” position in the story. She, too, suffers a tad from her almost uncanny fascination with Kaoru to the point where she develops a one-track (Pun intended) mind. Still, she has the courtesy of being one of the few bright spots story-wise of Nana to Kaoru‘s narrative.

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Other characters don’t receive the same treatment, however, as the extent of importance past Nana, Kaoru, and Ryouko vary between “Semi-important for a couple arcs” and “Who was that again?” Cast members such as Mitsuko, Hiroshi, and Kaoru’s mother are only brought to the stage for occasional purposes—many of them being obstructive and annoying. They don’t receive the same amount of attention necessary to make them believable or empathetic, despite a few of them saying a few insightful lines of wisdom. A few even come off as unnecessary to the general scope of things, or are introduced so late that any sense of development they could get is deemed less important than the growing conflict between the main characters. I suppose one could say that this manga isn’t one could point to as a potent character study, despite the themes present to challenge those who view it and those involved in an unsightly manner.

There are no regrets to picking up Nana to Kaoru, despite the length it took me to finish it and the headaches it caused picking up with the last arc of the story. It has a way of tenderizing the juiciest of meats to make them seem all the more succulent, especially early on. The major issue at hand is it keeps tenderizing, beating, and massaging the meat until it’s nothing but bones—hardy, indigestible bones. Again, had the manga stopped halfway through its massive chapter count, it would probably be recommendable as an interesting study piece of S&M and those new to the spectrum. Instead, it throws in a predictable (and woefully repetitive) love story between two growing teenagers who can’t seem to open their mouths when it counts… gag-play aside.

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