A manga whose title doesn’t deceive.
In the world of boys’ love manga, few publishers are more recognizable than June Manga. June publishes series in a variety of genres, from gritty crime titles (such as Border) to more sex and romance-focused titles. Public Sex by Rihara falls into the latter category, and it’s premise lines up exactly with what one would expect from such a blunt title. Public Sex stars Kanao Morimura and Sei Mishima, a couple whose penchant for the titular activity puts them at risk of unwanted attention from both authorities and neighbors. With that said, one of their neighbors, Konno, is suspiciously unbothered by the goings-on around him. Does Public Sex juggle its characters and subject matter effectively? Is it good?
When it comes to this volume’s characters, I have mixed feelings. Rikara does a good job keeping personalities and voices consistent via dialogue and body language, but none of the protagonists are especially memorable. Kanao and Sei don’t stand out from other couples in the genre, and that’s largely because of the rushed pacing. Large swaths of time are traversed in less than 200 pages, leaving little room for proper build-up of specific scenes. As a result, there aren’t many moments where the characters are fleshed out enough to easily become invested in.
This problem is exacerbated by the volume’s sex scenes, which blur together and do little to further the plot or the characters’ development. The frequency of sex here isn’t inherently a problem (after all, what else would you expect from a manga entitled Public Sex?), but it’s not as effectively integrated into the larger story as it could be. There’s an overreliance on intercourse as a means of reconciliation throughout the volume that prevents Kanao and Sei’s struggles from actually being addressed meaningfully. As a result, the couple’s most pivotal conversations don’t pack enough emotional resonance to be completely successful.
The most consistently solid aspect of this volume is probably its art. Rihara’s line-work is clean throughout, and the characters’ facial expressions are well-rendered. There’s never any question what Kanao, Sei, and Konno are feeling; their body language shifts convincingly alongside their changes in mood. Much of Public Sex takes place indoors, but there are also some occasional outdoor scenes with lovely backgrounds. The opening scene, for example, features a tree whose foliage looks fantastic due to Rihara’s strong understanding of light sources and motion.
Unfortunately, though the writing is solid enough throughout the majority of the volume, it doesn’t quite reach the same quality level as the art. This is mainly due to the last two chapters, which are even more rushed than what precedes them. A number of dramatic reveals are packed together in short succession, and they play out so quickly that it’s hard to process each one. These revelations also call the main characters’ motivations and moral compasses into question, and there isn’t enough time allotted to fully explore the ramifications. By the end of the volume I wasn’t sure how sympathetic I was supposed to find Kanao and Konno. There’s also a brief mention of molestation that isn’t very tastefully handled, further adding to the uncomfortable aura that pervades the story’s ending. All these revelations are also off-putting due to the extreme tonal whiplash they generate after the volume’s far less serious first half.
Overall, Public Sex is neither great nor terrible. On the plus side, Rihara has an impressive grasp of drawing fundamentals, and the characters’ personalities come to life through their facial expressions and body language. On the downside, the pacing gets wonkier the further in the story gets. The ending also features a number of revelations that induce whiplash and leave little time for processing. As a whole, Public Sex is a decent, though significantly flawed, read.