Title: Play It Cool Guys Vol. 1
Author: Kokone Nata
Release Date: March 9, 2021
Publisher: Yen Press
Slice-of-life manga rarely stays their course in their blissful serenity. At some point, love confessions are made, and suddenly you get a Japanese version of Ross and Rachel. If a manga wants to go down the slice-of-life path, then it needs to be about, well… nothing.
Much like Seinfield, it’s highly plausible that this was pretty much how the manga, Play It Cool, Guys Vol. 1 was first pitched by its author Kokone Nata to Square Enix. What started as an independent webcomic found its way on mainstream manga shelves in Japan and now to a global audience via Yen Press.
The premise is simple: many ordinary guys in Japan go through everyday situations, with some embarrassment caused by clumsiness. But then, as George Costanza eloquently puts it, we build up all these situations and scenarios in our head, and then well, nothing really happens.
That’s pretty much the idea behind Play It Cool, Guys, where the first volume sets the tone and mood, introducing the many, many characters who all serve as small moving parts to deliver a setting that never gets overbearing, delivering a narrative comprising of completely random, unrelated, and yet, organic events.
The characters of Play It Cool, Guys Vol. 1 are basically a bunch of guys, some in their early 20s, some nearly 30, as they navigate ordinary situations in awkward ways. The whole tagline of “clumsiness” the manga has at the forefront of its synopsis manifests in awkward interactions with people of the opposite sex and other situations such as workplace interactions.
There’s no real rhyme or reason or any of the events; in fact, they seem to occur at random and in no particular order as the manga goes from panel to panel. But then, that’s the whole point behind it, and this disjointed pacing of unrelated events becomes the real charm. In fact, one could argue how it’s easier to methodically tell a structured and carefully thought-out narrative than it is to let the story unfold on its own.
It almost feels like creator Kokone didn’t really want to overtly control or direct these characters’ lives. Instead, the diverse cast goes through exceedingly ordinary and random events in ways any reader can relate to in some form. Although the manga largely represents young adults’ ordinary lives in contemporary Japan, and it’s largely from a male perspective, any reader can enjoy the dry sense of humor sprinkled in these pages.
Speaking of pages, Play It Cool, Guys comes in full color. No, not just the first four or five pages; in this manga, every single page and every panel is in full color, and that’s a huge bonus if you’re a regular manga reader. The illustrations look great as the use of soft color tones complements the story’s relaxed slice-of-life pace.
Play It Cool, Guys Vol. 1 is a slice-of-life manga that actually means it because rather than present a bunch of dramatic characters who believe the entire universe revolves around their petty romantic encounters, here the characters navigate an ordinary and largely inconsequential situation in a grounded sense. Plus, it’s a great pickup if you’re after a quality manga print where all the pages are in color.
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