By Mitsurou Kubo. Released in Japan by Kodansha, serialized in the magazine Evening. Released in North America by Vertical Comics. Translated by Ko Ransom.
Several years ago, when I was in New York City on a trip, I used to go to the Japanese bookstore to pick up random manga magazines and see what sort of things they had in them that would never be licensed over here. One of the more interesting ones was Evening, a magazine put out twice a month by Kodansha, meant as a complement to the mainstream Weekly Morning and the otaku-oriented Afternoon. Evening wasn’t as experimental as some magazines, but it tended towards manga for adults, with adult problems and solutions that didn’t necessarily come easily. Moteki is one of those titles, and I had bought it in Japanese back then thinking it would never be put out over here – it wasn’t the sort of thing publishers would look at. But then Yuri on Ice became THE PHENOMENON, and here we are. And I’m pleased, because Moteki is quite a good story, even if it can be extremely uncomfortable at times.
Yukiyo is our hero, though I use the term loosely. He’s almost thirty and seems to be coasting his life away – content to work temp jobs that are easy to get and easy to quit, living in bachelor-land, and having no luck with women, or so he thinks. Then all of a sudden his co-worker seems to be coming on to him; his old classmate is back in his life and going on trips with him; the girl he crushed on is back in his life as well; heck, even the high school delinquent girl is back and screaming at him that he’s a moron. It’s his moteki, which is to say that period in your life where guys suddenly tend to get very popular. There’s just one problem – Yukiyo is a passive wimp who keeps waffling about what kind of signs he’s getting from the women, and thus doesn’t really accomplish much of anything.
There is a certain self-awareness to this manga, both in the comedy extras – the author hooking Yukiyo up right away, and being reminded that this manga is supposed to be read by fellow losers – and in the main text, with everyone happy to point out to Yukiyo just what he is or isn’t doing. I think this is a very good thing, as it saves the manga from being a bit too didactic. Yukiyo can be very hard to take, and thus we appreciate it when the characters say this for us over and over. He does seem to be improving by the end of the volume, but… is he really? The girls also get some focus on their own where we can hear their own frustrations and insecurities – Itsuka is my favorite, and also probably the closest mirror to Yukiyo, but none of them are purely there as props.
Moteki is a relatively short series, and the second omnibus will wrap things up. I’m not sure if it will resolve a romance – this sort of title is the kind that tends to go for “I don’t need to resolve the relationships as long as I show personal growth” – but given how much personal growth is needed, I’m fine with that. If you don’t mind excruciating passive guys getting called out on their shit a lot, Moteki is an excellent examination of adult love lives.