Saturday, December 9, 2017


There was plenty of shoujo manga that came out this year, but for once it wasn't Viz leading the charge as far as number or quality.  With debuts like this, it's little wonder why this year was an off one for them.

ANONYMOUS NOISE (Fukumenkei Noizu), by Ryoko Fukuyama.  First published in 2013 and first published in North America in 2017.


Nino Arusigawa's childhood was defined by two major losses.  The first was her best friend Momo, who would sing with her from their bedroom windows whenever their parents fought.  Her grief over him led her to Yuzu, a moody young boy with a gift for songwriting.  Both boys were captivated by her voice.  Momo told her that if she sang loud enough, he would always find her; Yuzu simply wanted to keep that powerful voice for himself to fuel his own passion for music.

Fast forward to high school, where Nino's grief is still so strong that she wears headphones to shut out the world and a surgical mask to keep herself from screaming in grief.  She reunites with Yuzu and finds her voice again, unaware that Momo may be closer than she expected...

Anonymous Noise is just that: noise.  It is the shoujo equivalent of loud, fatuous noise, a pile of sound and fury signifying nothing but the most histrionic manga I've read in some time.

It got off to an awful start with its first chapter.  Nino's backstory doesn't so much shove the melodrama at the reader as it does shotgun them in the face with EMOTION every few pages.  Every feeling that Nino and Yuzu have is cranked to 11, regardless if it's said out loud or relegated to their inner monologue.  Nino in particular is utterly baffling, as when she is not so overcome with emotion that she has to scream she is seemingly oblivious to the world.  She'll interrupt everyday conversations with random observations and even the mildest pun goes straight over her head.  These are clearly meant to be jokes, but they're so randomly placed and so out of tune with the rest of the story that it only seems to make things worse.  

Things mercifully calm down some once everyone gets to high school, but the drama bombs start dropping again the moment Nino meets Yuzu again.  From there, the plot becomes a 10 car pile-up of drama.  Yuzu has a band that's currently breaking up, but at the same time they're trying to keep the school pop club afloat under their real identities.  Then there's the love triangle between Nino, Yuzu, and Momo, which in turn threatens to spiral into some awkward polyhedron when a few of Yuzu's bandmates are caught up in their own unrequited feelings.  Add on top of that Yuzu's ugly, possessive streak and Nino's still raw emotional trauma and you get quickly get a story that's just too discordant to bear for a single volume, much less an entire series.


Fukuyama's art is both too old-fashioned and too busy for its own good.  Her characters all have the sort of bobbleheaded, saucer-eyed, matchstick-limbed look that went out of style in the 90s.  I swear that Fukuyama tries to hide a lot of them behind some of the worst, most overgrown and overly tussled hair I've seen in some time.  It's especially bad with the teenage versions of Yuzu and Momo as both of them have black hair and virtually similar styles.

That's far from the ugliest thing, though.  Nothing can beat the horror of Nino as she sings.  While most music-based manga have a hard time suggesting sound solely through image, Anonymous Noise manages to convey the sound of an emotional foghorn blaring at full volume through Nino' gaping mouth, the spray of notes blasting out randomly on the page.  Adding to this cacophony is Fukuyama's composition.  When her panels aren't uncomfortably close to the characters, they are thrown about willy-nilly on the page.  Combined with her seemingly random usage of screentones and the constant barrage of dramatic nonsense from our leading trio, the result is pure chaos.


Anonymous Noise is an aggressive, intense, and poorly-drawn blast of shojo melodrama that will leave you begging for silence and better manga to read.

This series is published by Viz.  This series is ongoing in Japan with 13 volumes available.  5 volumes have been released and are currently in print.

Want to win a $25 RightStuf gift certificate to purchase manga like this one?  Then make sure to enter the Manga Test Drive's annual Holiday Review Giveaway here!

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