Forget Me Not Vol. 1 - Manga Review

Yusuke Serizawa is saved after an accident by a young woman he once knew, but whose name he cannot remember. To find her, he’ll have to relive the heartbreaking memories of his previous relationships.

The Lowdown

Yusuke Serizawa’s life is one of regret - he’s hurt more people than he cares to remember and yet cannot recall their names. On the way home from work, Yusuke is distracted by the familiar face of a passing woman, crashing his scooter and blacking out. Coming to in the hospital, Yusuke tries to recall the woman’s identity, forcing him to reflect on the relationships he had with different women throughout his life.

Who Is It For?

Those who enjoy dramatic and bittersweet love-stories such as Your Lie in April will be interested in this series.

How Was It?

Forget Me Not explores the fragility of romantic relationships in the context of Yusuke’s search for his mysterious saviour, creating a powerful portrait of regret in his character. To find her, he delves into memories long forgetten, forcing him to reflect upon long buried romantic regrets in hope of figuring out who this mysterious girl is. Yusuke’s memory is explored in a series of vignettes, each showing his time with one girl before flashing back to the present to add to his search. While this structure felt a little bit formulaic and convenient because of the repetition especially after this cycles repeats a couple times, it worked well enough as a plot device to justify the smaller and more self-contained flashbacks.

Anchored by Yusuke’s search in the present for his mysterious saviour, the bulk of Forget Me Not’s first volume is taken up by Yusuke’s memories of his relationships with three different girls throughout his life. These stories are handled quite well, providing a cute yet unrelentingly bittersweet portrayal of the mistakes that can be made in young love. The common thread running through each of these stories are the mistakes and misunderstanding experienced by Yusuke, and we quickly see that Yusuke is not a particularly likable character. This is alright by itself, but the flaw here is that the story doesn’t really take his character beyond simply being a teenager with a penchant for doing some really dumb things, making it difficult see context of his mistakes in as powerful a way as if they had come as a result of a more fleshed out personality. However, I enjoyed the sense of character progression this volume was able to imbue in him as the story proceeded, as we got to see a little bit of tangible growth on his part that brought things together more cohesively as a whole.

The first story in this volume flashes back to Yusuke’s time in middle-school, where he strikes up a friendship with a quiet girl who is nicknamed “Nobuta” (after the Japanese show Nobuta wo Produce). This quickly becomes a heartbreaking scene as Yusuke reacts negatively to Nobuta after being bullied by his friends as a result of his time with her. This story does a good job setting the tone for the story, with Yusuke coming off as an roundly immature person who has difficulty processing his emotions. However, without spoiling anything there is a particular moment in the story which feels off-tonally from the rest of this segment, and just felt generally unnecessary and heavy-handed. Sadly, this is glazed over in Yusuke’s reflections later, feeling like a pretty notable omission given the gravity of his treatment of her, making his thought process feel weirdly incomplete. Other than that, the story did a good job providing context for the rest of the series and established Yusuke’s driving regrets in a vivid manner even if it missed the mark just a little bit.

The second main story follows Yusuke’s time in his first year of high-school and is this volume’s best in terms of providing a wonderful balance of sweetness mixed with moments of regret representative of Yusuke’s experience. In high-school, Yusuke has a chance meeting with a British foreign-exchange student, and after helping her out of a tight spot he strikes up an unlikely friendship. What made this story stand out was its thematic cohesiveness, perfectly highlighting the effect poor communication can have on a relationship. The story comes together extremely effectively in the end, providing a heartbreaking conclusion that ties into Yusuke’s development appropriately. I was thankful that this was equally balanced by a warmer moment, highlighting the happiness and sadness in love that is at the core of this series. Additionally, I liked that way that this memory visible affected Yusuke in the present, providing some tangible character development which advanced the plot nicely.

While the second main story was fantastic in getting across its chosen themes, it could have benefited from a little more deftness in portraying its characters. This segment is appropriately entitled “My Sassy Girl”, because this girl was incredibly cold, often hitting Yusuke and generally insulting him. I would have appreciated a little more subtlety here as this got quite grating at times, undercutting some of the more tender moments in creating some tonal dissonance between the more cartoonish moments shown when she would hit him versus the more serious and emotional moments in this story. However, I can see now how her difficulty expressing her feelings was in line with the theme, but it felt like her character development could have been handled in a gentler and less grating way.

Forget Me Not’s art is one of its strongest points, lending this volume a strong and beautiful sense of dramatic sentimentality. Artist Nao Emoto’s use of paneling is fantastic, drawing scenes from angles which create a cinematic and dramatic feel. A strong emphasis is placed on the faces of these characters to convey their emotions, adding to the subtext of many of the moments in this volume. In particular, Emoto places the eyes of her character front and centre, using them to fully convey a wide range of emotions. I was impressed with the way that I could tell what each character was thinking just from the way their eyes were drawn, adding some extra depth which went beyond the dialogue in a few cases. This volume was beautifully drawn and is definitely a looker, complementing the emotional intensity of this volume effectively.

Final Thoughts

Forget Me Not is a bittersweet exploration of the highs and lows of relationships, with Yuzuke’s journey touching powerfully upon the way small little misunderstandings and mistakes can leave a lifetime of regret. While it has a few rockier moments, this manga knows how to evoke a potent emotional response, and those looking for a different take on romance stories should definitely give this a shot.


Forget Me Not 1
By Nao Emoto

Forget Me Not Vol. 1 was translated by Ko Ransom and published by Kodansha Comics USA on March 15th, 2016. Authored by Nao Emoto based on the original story by Mag Hsu, the series is ongoing in Kodansha’s Monthly Shonen Magazine. Volume 2 will be released in English on May 17th 2016.

Verdict:

B+

Date of Publication: March 15th, 2016

Translator: Ko Ransom

Author: Nao Emoto + Mag Hsu

Publisher: Kodansha Comics USA


Forget Me Not 1
By Nao Emoto
Forget Me Not 2
By Nao Emoto
Forget Me Not 3
By Nao Emoto
Forget Me Not 4
By Nao Emoto

Matt

Matt is a broke law student by day, broke law student by night, and one of the co-founders of Taykobon in his dwindling spare time. Although his favourite series tend to be shonen adventure series, he also has a soft spot for slice-of-life shojo romances. He enjoys following the manga industry, and is a fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Blue Jays in other nonexistent spare time. 

Favourite series: Bakuman

Favourite author: Io Sakisaka