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Onani Master Kurosawa

Dec 14, 2010

The opening scene of Onani Master Kurosawa shows the titular protagonist vigorously pleasuring himself in an abandoned girls’ lavatory. The bottom of the first page offers a full, digitally-rendered shot of the stain he leaves on the wall. What else should we expect from a manga whose title begins with the Japanese word for ‘masturbation’?

Certainly not a Death Note parody, I’m sure. As we watch the aloof Kurosawa drift through school via vainglorious monologues, arrogant smirks, and carefully plotted toilet breaks, the manga appears nothing more than a puerile attack on a more popular title. The artist even goes as far as having the protagonist declare ‘I am Kurosawa’ with the same infamous over-the-shoulder shot as Light Yagami. This spoof seems an amusing but nonetheless quizzical choice for a beginning, as though it exists only because the mangaka wanted a light distraction. However, later, it proves the perfect way to show exactly how Onani Master Kurosawa differs from other shallower stories about disenfranchised youth.

The manga’s true intent worms its way out of the ludicrous premise as soon as Kurosawa meets the downtrodden Kitahara, a victim of bullying suffering from psychological breakdown. She’s small and reticent and utterly helpless, which makes a strong enough impression that Kurosawa decides to become a sick sort of avenger. In an unguarded moment of humanity, he betrays his ability to connect with someone more pathetic than he is, and everything from there is pure, marvellous character development.

Now, a straightforward revenge story would end with the victims finding relief in their torturers’ misfortunes. But this manga keeps things ambiguous in two ways. Firstly, victim and avenger find each other only because they both happen to wander the outer fringes of high school society and not because they in any way like each other. Furthermore, there is disturbingly little evidence that their relationship is a healthy one. Onani Master Kurosawa nurtures these ambiguities, ensuring that, even as we sympathise, we never become comfortable with the characters’ aggressive solution. It thus spins a moving tale of redemption while maintaining an unflinching eye for human weakness.

Of course, the chosen sexual motif is base and disgusting, but the intense personal drama simultaneously reveals an uplifting truth that many will identify with: even seemingly irredeemable people are anything but. Just as Kurosawa’s caricatured antipathy is mere scene setting tossed aside as soon as the story gets underway, his selfish pleasures prove a brittle mask intended only to keep people from discovering his fragile, love-starved soul.

With rough, sketchy lines that fray and overlap, the mangaka delivers a bold, unapologetic style that leaves every pencil stroke naked to the eye. On the one hand, this coarseness grants Kurosawa’s face the fluidity to shift easily from sinister glee during monologues to wide-eyed innocence when addressing others. And his design succeeds brilliantly at demonstrating his anonymity: he wears nondescript clothing and has the lank, longish hairstyles seen on heroes of plenty of other manga. Sometimes he looks like Light, other times he looks like no one in particular.

However, most of the supporting cast also sport disappointingly mundane traits - cute cartoon faces with large, bulbous eyes and small mouths. Moreover, since atmosphere is utterly irrelevant to this character study, backgrounds look perfunctory and exist only to provide a vague school setting.

At its most radical, the manga doesn’t shy away from cum stains, presenting more detailed shots of gloopy, stringy stuff than the average reader will be used to. Miraculously, these depictions never seem gratuitous or exploitative - after all, if the manga’s intention was to titillate, then the last thing it would show is actual spunk. Rather, the shock quickly wears off and the graphic images become vital, if also ugly, glimpses of a person in his most intimate and undignified moment.

Kurosawa’s beginnings as a petty Light allow him to shame the latter’s caricatured portrayal of apathetic youth. He is at first a stereotypical blank slate who interacts as little as possible with his peers and harbours a blunt hostility towards the world. Initially, he seems like a train wreck that’s already happened, offering only sinister laughs and depraved sexual fantasies. But the mangaka finds a glimmer of humanity in all that darkness and uses that leverage to pry him open panel by panel. By the end, he seems not just to have changed, but to have evolved into a uniquely inspiring sort of delinquent.

Onani Master Kurosawa’s cast generally includes people who think they are dirty and dark inside. Their insecurities make them bitter about other people’s happiness, but never inspire them to change or think of themselves as deserving of love. They are the kind of people so used to pushing others away that they cannot accept others accepting them. How can such persons ever escape their spiral of dejection? How will they reconnect with society and make friends? It’s this painful process of relearning their worth that will keep viewers turning from page to page as, I suspect, it speaks a blunt language to anyone who has felt self-doubt.

Onani Master Kurosawa is no ecchi trough from which fanservice animals can feed - it’s too graphic and direct for shallow titillation. And though it starts like a  nihilistic piece set only to ride the opportunistic wave of Death Note satire, it eventually carves a new path with moving character studies. Here, high school children are not aloof geniuses but vulnerable beings who make big mistakes. If the Death Note-lite beginning is necessary, it is only to show that cartoon characters can be anything but.

