Creator: Mone Sorai
Publisher: TokyoPop (@TokyoPop)
WHAT IS IT?
A globe-trotting, slice-of-life romance featuring brilliant sights, amazing food, and wholesome moments.
Think Lost in Translation (but on a global scale) with a rom-com focus.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Asahi and Mitsuki are off to see the world! The two have a long itinerary planned and can’t wait to experience what lies out beyond their home country of Japan. While Asahi is a chronic worrier, his easy-breezy partner Mitsuki promises to always find him wherever he goes. This trip is special and, despite their hesitation and pre-travel jitters, they board the plane and head off on a life-changing adventure.
A promise made between the two hangs in the balance. If they come out of this trip still in love, they’ll get married when they arrive back home. The first stretch of their itinerary takes them to Thailand, India, and Georgia, where the couple experience new sights, local cuisine, and hospitality beyond their wildest imaginations, all the while learning more about each other in unexpected and meaningful ways.
Sorai has a unique illustration style that leans on the more realistic side – prominent facial features and emotive expressions make the designs stand out against other modern manga. The characters have an almost Western comics lean to them, yet still hold on to the common exaggerated manga moments, creating a look that is grounded in realism and enhanced with familiar humor.
The narrative is both humorous and down-to-earth. Filled with moments of travel-based drama, honest reflections, and wholesome comedy, this manga is a treat for fans of tourism, food, romance, and slice-of-life stories as it touches on themes that anyone can relate to.
The lettering is easy to read and fits the word balloons properly, while the exterior text and sound effects are placed well and legible against the backgrounds. The team at TokyoPop ensured it was translated and lettered with care.
Asahi and Mitsuki have an established relationship at the start (which is often rare for romance/slice-of-life titles), and it is given substance with small, one- or two-page flashbacks. It’s refreshing to see their story focused on the present, allowing it to grow and flourish on the trip without relying too heavily on their past to make it matter.
The travel-focused narrative captures what makes slice-of-life such an appealing genre. The overall simplicity of watching Asahi and Mitsuki travel and do normal tourism-based things reads perfectly and fills readers with a sense of wanderlust that practically anyone can understand and find enjoyable.
The architecture and landscapes are downright stunning, often taking up one or two full pages with little to no text. Sorai’s focus on the tiny details breathes life into the buildings and destinations the duo are placed in, making them feel more like edited photographs and less like illustrations. It’s a highlight of the series.
The gastronomy tourism is another major point of the story. The abundance of food, street snacks, and liquor that Asahi and Mitsuki indulge in touches on a simple but major point of travel and showcases a shared language that every culture can appreciate and understand.
The LGBTQIA+ presence is heavy in the story and is shown in an overall positive manner. As Asahi and Mitsuki travel, they meet locals and other travelers from all walks of life with a wide variety of gender identities and sexual orientations, and learn about how they are perceived in different cultures. It’s nice to see so much reassurance from the characters reminding each other to be themselves and loving openly without fear of judgment.
A lot of research was put into the story for things like exchange rates and cultural notes for those unfamiliar with the destinations Asahi and Mitsuki travel to, it allows readers to continue with the story without having to stop to look them up.
WHAT DOESN’T WORK?
CW: Strong (infrequent) language, implied sexual situations, excessive consumption of alcohol.
There are a few travel-based stereotypes shown throughout that may come across as offensive and cliched. As a tourism major in college, these are highly common comments – typically regarding travel safety – that even I saw in classes, so it is doubtful they are meant with ill-intent.
There is a character named May in the Thailand trip that is referred to as “tomboy” because “she dresses as a male.” While this may come across as inaccurate, it must be noted that “tom” (from the English word "tomboy") in Thailand is the term they use for a female who dresses, acts, and speaks in a masculine fashion but identifies as a female, so this is accurate for the country as shown in the manga but is not really explained well. (It is noted briefly on pg. 62, alongside several other common gender identities in Thailand, and are quite fascinating to look into!)
There is a single grammatical error on pg. 68. It says “they aren’t changing us extra” and it should say “charging,” in regard to a hotel room mix-up.
WHY SHOULD I READ IT?
Tourism is a relatively untouched genre in the world of comics, so seeing an honest portrayal of visiting a new country, jet lag, and culture shock portrayed in the medium with such detail and heart is incredibly refreshing. The first volume of Our Not-So-Lonely Planet Travel Guide sets readers up with a sense of adventure and wanderlust, allowing you to feel as if you’re a travel companion alongside our main couple.
With Mitsuki's love of photography and Asahi's knowledge of other cultures, the pair make for excellent guides to help narrate the journey. The detailed architecture and large, full-page illustrations of landscapes transport you to the locales alongside them. Food that looks delicious enough to eat and tourism trivia abundant makes this an exciting story for frequent travelers and those who dream of going on around-the-world adventures of their own someday.
Filled with sweet, wholesome moments of romance and a well-paced development to their relationship, Our Not-So-Lonely Planet Travel Guide vol.1 is a must-read for anyone who wants a well-balanced narrative to return to time and again. A stand-out amongst the other titles in TokyoPop’s LOVExLOVE collection, as well as a favorite amongst fans, the focus on new experiences alongside a long-standing relationship that is rich, playful, and realistic makes this a wonderful introduction to the BL (boys’ love) genre for those uninitiated, as well as establishing itself as a comfort title for slice-of-life readers everywhere.
HOW DO I READ IT?
(This manga was given to me for review purposes from TokyoPop)
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