Manga Review – Aoba-kun’s Confessions

Aoba-kun's Confessions Volume 1

Aoba-kun’s Confessions
青葉くんに聞きたいこと (Aoba-kun ni Kikitai Koto)
TOYAMA Ema
Shoujo – Drama, romance, sports
5 Volumes of 8 Volumes (complete)
Kodansha Comics

Summary:

Mayo is ready to start her new part-time job of listening to people’s complaints and worries. But she’s surprised when her first customer is the guy she admires! He’s popular and so good at basketball that he was made a starter —  what kind of problems could he possibly have? Mayo is just supposed to listen, but she can’t help but wanting to learn more about Aoba and his personal issues.

Review:

Sometimes, we just want to vent. It feels good to let off a little verbal steam.

But would you pay to do so? No, I don’t mean therapy or counseling; that requires interaction between patient and caregiver. I mean would you pay about 5 bucks to just spew whatever’s on your mind to a perfect stranger? Where they say absolutely nothing in response — no advice, no sympathy, nothing?

Well, in the world of Aoba-kun’s Confessions, it’s a pretty popular business, and it’s run by heroine Mayo’s aunt. This would seem to be a perfect job for Mayo considering her voice is whisper-quiet and she has no friends. Her first customer is her popular schoolmate Aoba (given name Kota), a rising star in basketball. Their only real interaction they had was back in middle school, when Mayo ended up bursting into tears because of her parents’ divorce and was comforted by Aoba. But at the listening house, Aoba eventually says he hates basketball. Mayo blurts out, “That’s a lie!!”, causing both Aoba and her aunt to be upset. But she can’t believe Aoba, who used to love basketball, actually hates it, and she approaches him as both Mayo and the girl from the Listening House in order to help him.

Aoba-kun's Confessions Sample 1

Before you get too far thinking this is a manga about secret identities, well, Aoba figures it out in the first volume. He understandably gets angry, as Mayo decided to suddenly become the basketball team manager to get closer to him. Plus, she had been waiting for him as the girl from the Listening House, and that’s strictly against the Listening House’s rules. So when Mayo’s amazing (that’s sarcasm) disguise of glasses and braids instead of pigtails fails and gets her fired from her job, she manages to find her voice and tell Aoba that he needs to find his, too — even if it means hating her.

Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a manga if the story ended there. Mayo continues to try to keep Aoba interested in basketball while she also learns to be less meek. That causes some of the other members of the basketball team to start to look her way.

Mayo does manage to be rehired by her aunt, and some other people she knows swing by the Listening House. Mayo still hasn’t mastered the whole “no talking while a customer’s here” thing though, so there’s still a bit of sneakiness involved as she helps people. Still, her focus remains on Aoba, watching his reactions carefully and letting him talk whenever he’s in the mood.

I like the idea of showing some counseling-like discussions, as I think more media should show that people have problems — and not just the typical manga problems like being super poor/rich, an illegitimate heir, or bad at studying. There are many different psychological issues out there, and they can take many forms. Some readers will likely figure Aoba’s secret before Mayo does, but it’s not going to be something a lot of people relate to. But Mayo continuously offers advice in a way that makes her similar to Tohru of Fruits Basket, seemingly weak and clumsy but is actually wise. Again, giving advice goes again the whole Listening House aspect, so I think the story could have been reworked in some way, like anonymous student counselors or online texting/message boards. Somewhere where giving advice makes more sense.

Aoba-kun's Confessions Sample 2

Outside of Mayo trying to assist Aoba, this is a fairly standard shoujo story. The basketball team trains together, goes on trips, prepares for festival events, etc. The other team members include the quiet but passionate one, the flirty (and feminine-looking) one, the hot-head, and Nao. Nao is the most significant character in the story after the two leads, and while he is a bit of a tsundere, the short Tsuyoshi wears that moniker even better.

When we first meet Nao, he’s a bit possessive of Aoba, but I found myself really starting to like him when he was trying to figure out how to best respond to a note he read. He could have gone with a rude or blunt message, but what he wrote was cute. Despite not knowing Aoba for very long, he hopes to reach the championship with Aoba by his side. But while Aoba is made into the primary love interest, in many ways, I think Nao comes off as the better match. Yes, a lot of Mayo’s interactions with Nao are about trying to cheer Aoba up and such. But when she’s around Aoba, a lot of times Mayo warps into some kind of determined genie-slash-therapist bent on solving all of Aoba’s problems. With Nao (and even some of the other teammates), Mayo is more like, “Wow, you work hard! You’re so cool!” Aoba-kun’s Confessions isn’t made to be some mature romance, and more casual moments between Aoba and Mayo I think would have done them some good. Maybe they do in the last three volumes, as there’s a significant development at the very end of Volume 5. Because otherwise, almost all of Mayo’s moments are about standing up for Aoba, giving advice to Aoba, supporting him, etc.

Aoba-kun's Confessions Sample 3

Aoba-kun’s Confessions is similar to Toyama’s other recent artworks. However, she notes that she attempted to use less screentones to keep the manga light. I do think it’s good Aoba discovered Mayo’s identity quickly because, as I mentioned before, her disguise was low-effort. Aoba is noticeably sharper-eyed in the beginning of the story, but you could always attribute this to him being more prickly in the opening chapters. Otherwise, many of her characters will seem familiar to those who have Toyama manga before. If you haven’t picked one up, girls’ faces tend to look a bit babyish, so this sometimes leads to weird angles where their faces look large. (Aoba compares Mayo’s puffed up cheeks to a squirrel’s, but that could apply to a lot of people.) Basketball is a part of the plot, but there aren’t many actual scenes of them playing. That’s typical of a romance manga like this, but there was at least one game where I wish the ending had been shown in detail. There’s a player substitution, a shift in the pace, and then the end. It would have been nice to see both teams in those final minutes of the game.

Translation:

Honorifics are used. (As if you couldn’t tell from the title.) Terms like “sensei” and “sempai” are used. The lesser-used “kohai” is also kept. Tsuyoshi’s calling Mayo 「ブス」(ugly) is adapted as “Plain Jane”, and 「地味マネ」(Ordinary Manager) is Manager Plain Jane. Really not much to say since this is a fairly typical school life romance manga.

Final Comments:

I like the idea of talking out problems and needing an outlet for those things that are hard to talk about, but Mayo has a bit of a one-track mind of “helping Aoba”. Otherwise, Aoba-kun’s Confessions is a fairly typical shoujo manga.

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