覆面系ノイズ (Fukumenkei Noise)
Shoujo – Drama, romance
18 Volumes (complete)
Nino is devastated when her neighbor, Momo, moves away, but he says her voice can one day reunite them. Not long after, she meets Yuzu, a boy who likes to compose. Singing his songs gives Nino a sense of peace and happiness, but Yuzu disappears as well! Years pass, but music causes paths to cross again…
“We’re hiding our true feelings” is the series’ tagline, and that does a good job of summing up Anonymous Noise.
Nino and Momo are constantly together, often singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” together through their bedroom windows. So when Momo is about to move away, he tells her that her voice could be his guiding light. Young Nino is so distraught when he leaves, not realizing that she likes likes him. She ends up putting on a medical mask to try to keep herself from shouting. Then, she meets Kanade (nickname: Yuzu), a boy composing music on the beach. They end up meeting every week so she can sing his songs, as Yuzu is smitten with Nino’s voice. In fact, he gives her the nickname Alice, from her family name Arisugawa.
Yuzu himself doesn’t sing for some reason, but he’s disappointed to learn that the Momo Nino is missing is a boy. He also stops coming to the beach, and Nino blames herself for making Yuzu sing because she was so upset. Nino decides to keep singing in hopes of meeting both boys again, and the manga picks back up in high school. Long story short, Yuzu and his friends have started a band based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, inspired by Yuzu’s meeting with his “Alice”. Momo, meanwhile, has been working as a composer under a penname. Eventually, the three end up at the same high school.
The story picks up from there: Nino wanting to tell Momo she loves him, Yuzu trying to suppress his unrequited love for Nino when she joins his band, and Momo trying to avoid Nino who keeps throwing his emotions into disarray. Meanwhile, the other members of In No Hurry to Shout (In No Hurry) have their own romance issues.
So yeah, unrequited love everywhere. If love triangles are not your thing, Anonymous Noise should be immediately crossed off your reading list. This is one of those series where it’s not immediately obvious whom Nino will end up with at the end — or if she’ll end up with either of them. Nino is a good singer, but her voice is tied to her emotions. Between her and the two guys, it’s the old love vs music debate you often see in music manga. So even if you suspected that one guy would win the title of Nino’s boyfriend, the manga could have easily led down a different path. So if you are the type to get heavily invested in a protagonist’s love life and are prone to being upset when your preferred ship sinks, you may also consider taking Anonymous Noise off your reading list. I will say that the manga ends with a clear future for each of the characters.
Speaking of characters, I spent so much time on the love triangle, I never introduced the others.
Anyway, In No Hurry is made up of three other members: Miou, Yoshito (nicknamed Haruyoshi), and Ayumi (usually referred to as Kurose). Miou quickly leaves In No Hurry to join another band, allowing Nino to take the position of lead vocalist. In somewhat of a subversion of the usual, Nino becomes a Miou fangirl and looks to her for advice. Miou is confident, and while she likes Yuzu, she starts to find a place in her new band. Haruyoshi has a bit of an effeminate vibe that is often the source of humor (girly speech, knows about fashion/make-up). Kurose is the jolly type. They do welcome Nino into In No Hurry and become close with her, and the manga covers some of the usual music story-related problems like tour shenanigans, new song problems, etc. The most significant issue is that Nino’s emotions causes her to go out of control while singing. They don’t necessarily get angry at her, but it sometimes frustrates her bandmates — and herself. These instances are usually related to Momo, so that’s doubly frustrating for Yuzu.
Speaking of Momo and Yuzu, what is interesting about Anonymous Noise versus a lot of love triangles is the two accidentally end up forming a friendship. Meeting someone their age who’s also into (and good at) composing is rare, so they end up talking despite their differing personalities. Momo often looks flat and unemotional, but he’s fond of puns. Yuzu is emotional but is more likely to be the butt of jokes than the teller of one. However, both are in for a shock when it’s revealed that the other is someone important in Nino’s life, and so they end up with a frenemy relationship. It’s a dynamic you don’t often see. Usually a love triangle in shoujo involves two close (long-time) friends, or one is introduced later in the story to cause trouble, usually vowing to steal the heroine’s heart away. Here, though, both are introduced from the start, have feelings for Nino from a young age, form a (sometimes friendship, and mostly insist to themselves they are not going to confess to Nino. Both young men have issues with their mothers, and the manga gives them plenty of development. In fact, some of their character development made it less likely; after all, this showed that they could press forward even without Alice by his side.
I ended up talking about the love triangle again, but that should show you how integral it is to the plot. It’s something that is constant through all 18 volumes of Anonymous Noise. The manga outside of Nino-Yuzu-Momo is good, but you still have a lot of melancholy and longing. The series also features Fukuyama’s trademark humor: lots of jibs at each other, someone steering the conversation in odd directions (my pace type), and general tsundere-ness. Compared to other comedies, this tends to have a little more of a bite, kind of like an American sitcom.
Like some sitcoms, Anonymous Noise doesn’t really have an antagonist; it’s the main and side characters’ own strengths and weaknesses that drive the plot. That’s much better than throwing jerk after witch to mess with Nino and the gang. In No Hurry and Miou’s band, Black Kitty, do seem to have an easier time than most musical acts in the real world, but that’s typical in fiction. So I can’t really count that as a flaw .
Fukuyama’s art has improved greatly from her early days. Some of the designs may be familiar to you, but they do have their own physical characteristics to help give them their own identity. The eyes can be a bit big for characters’ heads, especially on the kid versions of the characters. Nino’s goth-loli outfits as Alice — in fact, all of In No Hurry’s costumes — are designs that will inspire many cosplayers. Anonymous Noise can be a bit hectic with all the side comments, and when combined with Fukuyama’s heavy shading and inking, it’s not the lightest or quickest read. That can be good or bad depending on your mood and your preferred manga style. Music manga, though, is often at a disadvantage since the author has to use art and dialogue to reflect the music. I wouldn’t say this is the strongest example since much of the manga is about Nino performing at a high speed and at the top of her lungs, which is hard to show. We mostly see Nino with her eyes closed and mouth wide, wide open and supplement it with the band’s comments. The audience doesn’t really understand what’s happening, so we don’t see a lot of emotional reactions like you might see in other stories outside of them getting hyped up.
No honorifics are used. Some Japanese terms like names of food are kept. Momo’s puns are usually adapted to English versions with no notes.
In many ways, Anonymous Noise is like a junior version of NANA. Both feature two bands that are connected and a lot of unrequited love. But Anonymous Noise‘s heavy focus on the love triangle and the screwball comedy means it’s several steps below NANA despite having a conclusive ending.
Fukuyama’s Nosatsu Junkie was released in part from TOKYOPOP but was discontinued. The Anonymous Noise anime is available from Sentai Filmworks.