KiraKira Treasure Box

First Impressions: Niji, Amaete yo vol.1 (CH.1~3)

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Homosexuality, sexual assault, rape, PTSD... this manga sure ticks a whole lot of "taboo topics" in one go.
[WARNING!] Spoilers for Niji, Amaete yo 1~3 (duh!)

Well my lovelies, here goes nothing. I'm picking up another series to blog about on my treasure box.
☆*:.。. o(≧▽≦)o .。.:*☆


I've been wanting to review other mangas on KiraKira for a while, and browsing through possibilities I finally found a series that had both only just begun serialisation and piqued my interest. Volume 2 is coming out in a week, so for the first few chapters I'm going to review NijiAma by volumes, but I might switch to commenting individual chapters after that (though I'm a bit reluctant to spend money on a magazine just to read a single series).

Why NijiAma of all mangas, you ask?
Well, it all began long ago, on a cold winter's day when the world was draped in newborn snow—
(ok maybe not, I'm sorry for the pretentious drama)

So maybe it all started with a snotty 15 year old teen who'd just discovered smut shojo manga on the internet, and maybe there was no snow because God knows Spain is hot in summer and hahaha what is snow?? but I don't care because it was magical either way okay. When Aoki Kotomi's first hit manga, BokuImo (a.k.a. I Love My Little Sister) ((yes you read that title right, your eyes are not deceiving you; it's about incest and it's toxic and I DON'T CARE)), trampolined me into the stratosphere and swooped me into the Aoki-obsession, I thought her works were the best thing since sliced bread. And well, her consequent works (and everything she'd previously published that was available online, which I also burnt through in a matter of seconds, probably) did nothing to dissuade me of that belief. I was over the moon when KanoUso (a.k.a Sweetheart, I Lied About Loving You) proved as addicting as everything that had come before it... but the years slipped by... I went to uni... I stopped being a tiny bean... and despite religiously following the first eight or nine volumes of KanoUso and watching the live-action film, my obsession with Aoki's works pattered out into silence.
So when a month ago Amazon JP sent me a friendly email recommending NijiAma, I was 1) freaked out by Amazon's uncanny ability to still pick up on my tastes even though I had abandoned this author for years —there is clearly a conspiracy afoot—; and 2) hit by a wave of nostalgia.
And it made me wonder......... would I still find Aoki Kotomi's works enjoyable, even as an adult?


The Story

NijiAma starts off with yet another of Aoki's angsty premises: Hiyori, Gaku, and Niji are all 3rd year highschool students in the judo club. One day after school Hiyori asks Niji to stay behind, seemingly with the intention of confessing to her. Much to her surprise it turns out what Hiyori actually wanted to tell her is that he's gay (tun tutu tuuuun) and that he was desperate to come out to someone.
Everything is wholesome and flowery-pink, except Gaku (who is currently crushing hard on Niji) eavesdrops from the window, sees them hug, and mistakenly assumes they're now dating. Viva le misunderstanding. To fuck things over even more, that same night Niji gets assaulted on her way back from school and develops PTSD, and sudden contact with guys triggers her. BUT WAIT, THERE'S MORE!! Because Hiyori is actually hella gay for Gaku, but doesn't want him to know for fear that he'll push him away, so he asks Niji to keep up the pretence that they're dating for a while longer so that he can hang out with Gaku without giving away his feelings for him.

The plot thickens.

Where to begin.
This was an... interesting beginning. Niji, Amaete yo (subtitled officially as Niji, Lean on Me) has Aoki-sense's distinct flavour and usual heavy dose of drama-llama.  I'd like to start off by saying that apparently my adult arse is still very willing to ingest the angst that Aoki-sensei pukes into the world: I've enjoyed this first volume. Once again I find myself impressed by this woman's ability to spin effective and engaging storylines with surprisingly cheesy premises — with any other mangaka, this is probably where you'd see me roll my eyes.
Yet I must confess this first volume was a bit of a roller-coaster ride in what concerns the themes. The first chapter was promising, if awkward because of the hectic change in tone halfway through when Niji gets assaulted (and possibly raped?), but the second chapter had me flipping through the pages with mistrusting squinted eyes. However by the third and final chapter the story had grown on me, and I can say I'm sold on the premise. I'm sold... but apprehensive.
I feel like I'm treading on broken glass with this story. On one hand it has some serious potential — for one I have been thirsting for a manga that includes LGBT characters not as a fetish (I am looking at you, yaoi industry), and NijiAma ticks that box off pretty quickly. It looks like Aoki truly is going for an honest portrayal of a gay teenager, who's afraid of coming out to his crush because he hinks he might find him "disgusting." It comes off as a rather gloomy setting, especially because just the other day I read through the very wholesome and uplifting book Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (read that book, read iiiiiit), but lol would I pick up an Aoki Kotomi work if I wanted butterflies? No! I came here for pain and agony — hit me with everything you've got, Aoki-sensei!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
But on the other hand... this could very easily go wrong. One misstep and this could feel as an excuse for cheap drama, which is why I am tiptoeing around this manga with caution. The same can be said of Niji, who might actually be a rape victim (her classmates seem to suspect she is, but at the moment only she knows what really happened) and appears to be struggling with PTSD. These are all very valid experiences that I love seeing in the forefront of a shojo manga, but I'll have to wait and see where Aoki is planning on taking this before deciding whether it deserves a thumbs up or a thumbs down.
My major concern is with the whole fake-dating situation. Like, by the end of ch.3 Gaku has confessed to Niji, but Niji gets away with not having to reply to his confession because "technically" she's now dating Hiyori. This situation is a mess, and as it stands the fake-dating plot device feels more like lazy shojo manga writing employed to create drama Because Reasons. I don't see how this can last long, especially because it's rather cruel of Hiyori to expect Niji to keep up this pretence, but... I shall have to trust sensei.


