I’ve read virtually everything that the manga artist Shūzō Oshimi has released, which is unfortunate as he has become my favorite. I searched online for other series similar to what that author produces. Many recommended Inio Asano’s stuff, but I’ve also gone through his. Then someone mentioned this series. Although I’ve only read the first volume so far, it has become my most intriguing find in a while.
Shortly after we meet the protagonist, a high schooler, he tells to his homeroom teacher that he won’t go to college, as he needs to stay at his town to help his mom: the father isn’t in the picture, his grandmother has dementia, and his older brother is a violent hikikomori. Our protagonist has resigned himself to a life of misery. He feels powerless to change his fate. The guy is, however, somewhat obsessed with an idol group, whose casual, carefree cuteness and cheerful songs provide a fast escape.
His only friend is a short, somewhat chunky (certainly for manga standards) girl he’s known since childhood. However, she’s leaving soon for college, and she’s worried that the protagonist’s mental health will only deteriorate once he’s left behind. We learn about a prominent feature of their small town: a fabled spot on a bridge, where hundreds of years ago a couple of lovers jumped to their deaths. It ended up getting called “Lover’s Abyss”. It recently got featured in a popular novel, and some of its fans travel to this town in the boonies to visit the site.
As if his home life wasn’t ruinous enough, the protagonist has to endure having turned into the de facto gofer of a local gang leader, who was also his childhood bully. Worse yet, the protagonist’s mother, intending to relieve herself of her burden, has pleaded to the bully’s father, who runs a construction company, to hire her son so he can contribute to the household income, which will likely end up turning her son into a sort of slave not only for this bully but for his entire crew. The protagonist suspects that his mother knows he’s been bullied by that guy, and that she’s sacrificing his well-being for her own benefit.
During one of the runs to buy cigarettes for the gang leader, our protagonist deals with a new clerk at the convenience store. She refuses to sell him the cigs because he’s underage. Afterwards he witnesses this beautiful but aloof clerk handing some expired food to a homeless guy, who winks at the protagonist as he passes by. Then the protagonist realizes that the clerk is none other than his favorite member of the idol group with which he’s obsessed. He’s stunned. What the hell is this girl doing here? Why is she working as a clerk? How come she looks so despondent?
The protagonist reveals that he has recognized her. She makes him promise that he won’t tell anyone, and asks him to please show her around town, because she’s just moved there and is a bit lost. She ends up sitting on the back of his bicycle as he visits some local spots. The girl, who’s a few years older than him, gets the sense of how miserable he feels. They talk about the famous local spot for suicides, and as they stand on a bridge looking down at the river below, she offers the protagonist to kill themselves together.
From then on, at least until the end of the first volume, the story has become a psychological roller coaster. Why does this beautiful twenty-year-old, who had it all in a big city, want to die? Is she romantically interested in our hapless protagonist? Was that guy she met at the back of the convenience store truly a random homeless person she was helping out? The protagonist can’t understand this girl, but he doesn’t want to stay away from her, and the notion of jumping off the local bridge and freeing himself from a life of misery is becoming increasingly alluring.
The drawings and compositions set up well the somber, gloomy mood of this story. Whoever is in charge of drawing the scenery does a particularly good job. However, the main artist uses classic exaggerated expressions to add levity in certain moments (just a few, thankfully), but for this story they feel as out of place as they would be in Oshimi’s “Blood on the Tracks”. However, regarding the story, he does a great job setting up dramatic questions, and I feel in good hands.
Unfortunately I had to stop reading it on the train yesterday, as it features nudity. In particular a really nice pair of perky tits. So you might dislike this series if you are against drawn tits, I guess.