Ryoko Fukuyama’s music-infused manga is a saga of unrequited love. As a child, Nino Arisugawa shared a connection with Momo Sakaki, the cheerful boy next door, and they quickly became an inseparable pair. As children, they spent every moment together laughing, smiling, and singing. Nino’s life changed when Momo and his family suddenly moved away, causing Nino to fall into a state of grief that manifested itself through the practice of wearing a surgical mask (lest she scream out her frustration). It was then that she met another boy named Kanade “Yuzu” Yuzuriha, who had a deft hand for composing music at his young age. Yuzu coaxed Nino out of her shell and the pair struck up a musical friendship in which Yuzu was nearly fanatical about making music with her. However, Nino’s joy was short-lived as Yuzu also mysteriously disappeared from her life.
The story jumps forward to Nino’s first year of high school and the great complication that upends her life: both Yuzu and Momo attend the same school! Yuzu is the composer/vocalist who lip syncs to a pre-recorded vocal track in an Alice in Wonderland-themed band called In No Hurry To Shout. Momo has also become a composer and works for a multimedia agency that writes music for an idol group. His cheerful demeanor, once the source of great joy for Nino, has turned sour and bitter for reasons left unknown.
Given the complicated love triangle that sits at the center of the emotional maelstrom that is Anonymous Noise, I expected my hands to come away from the book blackened and charred by red hot passion. Unfortunately, I came away with nary a blister as it has the same shallow emotional depth as the film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. As teens, both Yuzu and Momo come equipped with tough guy/tortured artist personas they’ve built around themselves. Nino herself hasn’t come away unscathed, as Fukuyama has given her a weird quirk that makes it seem like she has a short attention span. It comes up at awkward moments, such as when Yuzu is trying to make a impassioned connection, only to be derailed by her stray observations.
There is little chemistry between any of the characters, and I frequently wished that Nino would just give it all up because at this point, the boys are not worth the trouble they put her through. Granted, Yuzu’s rougher edges soften by the end of the second volume, but his development fails to ignite any sort of passion. The sweeping emotions expressed by the characters feel painfully forced and drawn out: numerous pages are dedicated to chunks of two- to four-word statements separated by ellipses in a halting, truncated pattern of speech, meant to be dramatic and rich with pregnant pauses. It doesn’t really work for me. The script also has some technical problems due to the text’s localization. There are phrases and whole pieces of dialog that, when read aloud, sound strange to the American ear, as if the text has been translated literally and without editing.
Artistically, Anonymous Noise has a strong, distinctive look. It is easy to spot the shojo influence in the designs of the characters, given the artist’s attention to making the boys look incredibly handsome and rugged. Both Yuzu and Momo, in their teenage forms, are intended to be heartthrobs with messy bed head hair, eyes big enough to get lost in, loose ties and shirt collars, and striking faces—traits that are displayed through the liberal use of closeups. Artistically speaking, Nino gets the short end of the stick because she isn’t as vividly detailed as the two boys. Most notably, she spends the majority of the work with her face covered. While the plot does include a reason for her appearance, I wonder if her lack of prominent facial features makes it easier for readers to immerse themselves in the romance by putting themselves in her place.
Anonymous Noise is a complicated love story driven by music’s innate power to bring kindred spirits together. In this world, music is so passionate and deep that the characters believe it to be a beacon for lost loved ones to find their way back. It’s an endearing thought, but I never felt like the story did enough to make a meaningful connection for me. Most of the time it feels forced, and at other points the music serves merely as window dressing—ultimately, it’s just an excuse to get these characters together. Though I might not be the intended audience for the shojo genre, I have experienced my fair share of romances that effectively express how powerfully love affects the human condition, and this was not one of them.
Anonymous Noise, vols. 1-2
by Ryoko Fukuyama
vol. 1 ISBN: 9781421594200
vol. 2 ISBN: 9781421594217
Viz Media, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: Teen (13+)