It kills me to spoil the first-chapter reveal of this series, but if the series will continue and grow past its roots, then so be it. Yoshi no Zuikara: The Frog in the Well Does Not Know The Ocean starts out as a story of four classmates who transfer from their demolished local school to a larger, farther one. This introductory story is revealed to be the first chapter of protagonist Tohno Naruhiko’s new manga project, “Wakkamon.” That’s right – the whole thing kicks off with a story within a story, with the “real” story taking over afterward.
Volume two also starts with a glimpse of this manga and its coming-of-age tale.Tohno considers himself a fantasy manga creator, but his editor urges him to try something new and pull from personal experience growing up in the boonies. This approach could also be read as a metanarrative of sorts, given the author/illustrator Satsuki Yoshino started this series after the 18-volume Barakamon series about a calligrapher starting over professionally in the boonies. What is it about life in the country that makes the creative struggle so compelling?
As in Yoshino’s previous works, humor is mined from social interactions and well-intentioned accidents. For example, Tohno finds that his personal connection to his new slice-of-life story gets his creative juices flowing in a quick, satisfying manner. All he needs to do is commit the time and effort to getting it down on paper. However, that knowledge causes him to procrastinate and follow every distraction that crosses his path. Luckily, his helpful assistant, a fellow named Toshi-bou, knows of a nearby house Tohno can use as an isolation studio of sorts. He gets some work done, but a storm rolls in and the doors of the house are locked from the outside. Without the assistant to let him out, Tohno gets creeped out, especially once the sun goes down and he sees funeral portraits of the house’s previous owners.
By the first volume’s end, friends and relatives are seeking out his new comic and boosting sales any way they can. In volume two, Tohno meets a 10-year-old fangirl who swoons over one of his characters, goes to a book signing event in Tokyo, and speaks with his editor Hayashi, a woman. While the major plotline of the series involves a manga creator and the tasks required of him, it’s not generally about the actual-factual writing and drawing of his manga, at least not yet. The focus tends more toward Tohno’s insecurities and low self-esteem, such as the equally nerve-wracking possibilities that his book signing will draw a huge crowd or nobody. There are punchlines aplenty made from Tohno’s bewilderment at how to navigate train lines. The resulting effect is that of following an author around as their buddy and hearing their inner monologue for everything surrounding the making of a manga. Likewise, the art often zooms in on Tohno to emphasize his inner thoughts in contrast to his external interactions. Jagged speech bubbles convey his easily tilted personality, and thought bubbles follow him everywhere.
Yoshi no Zuikara is a great slice-of-life addition to any manga collection. Content-wise, a character says “shit,” there’s one drawing of a skimpily dressed character when someone mentions ecchi manga, and two adults enjoy beer during a dinner scene. In my opinion, none of these factors exclude teens from this recommendation, as they would probably latch onto the adventures of a timid but moderately successful artist as well as any adult. Tohno’s travails feel authentic and sincere while also never failing to lead to hilarity. Hand this manga to budding comics creators and fans of Barakamon, Handa-san, Bakuman, and Blank Canvas.
Yoshi no Zuikara: The Frog in the Well Does Not Know the Ocean
By Satsuki Yoshino
Yen Press, 2020
Publisher Age Rating: T
Series ISBNS and Order
Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16)
Character Traits: Japanese
Creator Highlights: Japanese
Related to…: Book to Comic