Anonymous Noise is the latest Shonen Beat title to make waves. Let’s take a look.
Here’s the official description for the book:
Nino Arisugawa, a girl who loves to sing, experiences her first heart-wrenching goodbye when her beloved childhood friend, Momo, moves away. And after Nino befriends Yuzu, a music composer, she experiences another sad parting! Both boys promised Nino that they would find her one day through her singing, so she holds on to that hope and continues to reach out with her voice. Now in high school, Nino serendipitously reunites with Yuzu, but she yearns to see Momo again…
On paper, the story for Anonymous Noise is not a bad one. A tale about a girl who loves to sing to feel better, but hasn’t been able to since her childhood friend and biggest influence vanished one day. She met another person who was able to compose music and helped her sing again, but he vanished as well. Now in high school, she reunites with both of them and is slowly pulled back into the world of music. It’s not a bad idea, if a bit silly and cheesy, but it could work. However, in practice, the first volume is very flawed.
Besides the fact that the book is entirely setup, the characters needed a lot more work. Our lead, Nino, has the most well-fleshed out backstory for the most part. We’re shown her deeply missing her childhood friend that was always there for her, to the point where it felt hard to breathe without a mask on. She loses another friend along the way, only deepening her sadness. She tries desperately to reach them through her voice and signing, which is almost involuntary at this point, but it feels almost futile. Despite supposedly being sympathetic and one to get invested in, the writing portrays her as so overly emotional and melodramatic all the time that it becomes downright silly. Add in how tactless she is, even when meeting people she cares about, and she doesn’t sell herself too well on a character we can get into easily, at least compared to other female Shojo leads.
GAH!!! The pun, IT HURTS!!
Neither male characters that make up our love triangle are particularly engaging right off the bat, either. Momo is kind of a blank slate other than that he liked Nino when he was younger and he has some sass to him. He appears later in the story, but outside of a connection to the music industry, there’s not much else there. Yuzu has been a songwriter for years now, but he gets most of his inspiration from Nino (whom he dubs Alice) due to her vocals. He really likes her and wants to be with her, despite his rudeness, but he’s also very selfish in that desire. He knows she is really feeling for Momo and is still looking for him after all these years, but Yuzu fears that she’ll ditch him if she ever finds him again. He actually hopes that she never does so he can have her all for himself. He’s not exactly a good person and his background not being hinted at keeps him from being someone we can really like. However, he does at least feel like a real character here.
The other members of the band, Kuro and Haruyoshi, don’t leave much of an impression. There’s nothing to Kuro and the only trait Haruyoshi has is that he has a crush on the vocalist Miou, which kind of comes out of nowhere. We’ve never seen them interact with each other or see why he would like her, so his interest in her is rather weak. Miou could be something so much more due to her self consciousness. She’s always been the stand-in for Nino in Yuzu’s eyes, who never really looks at her despite how much she wants to please him. However much she tries, she just can’t get him to see her that way, even threatening to break up the band since he can’t write songs anymore. Then the second Nino comes back into his life, Miou is out the door and she knows she can’t compete with the original, especially since it kicks Yuzu back into gear. This is an interesting character, but we never really explore much of these feelings or see much personality beyond her crush on Yuzu. All of this and their relationship happen off screen, so we’re left having to infer things instead of seeing them. Frankly, she’s far more interesting of a character than Nino is with far more depth.
Now, all of this could be excusable in a regular book. The first volume could just be seen as an average, corny romance manga that is still finding itself. What cripples it though is the artwork and storytelling. Fukuyama is a perfectly fine writer who has the chops to write good characters, but she can’t draw or script this series at all. It would be one thing if was just bad, rubbery character anatomy or the fact that the style looks like almost every other Shojo series out there due to the genre’s homogenized art. It’s not though–the problem is much bigger than that.
I still do not grasp the idea of pencils, pens, and paper, so dirt writing is the only way I roll.
The best way to describe the artwork and writing of the manga is "visual noise." It’s hard to read and follow along with what is happening at any given point. The story is constantly cutting off and shifting from scene to scene or perspective to perspective, which makes it a chore to follow along and keep up with. The poor transitions and quick story didn’t help either, giving you no time to dwell on important moments, key points, or character bits. The story is constantly jumping from each point so quickly, making scenes that should be key and powerful hollow and empty.
There are pages crammed with dialogue that’s all over the place. Combined with the strangely layouts, it can be hard to know what to read and in what order. The font choice for inner thoughts is the same across the board and due to how the story is written, multiple people can be having inner monologues at the same time, making it difficult to know who is thinking what right away. Layouts are jumbled and frantic, further taking away from the overall experience. The fourth chapter is probably the worst visually, containing all of these problems throughout. That’s especially bad given that’s where the big emotional high point for Nino is (as well as others)–it ends up looking like a chaotic mess by the end. Overall, the artwork and writing suck the life out of whatever good there may be good in this manga.
Anonymous Noise Vol. 1 could have been a decent, if unremarkable start to a Shojo series, but it is severely handicapped by poor artwork and bad storytelling. It’s a story that’s difficult read, follow along with, and get invested in because of questionable layouts and pacing. It’s an utter pain to read a times, even taking away from pivotal moments. Unless these two key points get better, there’s no way I recommend this manga.