From the back cover:
“The club is hopping and Emi isn’t…so she ends up hiding in a corner after her friend ditches her to flirt with a guy! Emi figures the night is a bust, but then someone amazing comes to her rescue. Kei is a DJ, and her effortless self-confidence captivates Emi. Is this just a wonderful night out or the start of the rest of her life?”
There’s the LGBT manga I meant to buy – My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness – and then there’s After Hours, a manga that made it into my online shopping cart purely because I thought the cover art looked cool when Viz Media advertised it on Twitter. I skimmed the synopsis but did not realize until later that it was a yuri manga. In hindsight, the cover art should have made it obvious. My only prior experience that I can think of with LGBT manga is Wandering Son, so I dove into this book with little experience with the genre. Ultimately, I think that’s a positive thing, as I’m able to view this work on its own merits instead of trying to compare it in the context of its genre.
After Hours follows the unfolding relationship between Emi and Kei, the former of which is rescued by the latter from abandonment at a nightclub. The two leave the club to chat more, and they hit it off better than club-goers and alcohol. The night takes a further unexpected turn for Emi as she finds herself awash in a wave of new complex feelings for Kei, the likes of which she has apparently never felt before. Kei quickly becomes a shining light in Emi’s dull, directionless life as the two continue to forge and strengthen their affinity for one another.
While the first couple of chapters delve into the start of the girls’ relationship, the rest of the book is surprisingly light on romantic content. What started with fireworks seems to have settled into a somewhat unremarkable rhythm. Emi and Kei don’t take many visible steps in furthering their relationship, despite the two seeming almost inseparable after their initial meeting. It’s almost like reading about two close friends instead of two people with romantic feelings for each other. (Which may or may not be the point) That’s where the book falters somewhat. It feels like their relationship is going in reverse, though Emi does begin to understand that she wants to spend more of her life with Kei. (Full disclaimer: Identifying as asexual, I have little to no romantic experience and thus this could totally be a realistic way for this to play out. I’m more so just going by the depictions of romance spoon-fed to me by modern media.)
After Hours unfolds through the dynamics presented by Tokyo’s nightclub scene. Kei is a DJ and works events along with a group of friends, and she (almost forcibly) introduces Emi to her world by recruiting her as a VJ for an event (I had no idea that was a thing.). Enveloping the story in the realm of clubbing is a unique and fresh concept, at least to me. Reading about mixing and fading might not be the most interesting thing in the world, but the sheer novelty of the topics helps keep the story afloat for the time being.
Having absolutely no expectations, it was not hard for me to enjoy the book. The characters, despite almost being cliche archetypes, were engaging, the setting was intriguing, and the struggles were relatable. A few aspects of the book were annoying, such as the dialogue not flowing cohesively in a few scenes and both Emi and Kei sometimes being written a little too dramatically (read: unrealistically), but these issues were never really enough to sour the overall experience. However, the fact that there is yet to be much drama or tension makes the book forgettable, and that could make it easy to drop from a reading list after this first volume. The fact that the art is fairly plain, if somewhat cute, doesn’t really help this matter.
For an unfolding romance story, Yuhta Nishio’s After Hours is off to a decent start, providing a couple of roadblocks for Emi and Kei to overcome and also setting them on a potential career journey as event workers at clubs. It’s not really supported by an engrossing narrative or compelling artwork, but After Hours provides a setting and characters likable enough to make the book worth a read if you’re a fan of this genre.
Reviewer’s Random Comment: The story takes place in Tokyo, but the prices are in U.S. dollars. I’m not sure if this was just a translation attempt to localize the book or if there are actually places in Japan that use dollars over yen for some reason. Something to ponder. Let me know in the comments if there’s a reason for this beyond localization!
After Hours Vol. 1
- Engaging if somewhat cliche chemistry between two leads
- Nightclub premise is fresh
- Nudity is never obscene
- Career struggles of both girls are relatable
- Both Kei and Emi can come off too strongly at times
- Many panels lack background details
- Some scenes and dialogue are difficult to follow
- Lack of drama makes the series easy to drop
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