Anonymous Noise, Vol. 5

Anonymous Noise Volume 5 by Ryoko Fukuyama

I think Fukuyama should give other mangaka lessons on designing compelling covers. The cover for this volume of Anonymous Noise features a great image of Miou rocking out with her guitar. Speaking of Miou, in my mind, I think the best possible ending for this series would be for Nino and Miou to forswear all men, and run off to form an all girl supergroup. This being shoujo manga, I think the series is going to continue along with some conventional love triangles until everything is resolved.

I tend to prefer Anonymous Noise when it focuses more on the music than the romantic drama aspects of the story, so I was looking forward to this volume, where Nino and Yuzu’s band In No Hurry goes up against Momo and Miou’s Silent Black Kitty in a battle of the bands. At 5 volumes in, I’m still not finding the romance storylines in this series very compelling, as Nino is revered as a muse and pulled back and forth by her two childhood friends as though they are squabbling over a shiny toy. I did enjoy seeing Nino’s determination as she approaches practicing for her big concert, and there was a great scene of sassy comebacks as the rival bands unexpectedly find themselves on a radio show together, where they argue about who is the most angsty. I wish the series had a few more self-aware humorous bits like this.

Momo has an emotional confrontation with Nino right before she’s about to perform, which is an action I think is so overwhelmingly selfish, it causes me to not be very invested in the whole Nino/Momo romance that this series has built up over several volumes. Nino’s reaction to her emotional trauma is to take her fugue-like state while singing to the next level, and she responds with an incredible performance, even if she is emotionally out of control. The art is consistently super stylish, and I enjoy the dynamic performance scenes of Nino scream-singing. While I might not be very invested in the romance side of Anonymous Noise, it reliably brings the drama with every volume, and I do enjoy the series when the focus is centered more on the music that the characters all love.

Anonymous Noise Vol. 4

Anonymous Noise, Volume 4 by Ryoko Fukuyama

I feel a bit conflicted about this series. I found the first volume a bit uneven, but was gradually won over by all the performance scenes in the manga, even though some of the drama in the manga seems a bit far-fetched at times. This volume featured fewer performances, which maybe accounts for me feeling somewhat impatient in some of the plot resets that happened. In the first few pages of the book an event occurred that made me think, “Hell no!” and then I put the manga down and proceeded to read a few other things before picking it up again. Yuzu kisses Nino when she’s in the throes of emotional turmoil (her usual condition), and her reaction is to say “Don’t talk to me for awhile.”

Just a few pages later Yuzu clarifies that she was upset because she didn’t realize that being with her was causing Nino so much pain, and yet she continues to be fundamentally clueless about the idea that someone might have a crush on her. Yuzu promptly walks back on the idea that he has any romantic feelings for Nino, telling her that it is her voice that’s important to him. This type of emotional reset button with the storyline is what I find frustrating sometimes about this series. It just doesn’t seem like there’s a great deal of character change or growth five volumes in. In Everyone’s Getting Married, for example, no one is getting married, but the relationships between the main characters has grown and evolved so much over just a few volumes, I’m confident that the series is going somewhere, and all the drama will pay off for the reader in the end. I don’t have that same feeling for Anonymous Noise, but at the same time, it is still compelling to read.

Once I got past the romantic drama, I was able to settle down more with the secret backstory of the formation of Yuzu’s band. The next volume promises to have more of a focus on music, as everyone is gearing up for a battle of the bands. I think I enjoy this series most when it is emphasizing music more than romance, so I’m hoping for some dramatic scenes of Nino doing her rock star scream soon.

Anonymous Noise Vol. 3

Anonymous Noise Volume 3 by Ryoko Fukuyama

I’ve found Anonymous Noise both intriguing and frustrating due to some of the overly contrived coincidences (even for shoujo manga). However with the third volume either the storytelling has settled down a bit or it just took a couple volumes for my suspension of disbelief to kick in, because I found myself smiling more while I was reading this manga instead of feeling snarky.

One of the things that I found a bit frustrating in the earlier volumes is that there were some characters functioning in silos to a degree that seemed somewhat ridiculous. The love triangle in the manga is clear, but if the three sides of the triangle haven’t each had a conversation with each other, it seems like the reader is just waiting around for the plot to progress. In this volume people actually talked to each other! They might have been lying dramatically the whole time, but a conversation happened. First, Nino and Miou hash it out a bit, as Nino has taken on Miou’s previous role as singer in Yuzu’s band while Miou moves on to work at a more professional level with Momo. Nino starts learning the guitar after Momo’s (female) manager gives her an old guitar of his. Nino continues to be incredibly inarticulate about her own feelings, and Miou helps her out by pointing out that she’s jealous of any woman who is close to Momo.

Yuzu’s angst is dialed up to 11 as usual as he struggles with his hopeless infatuation for Nino, and when he and Momo meet they finally figure out that they’ve been obsessed with the same girl/muse all along. Nino and Momo finally have a conversation where they confess that they USED to have crushes on each other. I enjoy the way Yuzu is in tune with his feelings far too much and while Momo might be experiencing a torrent of emotions, she’s much less self aware. So much angst!!! While the pacing of all these plot points still doesn’t feel as measured and natural as most of the other shoujo manga I read, the scenes of the characters performing have a tremendous energy that makes up for a lot. Really, one of the main things that won me over was the name and the costuming of Yuzu’s new band, which is hilarious. I’m looking forward to a band showdown coming soon.

Anonymous Noise Vol. 1

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.