The Characters

(Also I thought Hiyori was a female-only name. Apparently I was wrong.)

So. much. potential!! I have high expectations for these characters; there's little to say about them at the moment, but Hiyori feels like the most engaging thus far. I'm crossing my fingers and praying his character remains as equally interesting for the rest of the series. It seems like he firmly believes his parents will be sad if he tells them he's gay and that Gaku will find him disgusting, which is raising my hopes for some the-power-of-friendships-will-prevail speeches and heartwarming scenes. As much as I like drama, I'd also like for my babies to get decently happy endings. It also looks like he's only just beginning to explore his sexual orientation, so I'm looking forward to what's in store.
As for the actual protagonist, Gaku; I wasn't too sold on his character in the first chapter, but as with the story overall by the end of the third chapter he'd grown on me. This boy is the president of the judo club and he beats the shit out of lads making fun of Niji getting assaulted (yas bitches). Still, it seems to me he's little but the archetype of The Good Guy™ thus far, so there's nothing to say about him other than he's a nice lad.
To be honest the character that seems most plain to me at the moment is Niji herself. Judging by the title I'm assuming the story is going to be about Niji slowly learning to ~lean on others~ and sharing the burden she shoulders with her friends? It's not that I don't like this premise, but as I said, I'm a bit "eh" ┐( ̄ヮ ̄)┌ about her character right now.


Conclusions

NijiAma's first volume has pleasantly surprised me. I had sort of despaired at the end of chapter 1, but chapter 3 tied off the first volume neatly and smoothly. I'm looking forward to reading volume 2 in a few days and possibly getting sucked into a whirlpool of never ending angst (ahahahahahaha); but I shan't keep my expectations too high, just in case.
I'd like to send you all off to read it, but alas... this manga has not yet been translated (legally or illegally). I pray the day will come the English publishing industry will realise how wondrous Aoki Kotomi's works are... In any case, I'll be adding summaries to my comments from the next post onward so that you lovelies can follow my reviews and I don't feel like I'm screaming into the void of the internet. See you all next time!

Make sure to read the About Kira Kira and F.A.Qs pages before commenting so that your comments may follow the rules of the blog!

Posted on: 19/02/2018

PS. I get the feeling I might end up pining for the gay couple more than the straight couple...



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2 comments:

  1. Tienes mi atención (?)

    Hola
    Me encantaría leerlo, espero que alguien lo agarré para traducirlo (tengo una suerte para que me llamen la atención títulos no tan mainstream).
    No soy mucho de shoujo y de este autor solo vi el liveaction de "The liar and his lover" ('cuz Takeru Satoh plz) jajaja, igual el estilo de dibujo no me atrae mucho.

    Pero comencé a leer BokuIno y wow, es mega toxico v: *ya va por el vol.4 (?)* tenía mucho tiempo que no leía cosas así ^^ jaja (como unos 8 años), tampoco es que me mega apasione ese tipo de historias, sobre todo cuando dispara algunas emociones y recuerdos negativos, pero supongo que también quiero que me peguen con el bat de los feels a veces (?) y le estoy dando el chance ^^

    Pues si lo sigues reseñando, con gusto me gustaría seguir echándome el chisme con la trama :3c

    ¡Saludos!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Justo acabo de publicar mi post sobre el tomo 2!!

      BokuImo es la clase de serie que como a alguien le de por sacarla a la luz ahora, la quemarían en la hoguera. Hay mucho que es increíblemente tóxico (aparte del hecho de que, ejem... son hermanos... ejem), pero... yo soy de la opinión de que mientras entiendas que esto es ficción no tiene por qué ser quemado. Sigue la misma lógica que los fanfictions kinkys que encuentras por internet. ((Ahí nos podríamos meter en un super mega debate sobre si eso justifica la existencia del manga de temática pederasta -- spoiler alert, NO Y MIL VECES NO -- pero mejor lo dejamos aquí)).

      Sobre the Liar and His Lover -- Justo después de leer al primer tomo de NijiAma me leí todos los tomos de ese manga tel tirón!!! Estaba pensando en escribir una reseña, pero es tan largo que es difícil comprimir mi opinion...

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