Title: Is Love the Answer?
Author: Uta Isaki
Publisher: Kodansha Comics
Publication Date: January 17, 2023
In short, Is Love the Answer? Follows the story of a girl named Chika who can’t seem to understand love. Whether it is a feeling, a sexual attraction, or a desire, none of it makes sense to her. She also questions why everyone seems to put a definition of what “normal” is. From being told to stop reading manga to refusing to have sex with her boyfriend, she is told that those things are not normal. Suddenly, she begins to feel like an alien from another planet.
Chika heads to college where she enrolls in the psychology program. She did so because one of the professors is someone she greatly admires. On the first day of orientation, she ends up getting rescued by Shinobu Ishii, the professor she admires after she was pressured into joining a club. After realizing who she was, she pours her heart out to her and asks if she could join her seminar. After being denied, they take the train home together where they talk some more. Ishii eventually invites Chika to her house and this is where she begins her journey of self-discovery.
Shortly after, Ishii allows her to move in, much to Ume’s chagrin. Turns out that Ishii lives in a shared house and Ume is about as brash as brash can be. In fact, they even end up in a fight over the fact that Ishii gave Chika Room #1 to live in after Ume had expressed his desire to have that room when it opened up. There, Chika begins to look up what might be “wrong” with her and discovers that she is leaning towards being asexual; however, after meeting Ishii’s “husband,” she begins to question things even more.
From here, a very unlikely, yet, the sensical relationship between Ume and Chika begins to form. Could this be the answer she was looking for all along?
With this being a series that is heavily grounded in reality, Chika is going to be the most relatable character. Unlike a lot of manga where the main character will have a certain quirk about them, Chika doesn’t have that. She’s simply a girl who questions what normal is and wonders about her own sexuality. In this day and age, a lot of people are going through this with each person arriving at different answers. Chika could represent a lot of people who are going through or have gone through the same thing. The most important lesson you could learn through Chika is that there is no real such thing as “normal” and that it is okay to explore what you truly feel you are. Through her, you learn that the answer may not come immediately but it is out there for you to find.
Ishii was thought to be the same way until she revealed that she had a husband but it’s not under typical circumstances. I believe that this was the catalyst to Chika finding her own answer but it also adds a different dimension that challenges what traditional marriage truly is. As for Ishii herself, she’s kind of a mixed bag. On the surface, she seems rather blunt and standoffish but she’s also willing to listen and offer advice. She gave Chika some books to read to help her out and even let her move into the shared house with very little to no resistance. It shows that she has an interest in helping Chika out but she also seems like the type to keep to herself. She’s a pretty interesting character.
Then there’s Ume. My God… the number of times that guy could have been slapped is immeasurable. Ume has no filter and isn’t afraid to tell you to shut up, get lost, or to stop bothering him. Despite the fact that everything seems like a bother to him, there are times when he begrudgingly indulges Chika and listens to her. He even shows a hint that he actually cares when Chika’s new group of friends were going down the rabbit hole of orientation discussion and things got out of hand. This happened at the café that he works at so he slammed a bunch of trays down to get their attention before scolding them for having a talk that would make Chika uncomfortable. It’s hard to say if I actually liked Ume, though. I felt his brashness was turned a bit too high and could have been dialed back some.
Finally, we have the four friends that Chika is… well… kind of roped into making as they really didn’t give her an option. They consist of two girls… Nakagawa and Enomoto and two guys, Ito and Sawai. They each have their own struggles such as Ito having a boyfriend but discovering he also has feelings for girls or Enomoto who is just a huge otaku and a fujoshi who loves to make very erotic doujinshi. They are all in the psychology course and felt since there weren’t enough people in that curriculum, they should band together and be friends.
This was a short-lived manga as it only comprises of one volume containing six chapters so it is a rather short read but an interesting one nevertheless. While the manga does tell a story, it’s more or less a piece of literature that helps ease people who are questioning themselves into finding an answer. The overall message that this manga sends is that you should always feel comfortable with yourself and that it’s fine if you need to go through some self-discovery to get there. It even goes further and shows you that the definition of love, relationships, and even marriage can be altered and changed to suit the needs of the people involved.
In short, there are no hard rules when it comes to life. Every person has their own path to follow and they should never deviate from that path just because “normal” dictates that they should. That was Chika’s journey and, vicariously through her, it offers a guide to those who are looking to their own journey as well.
Since this manga dives deep into LGBTQIA+, it may not be for everyone but if you are curious, have an open mind, and/or want a non-conventional way to find some encouragement to take your own journey, this will be a good read for you. By no means is it a handbook for what you should do… it is a manga after all and therefore, it is entertainment but the underlying message is there and some people might just find value in it.
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This item was purchased for review.