By Syundei. Released in Japan as “Ganbare! Nakamura-kun!!” by Akaneshinsha, serialized in the magazine Opera. Released in North America by Seven Seas.
It may come as a surprise that I’m reviewing a title like this – I try not to be one of those “girl on girl is hot, but guys ew!” fans, but it has to be said that BL is not a genre I generally cover. But there was a big buzz about this title and its style, and it’s also done in one. The main reason I likely picked it up to review was that it made me nostalgic for the old days of manga. The art style is right out of the Ranma 1/2 and KOR playbook, and I was pleased to see that once I started reading the book, the humor was as well. Indeed, Ranma fans might find themselves thinking that if you took Gosunkugi from that series and made his obsession a guy rather than Akane, it wouldn’t be too far off from our titular hero here. The main reason to read the book is Nakamura, who is a big introvert, has an otaku-esque obsession with octopuses, and is, overall, a bit of a hot mess.
Nakamura is also gay, which is probably why you’re seeing this series run in the BL magazine Opera rather than, say, Weekly Shonen Sunday. The object of his affection, who you see dotted around the front cover, is Hirose, who is a nice, extroverted, upbeat young man – he’s the sort who’d be the “best friend of the hero” in a typical manga. Nakamura wants to be more than friends, but he can’t even work his way past that first hurdle. As the volume goes on, we see Nakamura work himself into a frenzy trying to get the courage to have a normal conversation with Hirose. There’s drawing him in art class. There’s helping out with the school play. He’s even getting dating advice from a BL manga. Admittedly, it’s a BL manga involving anthropomorphic train bento, so he’s not having much luck there. It takes a class trip and an aquarium to finally get Nakamura and Hirose to communicate properly, and though there’s no relationship at the end, the friendship step has finally been conquered.
As you may have gatehred, the main reason to get this book is the humor. It’s simply very funny in a lot of places – Nakamura’s imagined smooth conversations leading to romance are also fun and relatable, and it’s also great to see him fretting. As the cast expands (I liked the author’s note where they said they were worried about adding girls to a BL manga) we also get new veins of humor that aren’t just Nakamura’s somewhat obsessive personality – poor Kawamura has a crush on Nakamura, but he’s only interested in her sketches of him and Hirose, and the occult club president is scheming and clever – in most other titles she’s the sort who’d be the newspaper club girl. That said, the main reason to read this is Nakamura, and seeing his fumbling attempts to get closer to Hirose, which do finally pay off. The ending is rather sweet.
In the end, I’m glad I picked this up. It was entertaining, and if you want to start off your BL reading on the milder side, it’s a good choice.