By Dustin Cabeal
I’m a big fan of music in comics. I don’t know why I just am. That doesn’t mean that it always works or that I always like it, but if your comic is about a band or a singer, I’m inclined to check it out. While Anonymous Noise wasn’t the first manga about music I’ve read, it was the first from Shojo Beat.
I’ll be frank with you and break from my normal way of reviewing and just tell you that I loved the hell out of this book. It had plenty of faults which keeps it from being perfect, but my goodness did I want to read the second volume instantly. I loved the hell out of Anonymous Noise.
The way the story unfolds isn’t the best. The, unfortunately, thing is that it’s following the formula for the genre and so while I don’t personally agree with how it starts and progresses, it’s hard to fault it for it when there’s an entire creative culture that needs to be changed. That kicks the hornets’ nest of, “does it really need to be changed?” Because if it works and the core audience in Japan are supporting it as is, then why change it? My point is this; I can’t fault the opening or even call it weak for what it is because my standards are coming from a culture that tells stories differently, plain and simple.
That aside, it was hard to tell who the story was following for the first chapter or so. Being unfamiliar with childhood nicknames, I wasn’t even sure who was Momo and who was Nino. Let’s just say I had them flipped for a while. At any rate, we meet two little kids that live across each other and can talk via their bedroom windows. When one of them is having problems sleeping, they sing together until they pass out. The grow and grow until they’re going to school together and it seems like they’ll be together forever. Until they’re not. Momo moves, and we’re kept in the dark about why he moved so that it can be revealed later in the story. Nino “loses” her voice and starts wearing a mask all the time because she feels like screaming when it’s not on. She meets another little boy who changes her name to Alice for some reason. He writes her music in the sand, and it’s very complex. At this point, I should mention that Momo and Nino were learning piano together, so they both know how to read music.
Alice’s voice makes Yuzu, the new boy, fall in love with her. He says he’ll write her music and sing with her to keep her happy, but clearly, he’s upset about her still having feelings for Momo. Yuzu also leaves Nino/Alice, and the story eventually makes it to high school.
I’ve mentioned three characters which should mean you can figure out that this is a love-triangle love story. It’s far from typical at the moment, but I don’t to spoil that. There is a band angle worked in, and there’s another twist there as well. Eventually, Alice finds Yuzu again and complicates his life by bringing out his feels for her again.
There is just something about the pacing and the character of Nino/Alice that makes this story work well. That and the twist I’m avoiding made me very interested in seeing how long the story could sustain that aspect. The writing isn’t perfect. The story jumps forward the second it's settled into a comfortable place, but when it gets to the high school, everything falls into place. My one and only gripe is that we don’t get to read anything that Nino is singing which makes for a hollow music experience. It also reminded me of Fuuka in that regard as well. This works for the manga, but if Anonymous Noise ever becomes an anime, I will instantly worry about this aspect of the story.
The art is typical of the genre, but it’s detailed. That’s the thing that makes it stand out from the other Shojo Beat stories I’ve checked out; the art is detailed but consistent. There isn’t that standard two-page splash page of the characters embracing each other which is then echoed twenty more times throughout the volume. There is the sparkly stuff that’s common to the genre, but creator Kyoko Fukuyama works it in via the music. This gives the feeling of the music coming off the page to some degree, and that amplifies the experience.
I had hoped that Anonymous Noise would be a hit, but I was still surprised by just how much I enjoyed it. That and it’s nice to find a Shojo story to enjoy finally. I’ll be looking forward to more from this series and hope that it can continue its high level of success.
Creator: Ryoko Fukuyama
Publisher: Viz Media