Ahh, Hiroaki Samura! Master of gore and grittily realistic violence! Author of Blade of the Immortal, thirty volumes of dark, violent samurai action! Creator of bloody revenge epics! … and slice-of-life romantic comedies. :)
This is still amusing to me, but Nami yo kiitekure isn’t even Samura’s first comedy manga. It’s been many years since I read Ohikkoshi, a oneshot about a group of students and their romantic entanglements. Frankly, I found it an odd mix, a rather tame and forgettable main plot with quirky ideas thrown in for seasoning. Far from a masterpiece, but interesting. Samura’s art style feels like an odd choice for comedy – you’d expect less realism, more simplified character design. But on the other hand, it’s exactly this contrast that catches your attention? And Samura’s sense of humour is odd anyway.
Anyway, this isn’t about Ohikkoshi. This is about his more recent (ongoing?) manga Nami yo kiitekure – a better manga, for the fact alone that it focuses on an interesting character with a quirky personality, and not … some random guy.
Minare is a twenty-something trainwreck who works as a waitress in a curry/bread restaurant and has just been dumped by her boyfriend. When a recording of her drunken and angry (but impressively eloquent) rant is broadcast by a local radio station, Minare is furious, goes to confront the scumbag radio editor who screwed her over by secretly recording her – and discovers the world of radio, and eventually gets an early-morning radio show of her own.
But if you think that all of this happens in the first chapter, you’d be wrong. It actually happens over the course of the first volume! So far, Nami yo isn’t actually about radio all that much. A lot of time is dedicated to Minare’s job as waitress, which makes me insanely hungry because people talk about curry and bread a lot. ;_; The story is actually quite unpredictable and takes some unexpected turns. There’s an understated weirdness running through … I’m sure some readers might be put off by how slow and unfocused and barely about radio this manga is (at least in its first volume), but it’s still enjoyable. It’s kind of like Minare herself: directionless, weird, but endearing in its own, inexplicable way!
Minare is easily the most interesting and entertaining character in the manga so far – I’ve only read the first volume. She’s a mess, but this is presented as both her biggest flaw and part of her unique charm. It causes her a lot of trouble, but also created new opportunities for her. Which is a really intersting approach.
Minare is juxtaposed with two other female characters: Mizuho, a cute, neat, friendly radio employee who befriends Minare and lets her move in with her; and a character called Makie Tachibana (yes, just like the Blade of the Immortal character, seriously!), a new waitress whose demure, gentle and demeanor is the exact opposite of Minare’s loud, brash craziness – and who’s popular with the customers, setting her up as some kind of rival for Minare, but who knows. I’ve been thinking a lot about gender roles lately, so I can’t help noticing that there are some interesting contrasts going on here.
Well, I said earlier that I’m not sure if Samura’s detailed, realistic art is a good fit for comedy. But browsing through this manga, I can’t really find a fault with it! It even adds to the atmosphere, especially at one moment (that I won’t spoil) where the story suddenly seems to switch genres! Samura’s art is always expressive and warm, and the characters are all distinct – hey, even the female characters can be told apart with ease, which means that Samura has overcome his biggest (and self-admitted) weakness!!!
I’m also interested in interior design, so I enjoy the detailed images of Minare’s and Mizuho’s apartments, as well as other locations. Many mangaka put very little thought into the layout and the furniture of their interior locations, which is a shame because it’s such a great way to create a sense of place, an atmosphere, and say something about a character’s personality and interests. It makes a manga more … immersive? It definitely makes the world come alive.
In the end … Nami yo kiitekure is an odd manga that doesn’t really fit into any box – not that it tries. It’s about radio, but also about a restaurant, and really about the interpersonal relationships of the main character. It’s comedy, but doesn’t look like comedy and often doesn’t feel like comedy … I like it.