Genre: Manga

Review – A Side Character’s Love Story, vol 17

Posted June 7, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – A Side Character’s Love Story, vol 17

A Side Character's Love Story

by Akane Tamura

Genres: Manga, Romance
Pages: 162
Series: A Side Character's Love Story #17
Rating: four-stars
Synopsis:

Growing up, Nobuko Tanaka was always a "side character" standing off in the corner. Now in her 20s, she's fallen in love for the first time. While she isn't any good at being assertive, she will muster her courage bit by bit as she tries her best to close the distance between herself and her crush -- because even side characters fall in love. If you're tired of the same old romantic protagonists, this modest, refreshing love story is for you.

Volume 17 of Akane Tamura’s A Side Character’s Love Story pretty much typifies everything I’ve come to love about this series. Irie and Nobuko continue to be really sweet and supportive of one another, finding ways to stay in touch and communicate their importance to each other even now they’re not living in the same area.

Their relationship is always really cute, even when Nobuko gets insecure, and even when the two of them are shy with each other, because the whole time they’ve been trying their best to communicate with each other and talk openly. I love that Irie specifically pictures that happening throughout their lives.

When I picked up volume one of this manga, I didn’t expect it to be so cute, for the love story to be so mature and lovely (though when I say mature, I don’t mean there’s any explicit sexual content, because there isn’t). I always smile so much when a new translated volume is out.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon, vol 3

Posted May 24, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon, vol 3

Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon

by Shio Usui

Genres: Manga, Romance
Pages: 174
Series: Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon #3
Rating: four-stars
Synopsis:

Hinako wants to get closer to Asahi, but there is still a lot she needs to work out. What will happen when she turns to Fuuka in her time of need? And how will Fuuka handle her own feelings for Asahi?

Volume three of Shio Usui’s Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon digs a bit into Asahi’s feelings, through the character of her childhood best friend, Fuuka, and through her argument with her sister (and the sleepover afterwards).

The sudden love triangle did feel a bit frustrating, because just as it seemed like Asahi and Hinako were getting somewhere, Fuuka stepped in and asked Asahi out. It felt a bit jarring pacing-wise, like it should’ve come before — but it does help Asahi and Hinako start to work out their feelings and where they stand as well, so it’s obvious in retrospect what purpose it serves narratively. Otherwise, there’s very little push for them to actually do something about the connection between them.

And of course, I laughed a little about the totally unnecessary “only one bed” trope.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Don’t Call Me Dirty

Posted May 19, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Don’t Call Me Dirty

Don't Call Me Dirty

by Gorou Kanbe

Genres: Manga, Romance
Pages: 176
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

After some time in a long distance sort-of-relationship with his crush, Shouji is crestfallen when weeks of getting ghosted finally result in a confession: his boyfriend just isn't gay. Having struggled with his sexuality for years, Shouji throws himself into his work to distract himself from the rejection — but when a young homeless man called Hama shows up at the shop, Shouji finds himself curious to learn more about him and, hopefully, befriend him. Attempting to make their way in a society that labels each of them as 'outcasts' and 'dirty,' the two men grow closer. Together, they begin to find they have more in common than either of them could have anticipated.

Gorou Kanbe’s Don’t Call me Dirty surprised me. It was available to read with a subscription I have so I gave it a try when I wasn’t really in the mood to read anything substantial. The main character, Shouji, is a young man who works in his dad’s liquor store and helps out next door in the snack store. He’s gay and everyone knows it, because his dad is a blogger who talks constantly about their whole life.

When he gets dumped by his bicurious sort-of-boyfriend, he gets interested in the life and actions of a local homeless man (Hama) who acts noble and kind despite suspicion. Initially it seems kind of insulting, like he’s interested to distract himself and then dis­placing his feelings onto his new friend. But there are some surprisingly affecting scenes in which he admits his fears (about being “dirty”, in part because of his ex’s behaviour) and Hama begins to reciprocate.

