Yusuke is broken – all he’s done is hurt people as well as himself in trying to find romance, so when a familiar face makes a reappearance he desperately tries to make amends. However, it might be a chance encounter that ends up being the start of something for him…
Yusuke and Makino have broken up after the strain of their relationship proved to be too much for Yusuke to handle. After hurting Yamaguchi and failing with Makino, Yusuke is despondent, but he sees someone he never expected to see again, Nobuta, working at a ramen shop. Desperate to make amends, Yusuke tries to muster up the courage to talk to her. Later, Yusuke focuses on his studies and lands himself an internship at a law firm. Life at the law firm is tough to get the hang of, but as he bumbles through his job he inadvertently finds himself drawn to a more mature woman who appears to feel a similar connection.
How Was It?
Let’s get this out of the way – if you aren’t reading Forget Me Not, you absolutely should be – so stop reading this and run out to buy the previous volumes immediately. What this series does so well is the way it dives deeply into the messiness of love, and this has been poignantly shown through all of Yusuke’s struggles so far in his various romantic pursuits. We see Yusuke frequently attempt to do the right thing only to be foiled by his own misunderstanding as well as by difficult circumstances, and this is special because it makes Yusuke feel incredibly human. We see him struggling in such a relatable way, and I’ve been very impressed by the way that we really see his emotions slowly change over time as his attitudes and actions are shown to be truly informed by previous events. We’ve seen Yusuke struggle hard and fail in unfortunate but well-realized ways so far in this series, and this volume does a fantastic job continuing this process as Yusuke attempts to make his way forward.
The first bit of this volume begins as Yusuke sees Nobuta, the girl who he hurt in middle school (during the first volume) again, and this encounter serves to propound Yusuke’s problems in an incredibly vivid way. This encounter is fascinating because it shows how insular Yusuke’s perspective has become – he’s completely shocked when Nobuta reacts to him kindly, and as a result completely fumbles this meeting in the most painful way possible. We also see Yusuke’s worst tendencies come to the forefront once again - this time manifesting as he makes everything about himself in a way reminiscent of how he acted around Makino and Yamaguchi. However, the fascinating thing here is that we see residual guilt from those times layering into how he reacts here, and I was really impressed with the way that he acted in this scene – from his emotional outbursts, to his inner loathing – felt like the product of everything that this series has shown us about him. This was extremely poignant, and in this short sequence this story continued to study his character in a truly fascinating way.
After Yusuke’s reunion with Nobuta is dealt with, we see a bit of a transition period for him as he attempts to cope with his string of romantic failures in a couple of ways. This ends up, once again, doing a great job displaying a lot of nuance in portraying his actions, and Yusuke continues to feel completely relatable as he bounces around mentally. His first reaction is to try to go outside of his comfort zone, partly against his will, by being dragged along to the club to hang out with different people. Naturally, he ends up being completely awkward in terms of alternating between lacking confidence and being a little too blunt, and he ends up having a disastrous little fling with a girl who he meets at the club. I really liked that this felt like a natural course of events for him given his frustration at previously failing at building a long-term relationship, and somewhat unsurprisingly copes by going in the opposite direction with an approach that also backfires on him. The result is that he swears off love for the time being out of hopelessness, and compensates by throwing himself into his school work to better himself career-wise. The impressive thing here is that through all of this, we get a strong sense of where Yusuke is coming from and also see the way his lack of perspective informs his reactions. It’s a little bit like watching a close friend go through a string of really hard romantic failures, and perhaps the most significant achievement of this series is that despite all of Yusuke’s cringe-inducing moments and jerkish behaviour, we still intrinsically get him and want him to succeed in getting his happy ending because of how relatable and well-drawn out his emotional process is.
The remainder of the volume is spent following Yusuke as he begins to strike up a new connection with a slightly older woman, and this entire segment was excellently done because of the way it built upon the existing themes in a new way while also demonstrating the inherent messiness of love that this series has thrived in evoking. Through a series of events, Yusuke becomes acquainted with Kim Sam-Soon, a 28-year old professional who takes up an interest in him. This is compelling because we see the connection between the two of them from two different angles: that of Kim in being intrigued by the younger Yusuke as he attempts to adapt to the working world, and that of Yusuke in terms of being struck by Kim in a way that links into his inadequacy in his work and general adulthood. The relationship that portrayed here is truly fascinating because of the difference in their statuses and the way this plays into the way they view the other, and I really applaud the way that Kim is built into a full-fledged character because of the way her varying emotions are shown to subtly ground her actions while still being held at a distance. This gives us some great added context for the way that she acts around Yusuke, but at the same time, a sense of mystery develops around her because her emotions are not on full display for either Yusuke or us as readers to see.
As Kim and Yusuke begin to get closer, this series really dives straight into some serious emotional messiness that makes for extremely compelling reading. Without spoiling too much, this is riveting because we see just how flawed both Yusuke and Kim are in their actions, and this affects them both in terms of their relationship with one another. This is particularly clear when we see the way their conceptions of where they stand with one another differ, and this really well executed because we see so clearly where each of them come from in this. The result is not given a lot of explication, and in some ways, this is the strongest aspect of this storyline. So much ends up being told in the facial expressions of these characters and other subtle actions, and there is one truly heartbreaking moment towards the end of the volume which brutally emphasized how much not knowing how the other person sees you can lead to trouble. This is done in a way that displays a lot of nuance in terms of both of their emotions and actions and feels completely true to Yusuke’s emotional arc over the course of this volume. The art comes in strongly here with many of the facial expressions that are particularly pivotal to these scenes, and as with the other volumes, this continues to be a gorgeous series to look at visually especially when Emoto-sensei really goes all out in a number of scenes.
Go and buy Forget Me Not – after five volumes, I can easily say that this series is just getting stronger and should be read by anyone looking for a challenging and nuanced look at the messiness of relationships. I’m continually impressed by the way that this series breaks the mold precisely because of how vividly it portrays less savory and painful aspects of romance in a way that pay complete respect to how complicated emotions really are. What it continues to offer, particularly in this volume, is an incredibly well developed and poignant emotional arc for Yusuke that sees him running through the entire range of emotions, and although his actions may be difficult to watch at times, they always feel completely rooted in his history. This volume is unreservedly a success and is definitely worth your attention.
Forget Me Not Vol. 5 was translated by Ko Ransom and published by Kodansha Comics USA on November 22nd, 2016. Authored by Nao Emoto based on the original story by Mag Hsu, the series originally ran in Kodansha’s Monthly Shonen Magazine.
Date of Publication: November 22nd, 2016
Author: Nao Emoto and Mag Hsu
Translator: Ko Ransom
Editor: Ajani Oloye
Publisher: Kodansha Comics USA