"I'm truly sorry."
People can change. A simple theme that Onanie Master Kurosawa manages to delicately capture and portray through a coming of age story that weaves the lives of two social outcasts as they maneuver through school.
Kakeru Kurosawa is a Junior High School Student who masturbates in the girl's bathroom. He is a loner, not wanting to have friends and preferring to keep himself out of any involvement with anyone in his school, even with people who genuinely like him. He adopts a facade of intellectual superiority. Aya Kitahara, on the other hand, is bullied by her classmates to no end. Both find themselves in a situation where they wreck havoc among their peers, which leads to a rollercoaster of emotions and drama that is heartbreaking but also optimistic, inspiring change in a genuine way.
Onanie Master Kurosawa chooses to stay grounded with its story, allowing Kakeru to grow meticulously alongside the happy and sad moments of the manga. The manga is pretty intense, with some chapters leading to triumph, and others leaving the reader with their heart pounding. This is due to how believable the drama is and how Kakeru and Kitahara themselves are easily sympathisable and empathisable characters. The manga does a great job at connecting the reader to the main characters with the way it conveys the thought processes and mindsets of both of them. It is easy to say that a lot of their deeds are wrong but it is also easy to understand why they are doing the things they are doing. It is clear where they are coming from. They are not perfect characters, and it is exceptionally shown just how ugly their ugly sides are but also how beautiful their growth is as well.
And that is why the redemption of both of these characters is so beautiful. Because it is genuine and sincere, and it does not hold back. Kakeru's redemption is not something that happens in the blink of an eye. People do not just easily forgive him. He suffers for his actions, and the aftereffects are not easy to overcome. The consequences are perfectly reasonable, and the manga shows that actions do indeed have consequences in a blunt and realistic way. But it also shows that redemption can come if you can endure, and Kurosawa chooses the path filled with thorns for a glorious and extremely satisfying redemption arc.
Kitahara, on the other hand, has a harder time coping with her self-destructive habit of revenge. Not everyone can take the hard path, and Kitahara is one of them. This does not make her pathetic or weak-willed in any way, however, as her background and reasons for being the way she is has already been meticulously established throughout the course of the story. It is easy to sympathise with her own circumstances, not just because of her being a victim of bullying, but also because of the fact that she finds it hard to let go. It is hard to look to a better future, and it is hard to start the change yourself.
But change inspires change.
Kurosawa's change helps Kitahara to change. Through Kurosawa's redemption comes his desire to help Kitahara overcome her own inner-conflicts. This is all manifested in an authentic way, with Kurosawa's reformed line of thinking pushing through to inspire Kitahara to also take that first step forward. The outcome is sweet and grants a nice sense of closure for her character.
Bullying, revenge, consequences, and change are prominent themes of Onanie Master Kurosawa, and both are conveyed deeply without any bounds. The manga does not shy away from the hard and ugly truths, but it also communicates the idea that there is a lot to hope for from the "outside world" as Kurosawa describes it. Being lonely sucks. Being bullied sucks. Revenge sucks, too, because it only grants a fleeting sense of happiness. These messages are things that one can easily understand. What Onanie Master Kurosawa communicates most, however, is the idea that with change comes true happiness, and the way it conveys this notion is genuine and sincere, leading to a wholesome outcome that grants a wonderful sense of closure for the reader and which also leaves a positive lasting impression.