7.5/10 story
6/10 art
8/10 characters
7.5/10 overall
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deideiblueeyez May 14, 2011

This is such an awesome manga.. I love it :O Great review ^_^

AironicallyHuman Dec 18, 2010

Why are you being so polite? It's creeping me out.

Also, you wouldn't have to change the structure of your review, really: put a few paragraphs before the story section, rather than typing forever under the story sub-heading, and that would be that. Nothing fancy. (And switching around the character/art sub-headings; story and characterization being the two most important aspects.)

If you disagree, that's fine, too - it's you who wastes time with this review foolishness. I'm simply pointing out what irked me, as I read through.

Bye-bye, and don't link me to any more of your reviews.


- Daniel Antonio Rowletta

Random: The Koi Kaze anime is far better paced than its more sluggish manga--that I remember thinking after reading through the manga and ending up disappointed. KK and NHK are two of very few examples of anime>manga.

VivisQueen Dec 17, 2010

Thanks for the comments.

1) The structure will not change. That will be the official structure for AP manga reviews when the feature is launched. The user review section is just a placeholder for those that will go live.

2) I will rethink the 'base and disgusting' phrase because I think you're right. The presentation is meant to shock at first, but my language is really too strong for what I want to say.

3) My ratings are indeed a bit cautious. My manga knowledge is not that broad and in my head I was comparing this to an anime equally taboo but effective like Koi Kaze. OMK isn't as subtle, as delicate, but I enjoyed it thoroughly. Moreover, in my rating scale 7.5 is 'great'. I don't give out 7+ ratings like sweets at a fair. To break into 8/10, you are doing something exceptional. Since I have lots and lots of time before the manga review launch (months, years, who knows?) I think I can allow myself time to stew over the ratings while I read other stuff.

Very useful feedback, thank you.


AironicallyHuman Dec 17, 2010

Hello, my dearest Vivian.

I'm too lazy to Google this but I don't *think* Onani is classified as manga. It wasn't serialized in a magazine, afaik, and is no more than a doujin. (That would explain its beginnings as an obvious DN parody.) That's why it's unlikely to get an official English release.

After reading through your review once, my main problem is this: your ratings don't appear to reflect the views you expressed. You highlight that it's a character study and come across as if you were deeply impressed by the transformation of the lead that occurs throughout; highlighting the maturity (iirc)... yet you only rate the characterization 8/10 when there are few characters who underego such transformations; even in far longer works? And 7.5/10 for the story when Onani is very much character-focused; meaning you might as well link the story and characters together as one? Even your overall rating doesn't appear to make that much sense, considering you flew through it and had your opinion change completely.

Next up on my list of problems is the structure of your review. When you rate individual aspects, as opposed to just rambling for 20+ paragraphs straight, you should strive to keep the review balanced, and by this I mean spreading the paragraphs out efficently. Make the intro hooking, then start with a story sub-heading, then a characterization sub-heading--keeping the paragraph divide as even as possible, and focusing only on the required elements for each part so as to not repeat yourself. That way, with a shorter intro and clear break-up of each section of your review, more people will read your work--either because of not being scared away by a rambly intro or because they can browse through and read what they want with ease.

Basically: either don't split your review upinto sections or do a better job of doing so. That's what a smart woman would do. (You describe youself as intelligent, don't you? PROVE IT!)

Next would be you describing the sexual side/masturbation as "disgusting". You do make a point of expressing how Onani isn't ecchi trash made to appeal to perverts, but your blunt view on the usage of sexual desires in the story doesn't do it justice. Masturbation itself isn't a disgusting act; it's no more than a a natural desire all males must deal with (daily, FYI) due to the in-built desire to impregnate. And in Onani, Kurosawa masturbating whilst fantasizing over dominating the strong-willed (many men will have used you, FYI), desired females in his school provided much insight into his disturbed psychological state. So distanced from others is he that a normal relationship is, at the start, impossible--leading him to only desire power over others, and that's represented with his fantasies. Even his inabilty, later in the story, to masturbate over Kitahara - in spite of the throbing hilarity - added chunks to his character; showing how his thinking had started to change after he'd opened his heart to a female, rather than seeking happiness in his own mind.

I'm actually surprised a woman like... you could even appreciate Onani at all, what with all the penis humour and all. You did, after all, begin by 0/5ing it. Your usage of "disgusting" actually made me think of my mother, when she... uhhh, 'caught me' in the act, with page 3 of The Sun, as a brat still yet to play MGS and learn stealth skills.

Your review was a good read, on the whole, and I can't say there's anything non-gender based I disagree with. It's just, your complete inability to accept your squirrel-like brain's desire for nuts (I'm more witty than you, FYI) and relate to Kurosawa's struggles got in the way, it would seem. You appreciated the characterization but, because of your lack of a penis and you probably never having thought about others as negatively as Kurosawa for defensive reasons, there was an insible barrier that resulted in your overall scores.