Have you ever had a piece of media get you completely invested in a plot only to throw you for a complete loop? Volume one of Yoshi no Zuikara: The Frog in the Well Does Not Know the Ocean did exactly that for me.
The series spends around 60 pages setting up a quiet slice of life story about four teenagers living on a remote island in Japan only to reveal in the chapter’s final pages that everything I had just read was actually a manga written by the series’ true protagonist. Twists like this are certainly bold, but when done well, they can be incredibly effective. Luckily, Yoshi no Zuikara pulls it off.
Yoshi no Zuikara follows thirty-two-year-old Tohno Naruhiko, a manga artist a bit down on his luck. Having lived his entire life on a remote Japanese island, he spends most of his time drawing manga. Unable to recreate the success that he found early in his career, Naruhiko begins doubting his skills. When his editor suggests he create a slice-of-life manga based on his home island, things not only begin to turn around for his career but also his personal life.
As I said in the intro, Yoshi no Zuikara really threw me for a loop. The first chapter following Naruhiko’s manga was incredible, with likable characters and an interesting premise. When it was revealed that the series was actually going to be about Naruhiko drawing said manga, I was honestly really disappointed. I didn’t care about this mangaka; I wanted to know what would happen to the characters from the first chapter!
However, after some time spent with Naruhiko, Yoshi no Zuikara’s mangaka Satsuki Yoshino was able to win me over. Yoshino is a master at creating enjoyable characters. Naruhiko’s drive to create manga was incredibly relatable to me (as someone who desperately wants to follow their dream), and I very quickly grew to like him. The cast of characters surrounding him, such as his parents and assistant, made for a well-rounded supporting cast. Without this, it can be tough to get invested in a series, so this is a big win for Yoshi no Zuikara.
Yoshino may also be one of my favorite illustrators currently working in manga. There’s something about the way he draws characters that makes them stand out visually. Pair this with fantastic backgrounds and environments, and you get a volume that is a treat for the eyes from page one to page 211.
Seeing as how Yoshi no Zuikara is a slice-of-life, there isn’t any grand plot driving it. Of course, we as readers want to see Naruhiko’s manga succeed, but other than that, each chapter just sees the characters tackling the everyday issues of a mangaka. While this can be incredibly boring in the wrong hands, Yoshino makes reading these tasks incredibly enjoyable through skillful writing alone.
When it comes to complaints about the series, I don’t really have many. After the first chapter, I was sure I would hate it based simply on the complete 180 it took in its narrative. However, thanks to Yoshino’s impressive writing and art, he was quickly able to win me back. I’m not really sure where the series is going in the coming volumes, but I am eager to find out.
Fans of slice-of-life series will undoubtedly get a kick out of Yoshi no Zuikara: The Frog in the Well Does Not Know the Ocean volume one, especially if they don’t get suckered in by the first chapter like I did.
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