Monday, January 01, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #1: A Girl on the Shore by Inio Asano

The whole point about teens is that they're not done yet. They're not the people they're going to be; they might not even be close. They don't know how to deal with their lives. Everything is new. Everything is a raw nerve. And then they have to spend most of their time with other teens, who all have the same problems.

A Girl on the Shore is about two teens. It's not a love story. But it's not a hate story, either. It is a sex story, and a relationship story, but not one you're expecting. It's set somewhere quiet and small in Japan, a place where you can get to a city, but not close to one.

Koume Sato is a girl upset at how easily she gave in to Masaki, the upperclassman all her friends are crazy about. (And upset that she keeps giving in a boy who says things like "Hmmmm. Not gonna happen. Oh! blow me again, and I might start liking you a bit.")

Keisuke Isobe is a loner boy in the same year. He spends most of his time alone, listening to music and writing in a blog -- both of which are from his older brother, dead the prior year from suicide. He likes Koume. Maybe like likes her, to put it in North American. He does try to talk to her, to be close to her, in a way he's not close to anyone else.

Koume wants to lose her virginity. Maybe she wants a boy she can manipulate the way Masaki manipulates her. Maybe she just wants to be in control. She tells Keisuke, repeatedly, that she doesn't like him. But she does have sex with him, and experiments sexually at his house, on long quiet afternoons, while his father is off on another extended business trip.

This is the story of their relationship. The relationship isn't really healthy, but, for two teens using each other for sex and (or instead of) emotional support, it's not that bad. It does not end with them falling in love. It does not end with anyone getting pregnant. It ends like life rather than a story for teens: life goes on, and things change, and what used to be isn't any more. And maybe Koume, whose story this is, learns something that she can use in her next relationship. And maybe that next relationship will be healthier. But we won't see it here.

A Girl on the Shore was created by Inio Asano, author of Solanin and Nijigahara Holograph. It was serialized from 2009-2013 in something called Manga Erotics F; there is more sex than you might expect for a story about young teens. It's done tastefully and appropriately, I suppose: their relationship is not tasteful or appropriate, and that's the point of it.

Again: they're teens. They need and want in ways we older people can only try to remember. And they're not good at talking about what they need and want. But they are real. And they are raw. And their story is a strong, powerful one from a major creator who understands teens better than most of us.

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