After Hours: Refreshingly Unexpected

hisui_icon_4040_round Libraries can be a great place for discovery of new titles. There is enough new manga coming out that it is very easy to miss all but the most high profile titles. It does not help that since I dropped off of social media my chances for finding under the radar titles has gotten a bit slim. While bookstores can help I have found they are not the greatest way to dig into new titles. I know several Barnes and Nobles that still work to subtlety chase people away from the manga section due to manga cows. I can take a intriguing new book home from the library and read the whole thing at my leisure whereas I’m working on a bit of a ticking clock even for quick overview with a bookstore.

The manga that recently caught my attention at the library was After Hours by Yuhta Nishio. I was picking up the copy of Witch Hat Atelier that I had on reserve and went to see if there was anything else that tickled my fancy in the manga section before I checked out. The title caught my eye and it was not based on an anime that I knew of. It then saw it was published by Viz which explained why I had never heard of it. I have complained about this before but for the breadth and depth of Viz’s catalog they are utterly rubbish at promoting anything but there A-tier material.

The title is fairly solid but parts of it really stood out it in ways that made me very eager to talk about it. I know several people who would eat this series up. Patz from the Cockpit Podcast and Kevin from the OSMcast! come to mind. Also since the Manga of the Month is currently on hiatus I feel some obligation to talk about manga that is not Type-Moon related.

I’m going to spoil the first chapter of After Hours but I basically have to in order to show what is different about this series. I don’t think it is a big deal but I figured I would warn people.

After Emi’s friend ditches her for a quick hookup at the club she is left adrift in a sea of music and people that she wants nothing to do with. But then the vivacious DJ Kei sees her drowning socially and throws her a life preserver. Soon Emi comes with Kei on an adventure of romance, music, and staying out until the sun comes up.

While the cover of the first volume does not really indicate this you could classify After Hours as a yuri series. Kei and Emi have sex in the first chapter. This is significant because I generally see two types of yuri series. You tend to have either the super fluffy Class S series that tease everything but seem to refuse to allow anything more series than hand holding or super serious this is my lesbian experience manga. Now lesbian romance manga is far richer than that but the two extremes are far more common in what comes over here.  After Hours is a different as it is a very casual romance series but it does not shy away from the fact that Kei and Emi are sexually active adults. This is not even close to porn but there is no dancing around their relationship either. It is an adult relationship that is not tied down by gravitas of social pressure.

The other thing I really like comes from the mere fact that I said “you could classify After Hours as a yuri series.’ I said that because you could easily classify this is a music manga without batting an eye. I really find the balancing of Kei and Emi’s burgeoning relationship and Emi’s discovery of the world of being a DJ remarkably well done. There are many romance series where the love story is everything and all other plot elements revolve around or solely exists to evolve the relationship. There are many music series where the romance is a minor B-tier plot line solely for some character development outside of music more than anything else. After Hours does a good job of having the story be about both halves which support and reinforce each other without one becoming dominate. This is the story of Kei and Emi relationship AND their adventures in the club scene.

One random thing. I found this random interview with Yuhta Nishio that calls this his “infamous work of After Hours.” Nothing in the first volume jumps at me saying this series would earn itself the title of infamous but I only read the first volume. If the series takes a noise dive or Emi goes on a rant about revoking Article 9 and the downplaying the atrocities during the Nanjing Massacre I am unaware of it. Just a little word of warning. We all remember how Bunny Drop took an infamous and very unexpected nosedive so while I assume this series stays entertaining bad things have been known to happen.

Barring some crazy hard turn it seems like a delightful series that feels different my deftly mixes two genres in mature and artful manner. It takes two great genres and mixes them in away that leads to something that feels different than just a simple mixture. Plus it is only three books long so it is not a horrifically huge investment. If you want to try something familiar but slightly different than I think it is worth checking out.

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