Flat: A Manga Review!

While I don’t read manga as often as I’d like, I do so every chance I get. There’s something about the relaxed pacing of a manga that captures a different feel than anime, even if the one is an adaptation of the other. I think manga as a form, lends itself more to smaller set pieces than the grand, sprawling action epics – but then, what do I know? The big shounen titles are the top sellers, and drive the publication of huge circulation weeklies like Shounen Jump and Shounen Sunday.

I wanted to take a minute to pimp a manga I’ve really come to love, Flat. It’s written by Aogiri Natsu and published in Comic Blade Avarus – which makes it shoujo by definition. For me, it’s a slice-of-life – it doesn’t get much more SoL than this series.

Basically, the story follows a teenaged slacker, Heisuke – skips a lot of classes, might have to repeat a year of high school, never shows too much interest in anything, generally steers clear of emotional connection altogether. Through a series of machinations by his mother and aunt he ends up being the regular babysitter for Aki, his five-year old cousin. The entire manga, give or take, details the relationship between Heisuke and Aki, and the impact it has on Heisuke’s outlook. There’s not much more to it than that, really – two chapters are devoted to Heisuke getting a cold and Aki feeling guilty about it because he’d taken Heisuke’s blanket during the night when he slept over. If that doesn’t sound interesting to you, I can’t really blame you – but it should. In these hands, it’s genius.

I don’t know the background of Aogiri-san – even for sure if the author is male or female – but my suspicion is that he or she couldn’t possibly have written this if they didn’t have a young nephew or son himself. Everything is spot-on – the way little boys idolize big boys, Aki’s shyness, Heisuke’s slowly melting indifference towards him. Ironically for a shoujo title, this is very much a guy’s story – if the guy is sensitive enough to read a story about these topics. Very often shoujo stories about guys – especially teens – but written by women paint a sort of idealized picture of the male existence. The wonderful but utterly preposterous Ookiku Furikabutte comes to mind. But Flat gets it right – the conflicting desires to connect but stay isolated that Heisuke feels, his fascination with Aki, Aki’s urge to fit in with Heisuke and his friends. There are other characters here too – Aki’s parents are great, especially the Dad. He’s a very typical young Dad – works hard and sometimes neglects his family because of it, but loves Aki dearly and is mortified when Aki begins to idolize Heisuke and copy him.

The manga is ongoing, and I hope it stays that way for a long time. I’m very curious to see the relationship change as Aki gets a little older – my relationship with my nephew changed so much as he grew up. Whether the series ends before we see much of that I don’t know, but in the meantime I urge everyone to give it a read and enjoy it. It’s one of my favorite manga discoveries of the last year.

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