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Review: ‘Anonymous Noise’

Anonymous Noise 1Anonymous Noise, Vol. 1
Writer/artist: Ryoko Fukuyama
Viz; $9.99
Rated T for Teen

Nino Arisugawa has a great voice—and lousy luck with friends. As a child, she shared her love of singing with her next door neighbor Momo…until he suddenly disappeared, his family having skipped town without even giving her a chance to say goodbye. Years later, she meets and befriends a mysterious young boy named Yuzu, who composes music with a stick in the sand, and then, suddenly, he too disappears.

Believing that her voice will someday bring them both back to her, she continues to sing, but in secret, almost ritualistically. When she’s not singing, she wears a mask over her mouth. This continues until manga-ka Fukuyama picks up her story in high school, where Nino finds Yuzu is also a student, but his feelings for her seem to have changed.

Yuzu is now part of their school’s tiny pop music club, which is so small it’s always on the verge of being shuttered. The club has a secret, though: They wear masks and eye-patches as disguises and take on assumed identities when they perform professionally, as the extremely popular rock band No Hurry To Shout.

Circling Nino, Yuzu, and the band is a handsome, mysterious young man that smart money suggests is the grown-up Momo…but if that does end up being the reveal, it doesn’t come in this first volume of the series.

Fukuyama presents a fun and quirky set-up for this shoujo manga, with Nino and Yuzu both being appealingly weird and the latter harboring dramatically complicated feelings for Nino, who is his muse and his crush…although he’s secretly jealous of Momo and hopes Nino never does find her first love, thus setting up a love triangle just waiting to be realized.

The secret band is another neat twist, allowing the characters to exist both in a more-or-less familiar high school setting and a high-profile, professional rock-and-roll world, the latter of which will likely come to the fore in future volumes.

Music is notoriously difficult to depict in comics, and Fukuyama handles that by more-or-less avoiding the problem. There are no lyrics, and only suggestions of sounds rather than depictions of actual music. When Nino sings, she simply opens her mouth and a giant music note appears in dialogue balloon; the other characters tell us how good a voice she has.

The double set-up of Nino meeting and losing two friends before the present story begins, and the choice to tell these events chronologically rather than via flashback, makes Anonymous Noise a little tougher to get into than it might otherwise be. Fukuyama’s very typical shoujo lay-outs and designs could be a further impediment to the casual reader, but manga fans should have no problems with the stylistic choices.

(There’s a free preview at the Viz website.)

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J. Caleb Mozzocco About J. Caleb Mozzocco

J. Caleb Mozzocco is a way-too-busy freelance writer who has written about comics for online and print venues for a rather long time now. He currently contributes to Comic Book Resources' Robot 6 blog and ComicsAlliance, and maintains his own daily-ish blog at EveryDayIsLikeWednesday.blogspot.com. He lives in northeast Ohio, where he works as a circulation clerk at a public library by day.

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