[box style=”rounded” border=”full”]NOTICE: This review is based on the unofficial English translation.[/box]
Doushitemo Furetakunai is a masterpiece. The End.
That statement does a decent job of summing things up. Since everything I thought about the story and every sentiment I held was just too much for me to grab a hold of, I was really tempted to leave it at that. I had a very difficult time finding the words to clearly express my impression of this manga. I am still struggling. As much as I am intimidated by the sheer magnificence of the work, I am equally compelled to write about it. Given that my thoughts are still all over the place, I decided to apply a structure similar to the Progress Reports rather than go with my usual free-form review. Had I not made that decision, it would have been an arduous task trying to keep the babbling fangirl in me hidden and duct-taped. Okay, on with it…
The first day at a new job is always a little tense, but when you find out your new boss has the kind of personality you’re sure to hate, that tension can quickly turn into strain. Togawa comes off as a chain-smoking lush with a blithe attitude, but Shima soon discovers that first impressions aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Through six chapters and three epilogues, Yoneda Kou takes us along as she tells the story of how two fragile hearts find a way to touch each other without breaking.
Timid. Sharp-tongued. Heavily-guarded. If there were ever a character that required the label, “Handle With Care,” Shima Toshiaki would be the one. Facing each day with the mien of the perpetually uninterested, he does his best to remain unaffected or to at least appear that way. Shima likes to keep a good distance between himself and others. His wariness of outsiders has very little to do with the outsiders themselves, instead, his hesitance-cum-refusal to be involved with those around him is more likely to be a consequence of his desire to keep his feelings and expectations in check and to avoid reliving his past. Everyday in his new environment is a test of Shima’s will. Not the will to choose between right or wrong, but the will to choose between experience and emotion. Unlike many characters in his position, his way of refereeing the clash between his better judgment and his unfulfilled desires is completely in sync with his personality. At no point does he become a brand new person with a brand new outlook on life. From beginning to end he is Shima. Awkward. Honest. Adorable.
Shima’s like an object. He doesn’t show any kind of expression, so let’s at least make his name cute. — words spoken to Shima by Onoda as told to him by Department Manager Togawa
Togowa Yousuke is admittedly a lonely guy and though it may appear as if it were said in jest, I suspect there is more truth in those words than he’d like to acknowledge. He’s not completely held down by the weight of his woes, but neither is he brimming with sunshine and roses; he’s just a guy who has chosen to take life as it comes. He likes his drink, a little to much it seems and up until we meet him, I’d guess that he’s probably had more bad days than he’s had good. Neither capricious nor purposeful, most of his actions are very innocent in nature. They suggest that Togawa is initially motivated by possibilities and as he becomes more familiar with something, only then do his intentions develop. He takes things lightly, but not to the point of callousness, and while duplicity would usually follow such a disposition, Togawa is nothing if not sincere. It is this unusual mix of inclinations that allow him to be both respected and disregarded by those around him. Masked by this dynamic, he is left to observe as he likes and take action as he sees fit, all the while remaining unsuspected of being involved by most.
There are countless takes on the office romance sub-genre and like most plots by now, even the twists don’t turn quiet so much anymore. This leaves writers with quite the quandary: “How do I turn a well-worn plot into something worth reading?” The solution is to become Yoneda Kou.
Yoneda-sensei unties this Gordian knot by writing perfectly imperfect characters. Dismissing the gimmicks and ticks, she opts for insecurities, vices, and shifting levels of self-awareness. Missing are the onsen trips, the various festivals and holidays, and the third wheel who acts as a catalyst by having a declared interest in one of the two leads. Without these tried and true mechanisms, all that’s left is for the characters to drive the story. And they do.
None of the main characters are always anything all the time. Each exhibiting their own brand of confidence and cowardice; reveling in each others’ fervor and frustration. As individuals they are people you would not be surprised to meet. Each day, choosing to take a step forward or not.
From beginning to end, the story takes about six months to mature. Half of a year is a relatively short period of time, but the pace of the story is such that you get the feeling that more time has passed. The atmosphere is quiet and unassuming and the character’s interactions are imbued with a stark sense of reality. Never too specific as to be stereotypical and never so varied as to seem absurd.
We’ll stop here for now. If I don’t this may be delayed another year.
I have been mentally writing this commentary since March of 2009 That was the first time I read the first chapter of this story and since then, I have done nothing but fall more in love with it. If I had to guess, I’d say I’ve read the complete story (excluding the doujinshi) about 100 times or so. I really am not exaggerating. I’ve been actually writing this since April of 2010. Thanx so much to mortkero of the YK LJ comm for reigniting my desire to finish this.