Sunday, July 29, 2018

MANGA REVIEW: After Hours Vol 1 and 2 offer more than "Story A"

Erica over at Okazu created the term "Story A" to define the whole high-school girl meets high-school girl and they fall in love and the story ends set of yuri stories. It's the basics, it can be wonderful, but it can also be boring and insipid. So it's nice when a yuri manga comes around that offers something different. After Hours volumes 1 and 2 do just that.

After Hours centers on Emi and Kei. Emi is 24, out of work, and feeling out of place at a club when she's ditched by a friend. She starts talking to Kei who suggests they go somewhere else for a drink. That somewhere else ends up being Kei's place where Emi spends the night and the two hook up. We come to find out that Kei is 31 and a DJ who also holds a typical job during the day. So here we have a manga about two adults and what happens after they get together, something nearly unheard of in the yuri world so obsessed with rosy cheeked high-schoolers endlessly making eyes at each other (which, I'll admit, I love too).

The art has a mixture of some scratchy textures, occasionally nearly photo-realistic backgrounds, and  interesting looks to the characters (I always appreciate when I can easily tell characters apart). It has a well put-together yet edgy aesthetic that plays into its subject matter of DJ and night-life culture more than some moe or a polished/simple art style would. This is a plus.

I liked volume 1 well enough and was interested in reading volume 2, but volume 2 really offered some intrigue. We get to learn a little more about Emi who hasn't shared anything with us the reader or with Kei at this point. It seems she's a college graduate, with a current boyfriend (yikes!), living with him in an apartment, and as we knew was out of work in the graphics/web-design field. In volume 2, she makes the choice to leave her boyfriend and is forced, financially, to leave her former apartment. Kei finds out about the boyfriend and is understandably hurt. The way their relationship responds to this is the very cute ending of volume 2. But mostly, I liked the idea that there was a realistic, but complex background to Emi, one she needs to account for. I am curious what her life was like. I get the impression that it was a typical middle-class life from high-school to college to dating the nice boy, getting a job...and for some reason it didn't fit. I hope volume 3 will offer more peeks into her past life. I'm also curious to understand more about her sexuality. Will this be the rare yuri that explores bi or pan-sexuality? If it did so thoughtfully, that would be a cool addition to the narratives out there.

Either way, this series is doing more than I expected it would, with nice art, winning characters, an interesting story, and a story set in adulthood (albeit early adulthood). I'm giving volume 1 a 7/10 and volume 2 an 8/10 (due to its increased complexity with Emi's backstory and the curiosity that piqued in me about what her former life was like and why she's seemingly rebelling against it - is it rebelling or finally finding herself - maybe we'll find out in volume 3). So glad that this was translated into English to continue getting a broader selection of yuri (and josei/shoujo in general - are you mad that I count yuri as part of shoujo and josei? Am I wrong for doing so? That would be another interesting thing to research and get feedback on if anyone wants to take me up on it). Can't wait for volume 3 (December I think! Yuck!)


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