Title: Dear NOMAN Vol. 1
Release Date: January 19, 2021
Publisher: Yen Press
Manga has often explored the blurred lines between life and death, presenting creative interpretations of what happens once we all kick the bucket. Of course, much of it is based on Shinto mythology, and so rather than pearly gates or fiery cauldrons, the afterlife in manga has taken place within the physical world. The idea of the deceased is never too far apart from the living. Dear NOMAN is no different, where the first volume sets up a familiar premise convincingly enough whilst giving readers a reason to care for the character without giving away too much right out of the gate.
Dear NOMAN Volume 1 is quite the sizeable read, and so if it wins you over early on, you have plenty of reason to commit. For the most part, it succeeds in what it tries to set up, even when it borders on cringe. Although it uses familiar plot devices and spends much of its time setting up a rather awkward romance between the main characters, the overall delivery is intriguing. This is largely thanks to the art style. While the character designs themselves are quite familiar, the art has a soft finish and generally flows quite nicely, especially in the character expressions.
The manga follows protagonist Mashiro, who cannot only see dead people but the spirit of every dead creature. Like other restless spirits, these ghosts and ghouls are lingering on due to some unfinished business, but the longer they linger and refuse to move on to the great beyond, the eviler they become. Mashiro finds herself dealing with these creatures everywhere she goes. Most of the encounters are comical in tone but can turn ugly quickly.
Mashiro soon realizes that this spiritual realm has a whole hierarchy to it, as there are essentially high ranked ghosts who battle the rogue evil ones and protect the living in the process. It is during a chaotic encounter that Mashiro accidentally kisses one of these ghosts named Bazu. Apparently, if you kiss a ghost here, you end up becoming its master or something.
It’s certainly an odd law in this ghostly universe, but that’s the angle the manga has chosen to set up an awkward romance between the living and ghostly lady. The romantic encounter definitely feels out of nowhere, and there’s no real chemistry between the characters initially. Still, towards the end, some significant backstory reveals a potential for their relationship to be more interesting than it seems.
Ghosts, Yokai, Shinigami, Hollows, or whatever you call them, the spirits in Dear NOMAN have certain mannerisms and characteristics that will be quite familiar to longtime manga readers. Still, the whole kissing a ghost is a new one for manga (at least I think it is). Getting all Patrick Swayze with its ghostly romance shenanigans. It’s not all romance, though, as the manga focuses on combat and building up the rules governing the living and the dead.
Dear NOMAN is largely in the awkward romance camp, but thankfully it’s situated within interesting lore and frequently changes things between comedy and action themes. It’s drawn rather nicely, and while the characters are initially introduced haphazardly, Volume 1 concludes on a memorable note by giving readers a reason to care for the main cast once you understand their backstory and motives.
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