I respect a manga that can get me laughing on one page and crying on the next however this equilibrium is very hard to achieve. Authors and writers alike tend to focus on one side of these two and generally just have the other as comic relief or the basic structure of their story. Not like that is a bad thing per say, I would greatly enjoy a show or manga that knows what its trying to do and focuses on it than simply having a pick ‘n mix so to speak between the two. It takes fantastic literal prowess to accomplish what Onanie Master Kurosawa did and that was combine comedy and heart breaking drama into one, 31 chapter hale storm of emotion.
Admittedly, I was very cautious of Onanie Master because it did a certain type of parody for its comedy and that was borderline plagiarism. Its one thing to have like a throw back to some popular anime here and there but its another thing to have the characters you created directly inserted into a popular scene of anime history (I’m looking at you Gintama…). Onanie Master was somewhat guilty of this but it did have some…interestingly unique type of comedy which was very forward. Pretty much like “This guy masturbates in a girls bathroom every week using sick fantasies of his classmates as fuel, what you gonna do about it nerd?”. The manga uses dialogue that belongs in a H-Manga more than anything, not because it is bad but more because it is insanely lewd. Onanie Master really helped itself by not using parody as a third leg and made its own hysterical jokes. There are very obvious parodies that come from Code Geass to Death Note but the outrageous monologues from Kurosawa in the early half really did bring some originality to it.
The dialogue and monologues in Onanie Master are also very fantastic. I would say that they manage to top OreGairu in the first half but the inner torment in the second half is what ends up being the driving force of the manga, but lets save that for later. As I said, the comedy in the first half was something to behold, its a genre of comedy that you don’t see done nowadays. The monologues were very frank yet it wasn’t in your face, it was just laying everything bare as to what it was trying to do rather than do something like Nichijou does and just ram it down your throat until you are forced to gag through laughter.
Now that I mentioned all I wanted about the comedy, I will now move on to why I wanted to make this post in the first place, to talk about how amazingly great the second half is. The manga more or less ditches its comedy to concentrate on the psychological drama that will torment you on every damn page you read. I would confidently say that Onanie Master Kurosawa is the greatest example of psychological drama in a school setting and all it does is a very simple yet beautiful technique, you never leave Kurosawa. What I mean by that, with the exception of one chapter, you see the world through Kurosawa’s eyes and in turn, you become Kurosawa. For instance, when Kurosawa was in love with Takigawa, I admit there was a certain type of affection for her welling up in me when I was reading it; at the start of the manga when Nagaoka was nothing more than a extroverted otaku in the eyes of Kurosawa, I did think he was a quite a tosspot. So when that moment happened between Nagaoka and Takigawa and they announced their relationship to Kurosawa, it was more of an indirect attack at the reader than Kurosawa because nothing could hurt more than the words…
“Starting today, I am Nagaoka’s girlfriend, Takigawa. Pleased to meet you!”
Enough of reminding everyone of the bad times, lets talk about Kurosawa and why he is so great. Throughout the course of the manga, we see four and arguably five sides to Kurosawa. Initially, he is the edgy, holier than thou yet refreshingly frank with his thoughts middle schooler who has discovered a new routine to get his jollies. You don’t think much of him as a decent person and with the only thing creditable to his character being his comedy, you really shouldn’t either, just like Kurosawa doesn’t think much of the world around him. Now what anime or manga do in positions like these is that they aim for reliability within characters and Onanie Master does just that….to an extent. During the early to early-mid chapters, Kurosawa mainly appeals to the person within ourselves that was always looking for the perfect school romance with his relationship with Takigawa and our slight disdain with the world around, since the majority of anime fans and otaku just seem to be born edgy and/or introverted. Once the connection between reader and Kurosawa is established, it does a tidy job of ripping that connection up into a million pieces.
I mentioned OreGairu previously and I shall bring it up again to share a distinct similarity. At some point, be it in the end, as in OreGairu’s case in season 1, or somewhere in the middle, in Onanie Master’s case, you go from relating to a character very strongly to wishing that you are nothing like them in the slightest. I have only seen this technique done properly in both of the aforementioned works and that is one of the main reasons why I respect them so damn much. Onani Master Kurosawa does it in a more forthright way though, making every page harder to read than the last, all by taking those initial mutual connections with Kurosawa and flipping them on their head. Perfect middle school romance? HA! Tough shit mate, you didn’t act on your feelings and your getting lost in the dirt you damn pansy! Disdain for the world? Pffft, who the fuck cares? The world is a tough shit place, get used to it or your not going to be worth shit….or, something along those lines.
Kurosawa learns swiftly that reality is a cruel mistress after finding out that his crush is going out with Nagoaka which is understandable, we all have moments in our lives where life has screwed us over one way or another, these experiences is what makes us human. However, its the actions that Kurosawa takes which makes his experiences damn near disturbing. You might be questioning my criticisms of Kurosawa right now and yeah, I understand that. Hell, after my first read through of Onanie Master, I genuinely thought that Kurosawa’s actions in redemption were justifiable. But then, I took a step and read it again with a distant friend called Reasoning. Let me put it how I see it, I mentioned earlier that our experiences with how life as screwed us over as made us human. If those experiences include jizzing on your first love’s geography notes just because she started going out with someone other than you because you couldn’t act on your feelings, then I feel liable to question your sanity.
