Review: Nozoki Ana, by Wakou Honna

The title translates to “A peephole.” This is a loose review of the entire series.

Come for the “hentai with a plot.” Stay for the feels.

I started this long series a few months ago. I have forgotten most of the details of how the story began, and I’m not the kind of reviewer who would go over the first few chapters to get it right. Ultimately I read (and write) stories searching for meaning and to connect with imaginary humans, because it’s nearly impossible for me to do so with flesh-and-blood ones. I mainly care about what stories make me feel as they go through me, and what they leave behind once they’re done. Above all, I respect authors who seem to have lived vicariously through their tales, who come to care for their characters as if they were more important than anyone in their life.

That’s too serious of an introduction for this story. Our protagonist, a college freshman, starts living at one of those terrible apartment buildings that apparently every young manga protagonist is forced to inhabit. Soon enough, he discovers that his paper-thin wall features a little hole that allows a sliver of light to shine through. And once he peers into the hole, he gets an eyeful of his beautiful, college-age neighbor masturbating. She realizes that she has an audience, but she confesses that she has been peeping on him as well as he happily masturbated away.

Turns out that this young woman attends the protagonist’s college, to his embarrassment. They could decide to cover the hole and pretend they don’t know each other, but she wants to keep the dynamic going. In fact, she will expose the protagonist’s voyeuristic tendencies to everyone in his life unless he allows this kinky game to continue. A dangerous game like that needs some rules: he will get to peep at will some days, and the rest of the week is her turn. They aren’t allowed to cover the hole or acknowledge that they’re being watched even if friends or romantic partners come over.

At first I was impressed by the author’s talent to put her protagonist in as many compromising situations as possible. Sure, we are treated to manga boobs and butts, as well as sex scenes, nearly every chapter, but I kept returning to this story for the entertainment and the way it made me care about its characters. The protagonist is assertive and headstrong; this series wouldn’t have worked with one of those pussy MCs we get in so many other series. And his neighbor, the mysterious voyeur, kept stealing every scene she was in with her cool, controlled personality. Some book on writing I read ages ago spoke that all successful stories have an “us versus them” dynamic with a special character, who isn’t necessarily the love interest, and that they push each other to change for good or ill. As the reader, you become complicit with the growing hole that these two horny bastards keep digging themselves into as their secret threatens to ruin their relationship with everyone else.

I hadn’t expected the author, who by the way is a woman, to delve deeper into why the horny neighbor/blackmailer put her life in a standstill, barely leaving the apartment except to go to class, and refusing to make friends, to peek into the protagonist’s true self unimpeded a few days a week. I’m very glad that she did. This series improves as it goes on, as we are treated to more and more naked manga bodies, sessions of sex and masturbation, or at least panty shots.

What I didn’t expect was to find parallelisms between this story and my favorite manga, Inio Asano’s Oyasumi Punpun. Asano’s magnum opus ran from 2008 to 2013. This series ran from 2009 to 2013. The design of the voyeuristic neighbor and the cursed Aiko Tanaka from Asano’s work (I feel pained just by mentioning her name), as well as their twisted personalities, were similar enough to make me uncomfortable. And some twists and turns included particularly later on in the story reminded me even more of Asano’s devastating tale, although it didn’t come close to reaching those heights. The more casual drawing style didn’t help in that regard.

When I finished reading this manga series, I was sad that I couldn’t too evade my broken life to peek into that hole from which a sliver of light shines through. That’s some of the highest praise I can give any author.

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