Once again, I’m bringing you a full series review instead of a first impression. I got volume 1 of Yoshi no Zuikara at the same time as Eniale & Dewiela. I started it right away and after a chapter just casually Googled the series to find out more. What I did find out is that it was complete in 3 volumes and the entire thing would be available by the summer.
So I closed volume 1 of Yoshi no Zuikara and put it right back on my shelf. You see, that one chapter (or should I say one chapter and a page, that’s important cause there’s a reveal) was enough to let me know that I would definitely be getting the entire series and that I wanted to experience it as one continuous story.
And now I have!
Why I Picked up Yoshi no Zuikara
Once again it was a question of the cover. A close-up of a character doing an awkward smile on a white background. It looked a bit like a passport photo one didn’t pick to go in their actual passport. I really loved that cover.
The fun thing is that Yoshi no Zuikara does include a scene of a manga artist creating a cover for their new book. It’s quite meta. The cover isn’t exactly the same. It’s a full character standing in a fun pose on a white background but it’s similar enough. And the main character does go on about how boring that concept is.
Thirty-two-year-old Tohno Naruhiko has been scraping by as a manga creator for ten years, and when his latest series gets canceled, he finds himself at a crossroads. Tohno’s always had his sights set on fantasy, but this time around, his editor’s got another idea-a slice-of-life story set in a remote village not unlike the one where he was born and raised. Could a return to his roots be exactly the change of pace our reclusive manga creator needs?
My First Impression
How many layers does this have?
What I liked
I’ll warn you right now. I really Yoshi no Zuikara and I have a lot to say. First, let me explain the layers comment.
Yoshi no Zuikara is a slice of life set in a small Japanese island village about a manga artist creating a slice of life series set in a small Japanese island village. There is a manga within the manga that mirrors the “real life” events of Naruhiko’s every day, and at the same time Yoshi no Zuikara runs a commentary on the manga industry and the behind the scenes work of putting a series together that you can see up to a point, reflected in the Yoshi no Zuikara product as well. And it all comes together seemingly effortlessly.
There is also a straightforward theme going through the series. Naruhiko wasn’t only born and raised in this small village, he’s effectively only left it once in his entire life and that was on a school trip. He’s been a struggling manga artist since high school and has grown very isolated through the years. By the time we catch up with him, he’s an extremely sheltered man who really only sees his family and assistant and is filled with social anxiety. He also considers himself a failure with some compelling evidence to support that.
Throughout Yoshi no Zuikara, Naruhiko has to travel to Tokyo for an autograph signing and meet some of his devoted fans. He also meets some fans in his own village and slowly gets to know the people around him more. By the end of the series, he’s still the same guy, but a much better version of himself. And that was honestly heartwarming and sweet. It’s paced realistically and nothing out of the ordinary or incredible happens. You just get to follow a well-meaning and hard-working Otaku as he catches a break.
I was rivetted and couldn’t wait to read more every evening.
I have also noticed that I tend to really enjoy rural set stories. Like a certain Book of friends for instance. By sheer coincidence, I also started watching Bakamon recently and it is very similar to Yoshi no Zuikara in some ways. These stories tend to adapt the unbothered and unrushed style of the lives they portray. It’s slow-paced and doesn’t stand on artifice. If you are looking for a heart-pounding adventure, well this simply isn’t it. It’s a stop and smell the roses kind of story. Personally, I find that when I get my hands on one of those at the right time, it’s the best thing ever!
Also, as this is a things I liked section, I couldn’t leave Toshibou out. He’s Naruhiko’s part-time assistant and manages to be both a sarcastic troll and Naruhiko’s biggest fan simultaneously. I’m not sure I have seen that archetype before. At least not often. I thought he shone and brought some great touches of humour to the series.
This said, the characters are really Yoshi no Zuikara’s strength. There aren’t that many but all of them are well developed and bring something to the whole. Naruhiko’s editor was a revelation, even the random fans that came to his book signing (my favourite part) and we only saw for a panel or two were surprisingly well developed and fun to read.
I really don’t have much bad to day about Yoshi no Zuikara.
Honestly, this is going to require some fishing. There’s a lot of fishing in the series. I’m not sure who I was writing an inside joke for…
I just said the characters were great but I guess the biggest drawback for me might be Hii-chan. She’s a young girl who is Naruhiko’s fan in the village. But she’s also very tsundere. I tend to dislike tsundere characters. Now in manga form, she’s actually fine and there are a few moments where I think she’s downright great. But she does tend to scream when she gets flustered, which is often and I imagine that she would be unbearable in anime form.
Also, it’s only 3 volumes. The story is complete and there’s absolutely no need for more…but I would have read more. I finished it last night and I’m a little bummed I won’t get to read more tonight.
Satsuki Yoshino, the author did also write Barakamon (which I am watching). I didn’t know until this exact moment. I wrote the line about being bummed and thought to myself that is should see what else the mangaka has done since I enjoyed Yoshi no Zuikara so much. And now I see she wrote Barakamon which I am loving in anime form. Sort of explains the similarities.
It seems she contributed to a lot of anthologies but is currently releasing a manga called 18 Eighteen. It’s sort of brand new, the first chapter released in magazines in Japan at the end of 2020. I’m gonna see if I can find it anywhere.