By Yuhta Nishio. Released in Japan by Shogakukan, serialization ongoing in the magazine Hibana. Released in North America by Viz. Translated by Abby Lehrke.
There is something of a history in yuri manga of the protagonists realizing their feelings for each other while still in school. Sometimes it’s just them, sometimes we get another couple, and sometimes everyone in the school seems to be gay, but the theme is “students”. After Hours, therefore, with its relationship between a shy 24-year-old college graduate and the 30-year-old DJ she meets at a club, is a breath of fresh air for no reason other than the fact that it’s about two adults. Fortunately, there’s a lot more to it than just that, and in fact the ‘yuri’ part of the volume is touched on a lot less than it is in those school stories. These two meet, hook up that evening, and any angst or worry they have has nothing to do with the fact that they’re both girls. It’s great to see.
Emi is the blonde on the cover, and she and her friend are going out clubbing, something Emi is not really wild about. She’s even less wild when her friend hooks up immediately and leaves her to fend for herself. Luckily she’s saved by Kei, who works at said club. The first chapter may have been a one-shot that got turned into a series, as it’s really simple: they get on, Kei invites her to come over and look at her etchings… erm, collection of old records, and things end up progressing from there. Even the morning after, aside from a brief “OMG what did I just do!” look from Emi, is really sweet. Most of the rest of the first volume stays at that simmer, though it’s apparent that when Vol. 2 comes out there may be a bit more angst and drama. Emi is unemployed at the start, and dialogue hints that she’s living in an apartment with a guy… who she’s in the process of breaking up with. Much of this happens on the edges of the story, as Emi is understandably reluctant to bring this up with Kei, though she tries once or twice.
The other reason to read this manga is the excellent look it gives into Japanese club culture. Kei is a DJ, and shows Emi how to be a VJ and provide images for her songs about halfway through the book. It shows the fun and rush of doing these things, while a flashback of Kei’s shows how difficult it can be as well, particularly when you’re just starting out. (Kei is very laid-back and knowing for most of the present day stuff, and it’s nice to see that she used to be a ball of pent-up frustration and anger.) There’s a large group of clubbers here, almost all men, but they seem nice (accidental Jagermeister shots aside), and also seem to understand that Emi and Kei are in a relationship without it ever being brought up. After Hours is a yuri title, but the yuri in the first volume seeks, for once, to make things LESS awkward – Emi and Kei bond very fast, much faster than I think they would have if Kei had been a man. I really enjoyed the first volume, and hope Vol. 2 comes out soon (it’s not out in Japan yet, I believe.)