Title: No Longer Heroine Vol. 1
Author: Momoko Koda
Release Date: September 13, 2022
Publisher: Yen Press
Throughout high school, I felt like I had crushes on so many different people, but there was one girl who stood out. While I never got the courage to tell her how I felt then, but I figured if fate wanted us to be together, it would happen. I was the protagonist in my high school romance story, and I always wondered how things would have gone if I had spoken up. In more ways than one, Momoko Koda’s No Longer Heroine Vol. 1 sets up this narrative, although it may hit closer to home for some. What I loved about this story, though, is its accessible shoujo premise that doesn’t lean too heavily into fantasy.
No Longer Heroine Vol. 1 introduces Hatori Matsuzaki, a student who seems to have it all figured out. In her eyes, she’s the heroine, so everything will eventually come together for her, no matter how bleak. We learn early on that she has her heart set on her childhood friend Rita Terasaka, a high school playboy who seems to always be in a revolving door of relationships. Hatori is convinced that she doesn’t mind if he gets with anyone because it never lasts long, and one day they’ll be together. It’s actually exceptionally toxic, but she adds some humor into the mix, so you know where her priorities lie.
Hatori and Rita’s relationship comes across more as brother and sister, but this means more to Hatori than Rita. That’s not to say Rita doesn’t care for Hatori, but he seems to be at several forks in the road and choosing directions randomly. Koda-san wrote these characters brilliantly, as their friendship is so believable during each interaction. They aren’t randomly falling into each other arms or forced into awkward situations unless Hatori has someone created the situation through some elaborate scheme.
You see, Rita ends up getting a new girlfriend, but he seems happy, and this is something that Hatori can’t accept. She opens her heart up, but things just get complicated. It was bold of Koda-san to put Hatori’s feelings on the table like this, but the story is so much more complicated than simply telling someone you like them, and then they return their feelings. This is pure high school romance, with all the crappy emotions, ugly crying, and fake smiles used to get you through the day. It’s heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time the way these relationships are conveyed through each panel.
Still, it’s not all romance. There’s some exceptionally humorous dialogue in each chapter as Hatori plots ways to get Rita’s attention without revealing too much. She finds herself questioning her entire school life and whether or not she’s actually the heroine of this story. Her resolve is messy and without focus, which is so true to the feelings that she has. I enjoyed each attempt that she made and thought the supporting cast offered some great moments of character growth, for better or worse.
The illustrations are extremely detailed but also playful. You’ll find some of the typical shoujo soft panels of Rita, but it’s never overdone. I just found this entire story to be so accessible and not directed toward one group of manga readers or the other. I did feel like Hatori was overly pathetic in some moments, which I’m guessing was the case. However, the pacing is hurt by this as some time-skips had me wondering how we got from one event to the other.
No Longer Heroine Vol. 1 does an amazing job of showing readers how complicated high school romance can be. It’s grounded in reality and features some of the most emotional displays of love that I have seen. It’s not overly romantic or cheesy as it manages to simply stay relatable across each chapter. If you’re looking for a manga to make you laugh and cry, this is a must-read.
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