Mangaka: Yama Wayama (@YamaWayama_PR)
Translation: Leighann Harvey (@zhel)
Lettering: Abigail Blackman (@dydreemblvr)
Publisher: Yen Press
WHAT IS IT?
A duo of uniquely comedic stories focusing on two peculiar students who hide behind personas to mask who they truly are.
Captivated, By You is a wholesome, fun look at what it's like to be friends with the "unusual" kid. If you combined Komi can't Communicate, Tomo-chan is a Girl!, Junji Ito's Cat Diary: Yon & Mu, and wholesomeness in a blender, this is what you'd get!
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Captivated, By You's first story focuses on Hayashi, who could be boiled down to an "optimist" who piques others' attention with his uniqueness. Hayashi is a bizarre school-aged boy that goes to an all-boys school, where it seems many of his classmates like him. His chapters consist of doing things that others would find strange or out of the ordinary. For example, he counts the number of stairs in the whole school. Nonetheless, he is true to himself no matter what. This causes some interesting and fun scenarios.
Keeping the trend, if Hayashi was considered an optimist, Nikaidou would be a "pessimist." Instead of being liked by all of his classmates, Nikaidou is a worrisome student in a mixed-sex school who is believed by most students to be cursed and a bad omen. Yet, he isn't either. Instead, he just doesn't like others and has created a persona so he can hide who he truly is from them. However, another classmate befriends him and slowly learns who the real Nikaidou is.
Although both characters are opposite sides of the same coin, they are both misunderstood equally. Combine that with each having a friend group that truly understands them, you start to see that both main characters of Captivated, By You are much alike and show the masks we wear to protect ourselves. Plus, both seem to be fun to be around in their own way!
Yen Press did a phenomenal job on the quality of the hardcover. Some manga hardcovers have spines that are too tight or loose, yet Captivated, By You is the perfect medium. The inner paper and the dust jacket also share in this great quality.
Wayama is great at writing male characters, especially at how they interact as friends. In interviews, Wayama has expressed how she grew up loving BL (Boys Love) and her writing showcases this.
Captivated, By You's story is wholesome on top of being laid-back. It has the type of story you'd want to read when you're feeling down, or just want a fun, feel-good read.
Throughout each story, there were multiple moments when I generally laughed out loud and loved the joke. Amazingly, not every joke was "simple" as Wayama had some fantastically thought-out set-ups and punchlines, with some not showing up until chapters later, or a few pages after.
Characters had real reactions and interactions that felt like something you'd share with your friends.
Not only is the story perfect for newcomers, but so is Wayama's art. She has a very clean, soft line style that works perfectly for her storytelling. Plus, each character is distinct enough that you can tell them apart.
The characters are seen with varying emotions throughout, and Wayama makes each face's emotions shine phenomenally. Some of these faces will disgust you, while others will have you busting a gut.
Captivated, By You's overall art style and pacing are ideal for newcomers, with the panels having a great easy-to-follow flow, and a technique that's easy to read, but some contain fun moments like characters holding on to the panel when squatting.
Commenting on translations is always hard, especially when you don't know the original language. But, nothing about Harvey's work seems off in these stories. No words or sentences cause confusion or seem out of place.
Harvey also translates most signs, cell phone screens, and even the sound effects with what they say, and adding the Japanese word.
On the subject of Sound Effects; Blackman's lettering keeps the Japanese sound effects while adding what they say next to them in smaller parentheses. This is up for debate, but I like this instead of getting rid of them, or hiding what they mean all the way in the back pages.
The lettering for items such as books, signs, etc, look great and it's nice to be able to read. Not to mention, Blackman's lettering work for moments of great emotion out of word bubbles look fantastic and help get the point across.
The logo is simple, yet nice on the eyes, which is the same as the rest of the cover helping ease the reader into a laid-back experience.
Side Note: Check out Translators or Letters Twitter because the process is amazing!
Memorable Quote: "Nikaidou, you were in a Junji Ito manga, weren't you?" - Medaka. Funny enough, this was the first thing I thought of! Even better, Wayama ran with this joke going forward to great effect.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
As great as the art is in Hayashi's story is, sadly something seems off with the other tales. Nikaidou's stories feel like they were watercolored, or just colored and ran through multiple printers then scanned; a lot of the art looks "murky." This doesn't ruin the stories to an unreadable degree, but it does cause it to look weird and puts a smear on what could be a perfect manga.
On a similar note, the quality of the lettering changes between the two stories. Whereas Hayashi's stories look fine, when you get into Nikaidou's stories, they look quite off. With how the art style looks super soft, murky, and unfocused – the dark black font of the letters sticks out and doesn't fit in some spots.
Some of the lettering also looks off when a character says a lot in a bubble. This doesn't occur often, but when it does, it's quite noticeable. This isn't Blackman's fault, as when this occurs, it's in moments of small panels where a lot is transpiring.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Captivated, By You is Wayama's first English published work, and what a debut it is! Not only is it wholesome, fun, unique, well-written, and hilarious, it's also just one volume. That alone is perfect for newcomers and makes Captivated, By You even easier to recommend to others. Nonetheless, the story itself is relatable as sometimes we do have to hide behind a mask as we are afraid to show our "true selves," but friends can always bring the best out of us.
Wayama shows great promise in the craft, and I hope we get more of her work so we can see it grow and evolve.
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