Manga Review: Kannou Sensei (Chp 0-3)

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From the last bit of text in the manga’s prologue, the protagonist Narumi Rokuro’s words fit perfectly in describing how I view the manga’s story and characters.

In fact, the title of the manga eludes to the sensuality found in its narrative and illustrations. Kannou () meaning the senses or carnality in Japanese.

Serialized in Evening magazine since July 2016, Matoi Yoshida‘s latest work Kannou Sensei is charming and only a little bit naughty (in a teasing ecchi (pervy) kind of way). Kannou-sensei is an age gap romance between a forty year old bachelor named Narumi Rokuro and a twenty-two year old kuudere named Mizukawa Yukino.  The two bump into each other during a summer festival and fall in love at first sight.

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Despite the cheesiness of using the love at first sight trope, the manga’s page layout, use of eye contact and close-up shots of the character’s eyes filling up a single panel are devices that Matoi uses to establish a connection between Rokuro and Yukino and at the same time, teases the physical distance between them.

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The page layout of the manga uses slim gutters to separate panels but they make the physical space between the two characters shorter, making them appear far closer together than they actually are. Minimal speech and changes in points of view without a prompt from an internal monologue in the prologue help create tension in Rokuro and Yukino’s first meeting of short glances communicating their attraction to one another. This tension breaks once Rokuro intentionally touches Yukino’s foot to slip on her shoe as it marks the ending of their tender moment together.

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The characters themselves are not unique, but their personalities subvert the idea of a typical Harlequin romance adult love story featuring a young cute leading female character and her mature mysterious male love interest.

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With the narrative mainly focusing on Rokuro’s point of view, I find that he definitely does not fit the profile mentioned previously. Unmarried and working as an editor at a publishing company, he hangs out with his colleague, Saiki, at Key Cafe. He lusts after Yukino with his shy boyish charm. Although he becomes flustered easily when talking about sex and other juicy NSFW related topics with his friend Saiki in the presence of women, he writes erotica about unsatisfied females looking to fulfill their sinful desires. He is outright with his feelings for Yukino and confesses his love for her after he meets her again at Key Cafe.

Rokuro’s imagination, paired with his male gaze, views Yukino as both an object of his desire and a “pure” being. Even without speaking to Yukino, Rokuro’s eyes follow her movements, presented in small panels of her backside with a repetitive image of the nape of her neck, or a shot focusing on her legs dressed in black nylon pantyhose or an extreme close up of her neck and bust. These images are never explicitly sexual (never depicting full-out nudes, just tasteful sights). Yukino’s body is obviously arousing to Rokuro but is also perceived as forbidden territory as he’s conscious of their age gap.

Rokuro also sees Yukino as an enigma. He first assigns her the title of a fox. In Japanese folklore, foxes or kitsune are known as shape-shifting tricksters. Stories of female kitsune describe them as attractive individuals. According to MythicalCreaturesGuide.com, kitsune in human form possess thin faces with close-set eyes, thin eyebrows and high cheekbones. Judging from Matoi’s art style, Yukino’s face loosely fits this description. And to be perfectly honest, I’m in love with her eyelashes.

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On the other hand, Yukino has a closed-off personality and responds to most questions with a one-worded or two-worded answer. She works as a waitress at Key Cafe and is beloved by many of its male customers. Unlike Rokuro, Yukino restricts herself from expressing her emotions, coming off as indifferent and cold. It is only in moments where Yukino is alone that she reveals her adorable soft side.

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The plot line of the manga follows Rokuro’s attempts to woo Yukino, when unbeknownst to our protagonist she bares the same feelings. I think the charm of the manga comes from Rokuro’s honest pining thoughts, that can come off as pathetic and cringey, but makes him realistic. I mean, the guy pens an erotic love letter to the woman of his dreams when he’s trying to write a new novel.

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My concluding thoughts…?

It’s sensual without being too trashy. The beautiful illustrations tease not only the protagonist but the reader as well. It’s pretty lighthearted if you compare it to Matoi’s other works. Plus, I appreciate Saiki’s character because he’s crass.

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