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Boy's Abyss Vol. 1
Viz Media

Manga and Anime

‘Boy’s Abyss’ Vol. 1 review

A compelling if bleak exploration of small-town life.

Stories about small town shenanigans are often driven by characters who are determined to escape the town’s confines, or just embrace the fact that they are trapped and that there is no place like home. Many genres from various media have put their own spin on these narratives, not least in the realm of manga, where authors like Inio Asano have tackled, leading to compelling if depressing results. And with Ryō Minenami’s Boy’s Abyss, it is leaning towards a similar manner. 

Despite a promising future where he could leave his rural town and go to university, Reiji Kurose seems to have given up by living with his brother, his mother, who works as a nurse, and his grandmother, who is suffering from dementia. One day, Reiji meets Nagi Aoe, a member of the idol group Acrylic who is working as a convenience store clerk, and they both develop an unusually secret relationship, leading to a suicide pact, inspired by a place in the town known as the “Lover’s Abyss”, which is claimed to be a place where lovers commit suicide. 

As a psychological drama that delves into the mindset of a depressed teen, the manga does establish a grim tone, which initially you can’t quite detect, due to scenes where Reiji interact with childhood friend Sakuko, who geeks out about the aforementioned Acrylic. Even Minenami’s art can lean towards the cartoonish facial expressions that you often associate with manga and anime, despite the dark undercurrent that is going through. 

VIZ Media

There is content here that will be upsetting to some readers, as the narrative is building towards a suicide whilst the central relationship has an element of statutory rape. However, Minenami is always driving the narrative, with twists and turns along the way, which adds a new layer and complication to Reiji and his small-town life. Whilst the relationship between Reiji and Nagi is the disturbing focus, some of the supporting cast adds some levity, particularly Sakuko, although characters like Reiji’s mother, who you supposed to feel sympathy for, but perhaps holding some other agenda that isn’t beneficial for her son. 

Minenami doesn’t break any new ground as his artwork is conventional by manga standards. However, what he achieves is presenting a moody atmosphere that applies not only to the small town, while also visually representing Reiji’s psychology. No doubt that people will be talking about the sex scene, which is appropriately uncomfortable, given the number of pages devoted to Reiji trying to come in terms with the situation that he is sleeping with someone who he saw as a pop star, but now sees the real her. With an upcoming live-action TV series in the works, it will be interesting to see how this peculiar tale of small-town claustrophia will be translated.

Boy's Abyss Vol. 1
‘Boy’s Abyss’ Vol. 1 review
Boy's Abyss Vol. 1
Despite the somewhat upsetting subject matter, Boy’s Abyss is a compelling if bleak exploration of small-town life that will be interesting to unravel in subsequent volumes.
Reader Rating0 Votes
Whilst not breaking new ground by manga's standards, Ryō Minenami presents a moody atmosphere that really gets under skin.
With the central setting of a rural town, there is a compelling cast of characters that you excited to see more of, and their secrets unfolding.
Subject matter like suicide pacts don't make this a pleasant experience.
Ending on an abrupt note, but hopefully you'll pick up the next volumes.

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