Title: Boy’s Abyss Vol. 1
Author: Ryo Minenami
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: Slice-of-Life, Drama
Publication Date: April 25, 2023
Reiji lives inside of an abyss… except this one doesn’t have multiple layers, grotesque monsters, and white whistle cave dwellers that experiment on children. His abyss is simply normal life with quite a few hardships.
Reiji lives at him with his mother, his grandmother, and his brother which sounds nice because it is a family household… except… his brother is a shut-in who yells at their mom, his grandmother has dementia and needs constant care, and his mother is tired of it all and just wants a break so she purposely leaves some of the more disgusting work for Reiji to do… such as cleaning up after his grandmother after she’s had an accident… and not immediately, mind you. She will leave the accident there until he gets home from school just so he can clean it up for her.
On top of that, a childhood friend named Gen went from being cool and friendly to being the “boss” of the town. His father owns a construction company so he and his group of friends walk around like they own the place. Since they have a deep history, Gen sees Reiji as nothing more than his gopher. He makes Reiji go and buy him cigarettes all the time. Reiji’s mother even begged Gen’s mother to give Reiji a job at their construction company which Reiji absolutely doesn’t want to do but feels obligated to so he can help give his mom a break but deep down, all he wants to do is run away.
One day, when he goes to buy smokes for Gen, the cashier at the mart, refuses to sell them to Reiji due to being underage. He later comes back to buy food for his shut-in brother and meets her. That’s when he recognizes that the girl is actually Nagi Aoe… a popular idol! News circulates that she took an indefinite hiatus due to health reasons. Reiji ends up going on a bit of a date with Nagi all under the pretense that he keeps it secret; however, that secret is more than just leaking her location to the public… Nagi asks Reiji to enter a suicide pact with her!
First off… how can you not feel for Reiji? The kid just wants to live a normal life and get out of his house but he feels like he’s chained down due to his situation at home. He wants to help his mom so he doesn’t want to abandon her after she does so much but at the same time, it’s eating away at his mental health. Reiji feels as if he doesn’t have a single ounce of control over his life. His only desire is to make something of himself but the more he thinks about doing that, the chains of responsibility continue to weigh him down, pulling him away from a better life that he yearns for. And yet, he’s not the type of character who just wears a smile on his face and endures it. It’s clearly evident that he doesn’t want this life at all but he still endures it out of a feeling of duty and necessity to his mother. You get to feel his pain and sympathize with him because sometimes his situation can hit really close to home for others. His story so far is incredibly well-written.
Sakaku is Reiji’s childhood friend. She’s into listening to the band Acrylic who, as you might have guessed, is the idol band that Nagi Aoe is the lead of. She’s a huge Nagi fan; however, due to Reiji’s promise to keep things secret, she has no idea Nagi is working at a convenience store right down the road! She’s also a fan of Kousaku Esemori… an author who wrote a story about the Lover’s Abyss… a spot in their town where it is said that two lovers jumped into the river and committed suicide together. She’s short, chubby, and thinks of herself as ugly but she has incredible grades and brags to Reiji about applying to a college in Tokyo. It would seem like she’s rubbing it in his face but that’s neither here nor there. She wishes for Reiji to move out of the town and make something of himself but she also understands why he can’t. She is a good friend, although, she is a bit out there and that gives her character!
Nagi Aoe is the leader of the idol group Acrylic. I won’t go into too much detail here as it would spoil a lot of the first volume but I’ll just say that she came to this town, met Reiji, and as per the story section, asks him to make a suicide pact with her. There’s a connection here that I’ll let you discover that could possibly serve as the reason but what you get out of your experience with her is that she’s more deeply troubled than she looks. In fact, there are a few things that are symbolic that offer up clues as to why she’s suicidal. She’s a very interesting character that, like an anime airing right now, [Oshi no Ko], once again highlights the darker side of idol culture.
Gen, as aforementioned, is the son of the owner of a construction company. In the past, it seems as if he saved Sakaku from some bullies and was quite a cheerful and boastful young kid. Now, he acts like a mafia boss although he doesn’t really physically bully Reiji… at least not that we’ve been shown just yet. He just seems like the intimidating and controlling type, though. Even Sakaku gave Reiji the money for Gen’s cigarettes because she was indebted to him for saving her way back when. It hasn’t been explained how Gen became this way or if he was really just that way all along but since his father’s company seemingly has a huge influence over the small town, he feels as if he’s owed respect.
Lastly, we have Kousaku… the author who wrote about Lover’s Abyss. All I will say is that he’s also in town and I’ll leave it at that because going into detail will also spoil several of the characters’ stories but I will say… he looks like a scumbag so, therefore, he’s probably a scumbag.
Wow… that’s the best way I can describe this first volume. It’s dark, it’s gritty, it’s dramatic, and it’s well-written. There are a couple of scenes that seemingly come out of a random direction but as the book progresses, you kind of get the sense as to why these things happened. Plus, I will say that the whole situation with the grandmother hit a little close to home for me. I used to have to take care of my grandmother in her final days. She held on pretty long, living until about 90 before her mind started to go but when it did, it declined really fast. So, I know EXACTLY what Reiji is going through with a grandmother who wasn’t aware of things like she used to be, helping her because she can’t walk anymore, cleaning up after her when she has an accident, etc. It’s not easy seeing someone you love become so frail and weak… especially when they used to be the rock that the family leaned on when times were tough. So, to Reiji… I feel you, brother!
I will say that sometimes, a first volume makes a good impression. It hits all the right notes but sometimes, those right notes feel like a checklist. It’s like the book introduced the characters, the world, and the main plot, and set up the ending in such a way to make you want to read the next volume… and even though you hit all the checkmarks, you can easily tell if it’s paint-by-numbers or something that truly gripped you and made you say “this is going to be something special”
For Boy’s Abyss, it was the latter. This first volume hit all the checkmarks but by the time I finished the first volume, I wasn’t even aware that it did because I was so invested in the story. When a manga can go down the list and give you everything a first volume should and make you forget that it did that because you want to keep turning the page to read more, then you know this series could end up being something special. As someone who loves slice-of-life (heck, most of the light novels I write are in that genre), I can’t recommend this first volume more! Check this one out!
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This item was provided for review by Viz Media