Whenever I read a chapter of Kimi Nakare, it always feels like the next chapter might be the end of the story. Chapter 6 not only follows this, but the vibe is stronger than ever.
In spite of whatever hopes might be lingering, WARP’s days as an idol group are numbered. As a final farewell to their fans, their manager has arranged one last massive meet ‘n’ great with the fans.
Not long after, Hayato and fellow WARP member Shingo are having a bath time discussion about their futures. While Hayato believes himself to be ill-suited to the idol path, especially because his initial motivation was just so he could meet Nobuko, Shingo responds that Hayato’s attitude (and idiotic qualities) are what make him a natural idol.
In a flashback to Shingo’s high school days, we see a conflicted Shingo unsure of whether the idol path is for him, not least of which is because his hospitalized father is very much against it. Shingo ends up bumping into a girl at the hospital who turns out to be a fan of idols. Accidentally revealing that he’s an idol from the same agency as her favorite, Shingo listens to her story of how idols helped her to keep living in spite of her illness, which strengthens Shingo’s determination to continue his idol career no matter the odds.
The next day, Hayato is discussing the upcoming meet ‘n’ great with Nobuko and Natsumi. When Nobuko promises that she’ll defend him from all of the fangirls, Hayato confesses his feelings for her once more—this time in front of the whole class!
As I briefly mentioned in the introduction, Kimi Nakare often feels like it’s moving at a breakneck pace in terms of typical romance manga developments. It’s one thing to have a confession in Chapter 1, but it’s another to have three confessions in six chapters. Not only that, but each of them raise the stakes more and more, because now it’s not even a secret among close friends anymore. While I could see the class not taking it seriously, especially because Nobuko has made a running gag out of her on-screen obsession with Hayato, I think they’re going to realize what’s going on sooner or later.
The sense of urgency isn’t limited to just the main romance, either. Just the fact that a scandal has already dissolved Hayato’s idol group and put him on a slightly different path is the kind of development that would usually occur late into a manga’s life. In some ways, it feels like early Kimi ni Todoke, where every time you think the story would move one way, it would swerve in the other direction, and usually for the better. Can Kimi Nakare keep up this pace? It’s something I welcome, and while I hope the series does well, I also hope that it wouldn’t fall into the trap of becoming increasingly meandering if it reaches major success.
The Side Cast is Growing on Me
In my review of Chapter 5, I mentioned that the side characters aren’t nearly as interesting as Hayato and Nobuko. While I still stand by that statement, I think the other characters are starting to come into their own. I actually previously had trouble keeping track of all the guys in WARP, but now I have a firmer grasp of Shingo as a character. We’ve yet to see more characters on Nobuko’s side of the story, so I’m curious as to what might be in store there.
The Irony of the Natural Idol
After reading Shingo’s comments to Hayato about he’s a natural-born idol, it made me think about how idols are presented to the world, and in turn how idols are presented in Kimi Nakare. Idols, male or female, often project an image of both innocence and sensuality, and this quality is central to the story of this manga. There’s the scandal with WARP member Jirou and his having a girlfriend, but there’s also the idea that the idol business has a dark side. In the real world, idols are often controlled day-in and day-out by their agencies, and it’s what leads to the criticism that idols are just a way to make money off of gullible fans. For me, I think that it can be healthy as long as there’s a tacit understanding that it’s a shared fantasy, something akin to pro wrestling.
If Hayato is a natural idol, it means that he achieves that innocent sensuality without effort, through both appearance and attitude, and it’s exactly that kind of demeanor that you’d expect to get subsumed by the idol engine. To be in the right spot, he has to be just strong enough to never stop being himself, but also just “dumb” enough to stay naive. It’s a precarious position that is preserved in part by his love for Nobuko. That, of course, is also the other irony, that what makes him a natural idol is also what is liable to get him kicked out of the business.
One might also say that his masturbation scene in Chapter 4 represents that combination of innocence and sensuality perfectly. Here is this handsome yet goofy guy who just can’t hold back his very real passion for the girl of his dreams. Her being not beautiful by conventional standards only adds to that rather special moment of characterization.
Idols are all well and good, but I want to see more of Nobuko!
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