Anonymous Noise Volume 1 by Ryoko Fukuyama
I read Anonymous Noise a few days ago, and I’ve had a hard time writing about it, I think because I ended up feeling very conflicted about whether or not I actually enjoyed reading it. It was stylish looking, which I appreciated. The author deployed a great deal of typical shoujo manga plot elements, which I was less than enthusiastic about. Finally, there was a level of angst involved in the relationships between the characters that I actually found intriguing, and will likely keep me hanging on to reading this series in the hopes that it gets a bit better in the second volume.
Childhood friends who are separated and meet again only to fall in love is such a shoujo staple plot element, that I get weary of it if it isn’t executed well. Nino Arisugawa has a habit of developing close childhood friendships with boys only for them to utterly disappear, which will make it very handy for her to have a love triangle as a teenager. Her first friend is Momo, a next door neighbor boy with a habit of making terrible puns. They’re in the habit of singing together. Momo abruptly moves away with his family and while Nino is visiting the sea to scream her agony into it, she stumbles across Yuzu, a kid composer who likes to write musical compositions in the sand. Yuzu is also a very familiar character type seen in manga, the short kid who drinks a ton of milk in hopes of triggering a growth spurt. Nino finds a bit of peace when singing Yuzu’s compositions, but she still longs for her lost friend Momo.
Switching gears to the future, Nino starts attending a school where Yuzu is a student. He’s very busy, because he also has the time to be in a rock band called In No Hurry, which performs wearing face masks and eyepatches. Nino and Yuzu reconnect, but it is clear that she’s still nurturing her feelings for Momo. The part of this manga that I found most interesting, and I’m not sure if it was intentional on the part of the author, is that Yuzu’s obsession with Nino as a muse is so clearly unhealthy. He has a girl singer in his band called Alice who is designed with his memories of Nino in mind, and he likens his feelings for Nino as being trapped under the spell of a canary. Yuzu ends up being the most compelling character in this manga, just because he wears his emotional agony on his sleeve. No surprise, Momo is attending the same high school, and shows up around Yuzu to make a few bad puns and then disappear in an enigmatic fashion.
The art is stylish, if a bit generic. I enjoyed the edgy costumes for Yuzu’s band. A couple moments in the manga that stood out to be as being particularly well-executed were a scene of Nino and Yuzu reconnecting through music in a practice room, and an encounter with Yuzu’s band mates that hints at a whole different story of unrequited love. I often feel like some manga series need at least two volumes before passing judgement on them, and I’m hoping that the second volume of Anonymous Noise has less shoujo cliches and more teen angst because the potential is there for an entertaining music infused teen soap opera, but I’m not quite seeing that yet.