Ultimately the happy ending involves figuring out how to get Hama off the street, and Hama becoming a productive member of society again. The whole thing is not really subtle in the ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ message, but… there is genuine sweetness between the characters — and the people around them. Shouji might have a dad who talks more easily to the internet than him, but he’s 100% fine with his kid being gay — even supportive, in his own way — and there’s a surprisingly strong bond bet­ween Shouji’s dad and the next door neighbour, which we also catch glimpses of.

Overall, I was surprised to find that I did get pretty invested in this one, after not really being encouraged by the title/concept.

Rating: 3/5

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Review – Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon, volume 2

Posted May 6, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon, volume 2

Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon

by Shio Usui

Genres: Manga, Romance
Pages: 174
Series: Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon #2
Rating: four-stars
Synopsis:

The distance between Hinako and Asahi is closing! What started as a typical coworker relationship has blossomed into friendship. But now, Hinako has started to wonder if her feelings for Asahi go even deeper. Could this be love?!

Volume two of Shio Usui’s Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon continues to a be a slow-burn: at times, it’s not obvious that there’s a romance angle coming, because it just focuses on Asahi and Hinako’s friendship. That said, Hinako’s feelings are pretty clear, even if she struggles with and doesn’t understand them, and it’s obvious that Asahi has been way too focused on looking after her sister to even think about romance, but maybe now’s the time.

The handholding is so cute, and the fact that their new friendship clearly gives them both a boost. There are a couple of odd moments that I notice other reviews picked up on, e.g. Asahi surprisingly commenting that it seems like Hinako loves her mother a lot. That said, it’s worth remembering that Asahi doesn’t have the same perspective as we do: she knows that Hinako’s always quick to pick up her phone for her mother, and always thoughtful about her. Hinako hasn’t really explained her history and where her insecurity comes from, so how would Asahi know?

Anyway, this continues really cute, and I’m interested to see how things work out.

Rating: 4/5

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Review – Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon, volume 1

Posted April 14, 2024 by Nicky in Reviews / 0 Comments

Review – Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon, volume 1

Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon

by Shio Usui

Genres: Manga, Romance
Pages: 170
Series: Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon #1
Rating: three-stars
Synopsis:

Uno Hinako throws herself into makeup, fashion, and falling in love, hoping that will make her seem normal to the other people at her job. But no matter how hard she tries, she's a self-doubting mess inside, and her attempts at normal romance with men just keep failing. When she starts to think she might be alone forever, a new normal presents itself in the form of her relationship with Asahi Sato, a level-headed woman who works at her company, which starts as respect until it becomes far more intimate.

Shio Usui’s Doughnuts Under a Crescent Moon is a cute story about two coworkers who appear not to have much in common, who start to find they have more in common than they thought, and that they enjoy one another’s company. It’s obviously heading toward romantic territory, but the author doesn’t rush the gate and have them jumping there: in this first volume, they’re just becoming friends, and starting to see that they’re not alone.

The main character, Hinako, is trying hard to be the perfect woman: approachable, pretty, accommodating, and willing to try dating just about anyone her friends suggest in the desperate effort to find a man she can fall in love with. Her insecurity and confusion is obvious and painful as she tries to figure out why she doesn’t want what she thinks she “ought” to want — and what she might want instead.

We see less of Sato’s point of view, but she’s a slightly older woman who seems pretty secure in herself and confident, despite having chosen the things that Hinako thinks will have her rejected by people. She and her sister have an enjoyable relationship too: it’s not just about Sato and Hinako, but also about the people around them.

Vibes-wise, this feels like an f/f version of A Side Character’s Love Story, in many ways — which is a series that I adore. I was keen to pick up a bit more of this at least and see where it goes; that said, having done so, I should point out that the lesbians are both explicitly asexual, and there’s a certain amount of horror and self-loathing along the way. It’s fairly light as things go, but it’s worth knowing, and though it is ace rep, there’s of course always the problem that sometimes that’s just to render it more acceptable socially (or because of censorship).

Rating: 3/5

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