Monday, July 29, 2019

Missed It Monday - Forget Me Not Volume 1 is problematic (Manga Review)

Mag Hsu and Nao Emoto
Forget Me Not Vol. 1 - 5/10

I picked up "Forget Me Not" Volume 1 (Kodansha Comics) solely because I really like Nao Emoto's art. The story is written by Mag Hsu and that's where I'm a bit concerned. Emoto-sensei's art is great again, but the writing has me both slightly intrigued and very very concerned. There are many red-flags in the writing and I'm not sure I'm going to keep reading this series because of them. I might give the next volume a try to see if the red-flags are actually resolved responsibly or if it is an indication of a fairly misogynist viewpoint.

The story is complex in that it bounces between present day and episodes in the lead character's past (middle-school through college so far). Yusuke Serizawa crashes on his scooter leaving work one day as he's distracted by a familiar looking woman. She then calls the ambulance, but when Serizawa awakens in the hospital, she's gone and hasn't left a name. However, she calls him and seems to know him, but won't tell him who she is before inviting him to meet with her.

This is the first, and recurrent red flag. This woman refuses to say who she is (on more than one occasion), assuming that he will recognize her voice (and its presumably a voice from a decade or more ago) only to be upset that he doesn't, and later in the story, when he apologizes to her (about something else) on the phone she criticizes him for apologizing and disappears without seeing him and revealing who she is.

Why would he need to apologize to this woman at all? This is the second red flag. You see, Serizawa is depicted as a pretty average kid in the flashbacks, but he tends to find himself dating all sorts of ridiculously beautiful women with "flaws" and then either not doing right by them or trying to "fix" them. So second red flag is that average guy gets hot girls routinely. Um, nope. But it get's worse, because he isn't always just their savior, for one, he is the abuser.

So third red flag, in middle school, he found a girl he liked, who liked him back but she wasn't popular. So instead of being nice to her, he ignores her in front of his friends, and then ends up assaulting her (forced kiss, pushed against a wall, clothes asunder, etc...) and then abandoning her. Basically, this guy is an average tool who keeps getting hot girls, hurting them or trying to be their hero, and is sure that whomever it is that saved him after his accident and is calling him must be a girl he has wronged in his past, thereby leading to the apology that gets him yelled at.

So back to red-flag 1. I totally understand and support that victims of assault often do not want their abusers apologizing once they've realized they were wrong. That's more about the abuser clearing their own conscience than actually repairing the harm done to the person they abused. It can often end up just making the abuse victim relive painful things with no real resolution yet again. So IF the girl on the phone was yelling at him because of this it would make sense, but she alludes to something else entirely and is upset he'd ruin the moment by trying to apologize. Makes no sense to me, but more than anything, why is she playing games (not revealing her name, yelling at him for apologizing, disappearing again, etc...)? And that's the real red-flag number 4.

Red-flag 4 - all the women have fatal "flaws" and are depicted in a very poor light. We have the can't-speak-Japanese foreign student who "loves" Serizawa but is going back overseas and who never smiles and is always beating on him (whom Serizawa presumably fixes when they meet years later - although it isn't made explicit that it's her, but it is). We have the prep-school teacher who is too shy and awkward to teach well (and that Serizawa fixes - because he's an educational genius, and what college student doesn't love a good know-it-all high-school boy?). We get hints in the art that there are going to be more women who are broken and/or that he has wronged, and that are also all beautiful (I'm guessing these characters are for later volumes so we have to relive each of his awful romantic experiences before finally finding out who the girl is that saved him after the accident). And we have this mystery woman who won't reveal her name, plays games with him, won't tell him her agenda, disappears when they were going to meet because she didn't like that he apologized, etc...etc... basically the women in this series are not depicted favorably. At all. But did I mention they're each beautiful? Cause of course average guys who treat women badly but also can fix women always get the beautiful ones, one after another after another - enough to fill 7 volumes (?) of back stories...ughhh.

So why should we root for Serizawa? Why should we read a series in which the women are all depicted terribly and with such misogynistic stereotypes? Why should we read a story in which the average guy is out to "help" some of the women while also being an ass to others but gets all the pretty girls none-the-less? I'm not really sure, to be honest. But the first volume is such a cluster-f*ck that I'm sort of curious to see whether it untangles itself or just adds to the dumpster fire!

The art is really good, I really like Emoto-sensei's artwork (particularly in "O Maidens in Your Savage Season") but so far the writing in "Forget Me Not" is a mess. Maybe it's going somewhere. Maybe it will have a powerful feminist message at the end, but right now, it sure seems like more of a male-savior/redemption story. And that is not something I'm interested in. We'll see, I might give the next volume a peek. But volume 1 of "Forget Me Not" is a cautious and problematic 5/10. (It's this high mostly because the art is good and I do like the crazy foreign student despite myself).


Please legitimately purchase or borrow manga and anime. Never read scanlations or watch fansubs. Those rob the creators of the income they need to survive and reduce the chance of manga and anime being legitimately released in English.

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