Published by Juné Manga, Kikuko Kikuya’s Entangled Circumstances is the author’s first work to be translated into English. It stars Shibui and Himeko, two young men who work in different departments for the same magazine. They met back in high school, and though they used to be close friends their relationship has since become antagonistic. This being a boys’ love title, however, there are sure to be some warmer feelings beneath the surface. Does Kikuya depict the pair’s complicated emotions believably? Is Entangled Circumstances good?
The quality of characters is central to any romance story, and Shibui and Himeko are both quite likable for the most part. Their different temperaments play off each other quite well, and their dialogue together is quite smooth and amusing. There’s a very awkward air to many of their interactions, and Kikuya does a good job depicting the way they sort of socially fumble around each other. They’re eager to connect with one another, but they’re also hesitant to initiate conversation and to fully confront their own feelings. All in all, the pair’s dynamic is solid.
Another plus for this volume is its charming artwork. Kikuya’s style mixes relatively cartoony characters with more complex and patterned shading for a unique overall look. The shading is especially pleasant to look at, as it helps add more depth and improves the reader’s sense of space with regards to the book’s backgrounds. Shibui and Himeko’s facial expressions are also well-rendered and are frequent sources of comedy. The gags in this manga are some of its most enjoyable moments, and they add levity to the office setting.
With all that said, Entangled Circumstances does have some issues that prevent it from living up to its full potential. While Shibui and Himeko usually have a nice dynamic, it sometimes takes on a predator and prey element that’s uncomfortable to say the least. Both characters feel affection toward the other, so not only does the predator/prey dichotomy come across as creepy, it’s also not fully consistent with other aspects of the pair’s characterization. This unnerving framing, combined with an inconsistency in the degree to which Himeko respects Shibui’s boundaries in the volume’s latter half, counteracts the lighthearted nature of the rest of the story. The resultant tonal inconsistency is my biggest qualm with the manga.
Besides that, my main cons with the volume pertain to its clarity. There are some scenes where the characters’ physical actions get a bit difficult to follow. This is due mainly to issues with how pages are laid out and what specific perspectives are used in certain panels. There are also a few occasions where the narrative skips forward and backward in time, but these aren’t always clearly marked. This causes some momentary confusion with regards to what order events take place in, especially when different characters with similar appearances are involved.
Overall, Entangled Circumstances is a solid love story. Kikuya’s art is pleasing to look at, and she does a good job with the volume’s humor and office setting. With that said, there are multiple clarity issues and the main couple’s relationship sometimes takes on an uncomfortable predator/prey dynamic. Fortunately, things never get so grim as to outright ruin the story, but there’s definitely notable tonal inconsistency. As a whole though, this is a decent manga.
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