My favorite slice of life manga is Double by Ayako Noda. It’s been a struggle for me to put into words why I love it so much, so here’s why I love it so much in one sentence. The art is beautiful and expressive (I wish I could draw more like Ayako Noda), the characters are charismatic and feel full of life in a way I don’t often see represented in adult characters, and, overall, the story is a great reminder to me that an enjoyable career may be (just maybe) more valuable than a well-paying one.
And now, the summary:
Double is a josei manga written and drawn by Ayako Noda. It follows the story of aspiring actor Takara Takarada who quits his salary man lifestyle to be an actor. He’s a whimsical guy who loves acting but can’t seem to find direction in his life without support from his theatre troupe colleague, Yuujin Kamoshima. Support is a major understatement, however, as Yuujin dedicates his whole self to making Takara’s talent known to the world. Effectively, he is Takara’s neighbor, friend, colleague, nanny, cook, acting coach, talent manager, ultimate inspiration and so forth. Like this, the two take on the acting world together, navigating fame, career goals and happiness. At its core, Double is a journey of personal growth at odds with the respect and love you have for another. It’s an odd coming of age story of the 30-something year old Takara who learns how to be a person and how to be himself.
I love how Ayako Noda writes her characters. When I thought really hard about why, my mind came to the way she introduces them. The manga landscape is one full of tropes and parodies of tropes and subverting of expectations of tropes. It’s common to see a slice of life series introduce their characters as some familiar archetype, using it as the base to build the narrative on. This makes for great head-empty, happy content that might be a tad repetitive (sometimes) but does a good job reminding you to appreciate the simple things in life. So, when Takara and Yuujin were first introduced in Chapter 1 as almost a sort of mother-child/best friends/lover duo, I felt absolutely disoriented. I was confused, but like, confused in an excited way.
It’s always a treat when a story invokes those feelings of curiosity and nervousness when you first get to know a stranger. And, strange, Takara and Yuujin are. These two! Their lives and personalities, as they were initially presented, were completely unrelatable to me, bordering on incomprehensible. And somehow, Ayako Noda capitalized on the lack of reference points I could link to these characters to let the charisma of Yuujin and Takara speak for themselves.
Surprisingly, the eccentric characters in Double don’t stop it from being an incredibly relaxing read. Relaxing in the way that vacations to a foreign country are. Like you’re a dumb tourist, so quit trying to apply old knowledge to the new environment, and just accept things as they come. In this way, Double takes its departure from the description of slice of life I touched on earlier. Rather than conjuring comfort in the reader using the familiarity of tropes, Noda reassures the reader that you know nothing and you don’t know her characters. All the information you need is what she lays out in front of you. So, as I read, I open myself to the unfamiliar, release the mental load that are my expectations, and pay attention.
Thanks for reading :-3