After Hours is a tale of love in the city between two twenty-somethings trying to find their place in the world. Emi Ashiana is a twenty-four-year-old unemployed college dropout who floats her way through life, waiting for opportunities to fall into her lap. Fate throws her a bone one night after her friend ditches her while clubbing—an activity Emi isn’t particularly fond of—and runs off with a hook-up. That’s when Emi crosses paths with Kei, a music-loving DJ who captures Emi’s attention. The pair end up spending the night together, an event that leads Emi to believe she could fall in love with this woman (and there’s a strong suggestion that this was Emi’s first same-sex experience).

Kei and Emi soon find themselves joined at the hip, spending lots of time together. Emi is drawn to Kei’s confidence, but also her extensive record collection. In a bid to get to know Kei better, Emi starts emulating the other woman’s musical pursuits, breaking out of her comfort zone to be a VJ during Kei’s DJ set. After Hours’ first volume is largely a slice of life collection, one that doesn’t offer any sort of grand, sweeping narrative. It’s like the movie Clerks except with far less swearing. This book is more of a collection of stories designed for the reader to learn as much about Emi and Kei before, potentially, moving onto something bigger for these characters to overcome. There are allusions to potential conflicts involving ex-boyfriends and Kei’s failed musical pursuits but these threads don’t get much attention or even hint towards dirty laundry.

I really liked the artwork of After Hours. Kei and Emi are an adorable couple and their character designs are reflective of their personalities. Emi is a shy woman, a little clumsy, and quick to soothe perceived misunderstandings. She is drawn in a manner that reflects these personality traits, her face going from contentment to panic at the drop of a hat. Kei, on the other hand, has an appearance that matches her cool, calm, and confident attitude. Though she can be aloof from time to time, she carries an air of seriousness betrayed by a tight but pretty smile. I can’t rightfully articulate why I love Nishio’s character artwork so much. They’re wonderfully expressive and carry so much personality right down to the clothes they wear. It’s all so delightfully artistic. As a yuri manga, there are moments where the relationship between the two characters gets sensual. Both women are shown in different stages of undress, be they lying in bed or hanging out at a bathhouse, but their nudity (which is not anatomically correct) is never made the focus of a scene. Sex is never shown nor is it really inferred—can’t two women just share a bed?—which means there is little to offend.

After Hours sort of meanders its way through the first volume and, while that might sound negative, it’s evocative of the listlessness and ennui one could experience after finishing or quitting college. Her introduction to and relationship with Kei might be the thing that pushes Emi back on track. What might bother some readers is that the volume doesn’t have much of a story to tell. In the end, though, Yuhta Nishio’s manga is a funny and sweet look into the lives of two women on the hunt for a little purpose and direction.

After Hours, vol. 1
by Yuhta Nishio
ISBN: 9781421593807
VIZ Media LLC, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: OT (16+)

  • Allen

    | He/Him Past Reviewer

    Allen Kesinger is a Reference Librarian at the Newport Beach Public Library in California. He maintains the graphic novel collections at the library, having established an Adult collection to compliment the YA materials. When not reading graphic novels, he fills his time with other nerdy pursuits including video games, Legos and steampunk.

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