I bought A Girl on the Shore about three or four years ago and finally got around to reading it. Now, I’d like to start off by saying this book was extremely graphic. My naive self at the time of purchase hadn’t realized that manga and graphic novels that were wrapped in plastic were usually very heavy in adult content. I just assumed that because the book had a pretty cover it was wrapped to prevent damage.
Once I started working in a bookstore I learned the whole plastic wrap = adult content thing. They don’t want little eyes flipping through those books (face-palm).
When I finally unwrapped it, I was like “How bad can it be?” and then proceeded to open it up to a random page. I burst out laughing, mainly due to surprise. It was definitely not what I had imagined.
Honestly, perhaps it was a good thing that I didn’t read this book back when I was 20. I think I would have had a cow.
I mean, sure I giggled like a 14 year old during sex-ed but still. I actually focused more on the art versus the fact that as I went on to read the rest of the book, I found it to be…85% adult content. I think this is because I draw. Seeing nudity in art doesn’t bother me. Although if people flipped through my sketchbooks when I was younger and the people I drew had no clothes I was extremely embarrassed.
Now I just draw underwear on the naked people…mainly because my niece flips through my sketchbooks.
Back to the book, it turned out to be fairly good. The artwork was beautiful but on top of that the plot was fairly engaging…is it something I would read again or recommend to everyone? No.
Mainly because, if you’re familiar with my recent reads I don’t like reading erotica. I especially wish I could re-wrap this book because my niece likes to flip through my manga collection when she visits. Much of what I read is that cutesy, innocent, first love kind of stuff…and if there is sex in a book it’s like 1 scene, with stylistically (safe 14A) angles and needs to actually effect the plot. Otherwise I skim over it and move on.
Still, I think I’d actually give this book a 4 star rating. Like…just look at the artwork (I’ll share the PG versions)!
I think I’ve spoken a lot about the graphic content of the book, so now I’d like to get into the plot, and then continue on with my overall thoughts.
Trigger warning! This book has discussions of sexual assault, suicide and toxic relationships.
The story follows junior high schooler Koume, who after being forced into a sexual act with an older boy on her first date asks another classmate of hers, Keisuke to take her virginity.
Keisuke has problems of his own which he tries to mask through his casual hookups with Koume. To make matters more complicated Keisuke previously confessed his love for Koume and had been rejected. He wants a real relationship with her but she doesn’t even want to be seen with him in public. He claims to be okay with their arrangement but it is clear as the story progresses that what he really needs is healing from his emotional wounds.
Koume continues to use Keisuke throughout, especially when thoughts about the boy who forced himself on her, Masaki, come back. She wants to forget all about Masaki, as he only viewed her as some girl he could just throw away. The day after their date he claims that he never intended on being her boyfriend and stated she “wasn’t his type.”
Koume believes that she could never fall in love with someone like Keisuke because to her, he is unattractive and tells him this.
This is something that she says to him more than once, which is a direct reflection of what Masaki said to her. The only difference is that Koume has reversed the roles, and is now using someone who clearly likes her for her own benefit, despite not actually wanting to build a relationship with them.
Keisuke on the other hand, is broken. His parents are never around and he feels as though his family had always been fake, as if they were playing roles and not actually active participants in each others lives. His thoughts stem from the sudden death of his older brother, who after being bullied everyday at school, ends up taking his own life. Keisuke destroys his brothers suicide note before his parents or the police can find it, out of fear that the news that his brother drowning wasn’t an accident will tear them apart. This however, leaves him with the desire to not only avenge his brother but also to take his own life.
Nearly every time he’s with Koume he tells her his time is limited, dropping little hints about his plans to die. However, Koume is so busy ranting about Masaki and using Keisuke that she doesn’t take notice.
When Keisuke finally gets fed up with being Koume’s “toy” she ends up trying to date Masaki again, thinking that by going on a group date things would be alright. However the event is nothing like she expected and he attempts to assault her. She’s told by another girl present to “stop killing the mood” as she tries to flee and tells the girl they should leave, not realizing that this girl knew exactly what Masaki and his friends had in mind for this “get together.”
Throughout the story, both Koume and Keisuke continue their cycles, using each other as a distraction from their frustrations with life, family, school and relationships.
I felt that this book handled Koume and Keisuke’s relationship in a mature manner, especially given the ages of the characters. Despite as well as the depictions of sex being fairly graphic and unsettling they were used to progress the plot. Rather than it be entirely erotic, these scenes played a role in the plot, which is why I didn’t give up on the book a few pages in.
The artwork was lovely and the story itself was heartbreaking. I couldn’t stop thinking about it once I finished…and honestly I finished it in one sitting. I could not put this book down. I just wanted these kids to be okay in the end. I didn’t necessarily want a happy shojo-romance style ending, because it would have ruined the story but I did want for Koume and Keisuke to find some sort of healing.
Keisuke was fairly interesting, as his character goes on to become angrier as time goes by. I’ll try to keep things spoiler free but his progression had me worried. I kept begging Koume to acknowledge what he was saying to her as Keisuke had no other friends and it was clear he desperately needed someone to talk to.
Koume on the other hand, made me angry at times. Now don’t get me wrong, I definitely didn’t hate her or anything. She kept putting on this act with Keisuke where she was shallow and selfish, mirroring Masaki, whereas with her friends she played this other version of herself. There she appeared more passive and sweet…but also socially absent at times as if she were lost in her own head (which she was). I found this flaw in her, this flaw that made me angry, is what really made her character believable…and likeable. She wasn’t this sweet, perfect girl as she pretended to be, nor was she this sex crazed, only cares about looks, shallow girl.
Her true nature slowly reveals itself to Keisuke as the story progresses, which is frustrating for the reader, simply because he acknowledges who she really is while she continues to ignore all of the big red, flashing signs when it comes to Keisuke and what’s happening to him internally.
The story lingers with the reader…leaving them with this sense of…emptiness…or possibly loneliness. As these two characters are so secretive to those around them, whether it be friends and family, and don’t know how to communicate their feelings of trauma. This manga made me feel just as helpless and vulnerable as the character’s at times…but in the end I didn’t feel sad once I finished it. Instead I was left with this faint sense of relief.
I will most likely avoid plastic sealed manga in the future. Although I’m an adult, I don’t want to risk spending $20-$30 on a manga of this nature and end up hating it. As I mentioned before erotic books aren’t my thing. However, if they’re something you’re interested in reading, and the other content in this book aren’t too triggering I would recommend it.
I definitely do not recommend reading this if you are currently struggling with your mental health. I feel it would be irresponsible to do so. If I couldn’t recommend this to friends who’ve dealt with some of the topics discussed in this book, then I will apply that to anyone reading this review as well. Please take care of your mental health first. If you still choose to check out this book, I would advise that you pace yourself and stop reading if certain scenes are overwhelming.
Now, I also definitely do not recommend this manga to anyone under the ages of 18. That is a hard NO. I understand that there are younger people who are mature and have read YA sex scenes or books dealing with mental health…but as this book is graphic. It is listed as and was published by a company that specializes in erotic manga.
Honestly, I hate to be that person…I don’t like to act as a gatekeeper or anything like that but I can’t recommend this kind of content to people who are trying to manage their mental health, or to younger readers. If you’re interested in the book, you can read it when you’re 18 and once your health is in a better place.
I believe I mentioned this earlier but, surprisingly…especially to myself, I’m rating this book 4 stars.
It’s something that I bought years ago, during one of my many book binge buys, that I probably wouldn’t have even considered buying now…and I’m kind of glad that the me of four years ago made that naive mistake because it allowed me to find something I ended up liking…in a genre I never read.