Do not get me wrong, reading chapter 17 onward is just as painful and heart wrenching as it is when I first read it. Losing in love is something that most of us went through at Kurosawa’s age and he really went through the worst of it with Takigawa. But like I said, it was Kurosawa’s initial reaction to the heartbreak is something that dehumanizes him to the point where some of the imagery makes him look like some kind of monster. I mentioned earlier that Onanie Master shares the similarity with OreGairu in the sense that Hachiman starts off as someone everyone can relate to then turns into someone you utterly detest but see the intentions behind their actions. However, unlike Hachiman, Kurosawa had no intentions to help any one out in any way, he was just on a personal hunt for revenge. You do not know how glad I am that they made Kurosawa’s actions look despicable. Too many shows or movies glorify vengeance as a character’s motive, but all it does is sully them and makes them look mentally weak as it is the only driving force in their minds. His entire act of revenge is incredibly petty as well. “She can’t possibly feel the heartbreak that I feel, so I will make her feel my man juice” is pretty much the motive in a nut shell. Sure, yeah, there are other factors involved since, in Kurosawa’s current state, it seemed liked the easiest route. It kinda reminds me of a MacBeth quote “I am in blood Stepp’d in so far that, should I wade no more, Returning were as tedious as go o’er” except blood its uhh….semen.
I think its about time I talk about Kurosawa’s break-up with his breakdown (heh). Its funny how something so small and yet so convenient can snap you back to your senses. Almost akin to “What would Jesus do?”, Kurosawa finds this thing that brings him back to his true self, well I’d actually argue a better self. When Kurosawa finds the oil painting of the school trip that Takigawa made after all the things that Kurosawa did to her, unbeknownst to her of course, that is the trigger that causes him to reform himself into to something that is beyond our wills as a reader. Facing one’s problems and accidents is something that most of us don’t have the courage or even the will to do. With Kurosawa’s situation, you would expect that he would just stop his daily ritual but he goes above and beyond that, he does something that I bet you, nor I for that matter, would never have done. He faces the consequences of his actions.
Now here is the beauty of Onanie Master Kurosawa, that being the progression of Kurosawa’s character. He goes from being the relateable MC, to someone that you wish you didn’t relate to in the first place, to someone that you aspire to be, all within the steady progression of 31 chapters. After his surprising confession of his actions, he has to go through so much shit but dammit, I damn well wish I could have just a fraction of the amount of courage and mental strength during those chapters. Its also rare to see negative events in a character’s life generally improve their outlook on their life. Kurosawa gets ostracized and bullied to an ungodly extent but he is still able to smile through it. Like he said though, he isn’t a masochist, he is definitely suffering. At this time you would expect the audience to be up in arms saying “This is what you fucking deserve you piece of shit.” but the general reaction evoked is “Keep at it man, just get through this”. Staggeringly enough, you manage to be able to root for the guy that was ejaculating into recorders not so long ago.
By now, Onanie Master Kurosawa has reached its climax. Kurosawa graduates middle-school and that is really where the drama ends with him. His infatuation with Takigawa ends and he develops romantic feelings that feel more genuine for Suguwa. Their relationship together is kinda cute and makes sense with the overall story. Some would say that the pairing was just thrown in there last minute to have Kurosawa in love with someone but I would say that Suguwa’s development in the latter half really made her the best match for Kurosawa.
In regards to Kurosawa alone, I have said all I have needed to. Its obvious that he is the main attraction to the manga as he is the center of everything. He is at the center of a cast that you would see in a every day school anime. The boke otaku, the quiet short girl, the loud delinquent and the love interest. Onanie Master doesn’t actually go out of its way to develop these characters in great extent. If anything, they simply evolve to adapt or react to the current on-goings. They still manage to leave their respectful marks upon the story in their own special ways, usually by turning the trope that was placed on them on its head. Be it the boke otaku winning the heart of the love interest or the loud delinquent being the true love of the story or the quiet shy girl being the evil mastermind controlling the main character as her puppet. Its a nice spin on things that you don’t see too often. It shows that the author actually cared about the side characters and didn’t just squish them in there to fill a necessary role.
In regards to the actual characters themselves, there isn’t much to say beyond Takigawa and Kitahara. While the side characters aren’t bad characters, they just don’t have the depth to them that is worth noting. Except for Takigawa and Kitahara that is. I mentioned before that with the exception of one chapter, the manga never leaves the perspective of Kurosawa. That one chapter is being told through the eyes of Takigawa. It is also one of my favourite chapters in any manga ever. Generally whenever a message or character point is delivered so bluntly when it has been suggested really subtly throughout the course of whatever, it tends to be a blunt smack at itself rather than the viewer/reader appreciating this great turn of events. However, Takigawa’s mental anguish and torment was something that surprised a lot of people and really made that chapter fantastic.
Takigawa and Kitahara are polar opposites personality wise. Takigawa is popular among the school and her friends but has the self-confidence as a slug looking down on a bowl of salt. Whereas Kitahara is physically bullied yet takes her psudo-power with pride and it lifts her up to new found levels of satisfaction and smugness. These two people played the role as Kurosawa’s conscience for a good portion of the manga, Kitahara being the evil causing him to do the dirty crime in fear of being exposed and Takigawa being the good in trying to find the positives in Kurosawa and making him hesitant in his twisted game. Its pretty neat that the two never actually communicated properly throughout the manga. Even at the school trip, it was only passing glances here and there with no formal conversation. This fact adds to the whole notion that Kitahara and Takigawa are the demon and angel resting on Kurosawa’s shoulders.
Onanie Master Kurosawa is probably the best school manga I have ever read. Its steadily paced, well directed and fits all together as a narrative. Obviously the contents within itself is fantastic but if I go on now, I will just be repeating myself so I’m just gonna keep this brief. Onanie Master Kurosawa I believe is the only real “must-read” within manga. Controversial I know, but I need to end this on a statement like this everyone once in a while.