A lot of shonen titles end up being reduced to the same archetypes like Bleach or My Hero Academia from those who don’t read Shonen Jump regularly. But for those who read a lot of the shonen demographic, there is a wealth of comedy, romance, action, and drama available. Sometime’s there even a little bit of all three put in one. Published in English by VIZ Media, Act-Age from manga writer Tatsuya Matsuki and illustrator Shiro Usazaki, the series focuses on a young high school girl named Kei Yonagi who dreams of being an actress.
But dreams of making it big aren’t the only focus, Kei is in a fact adept at method acting, to the point where she loses track of reality while acting. At an audition, some speculate that acting of this intensity could be self-destructive, and cite that as a reason for not accepting her. However, Kei catches the eye of the highly acclaimed director Sumiji Kuroyama, who steps forward in hopes of bringing out her full potential. That said, acting isn’t all Kei has to worry about, she also has to care two younger siblings, after their father left them and their mother died.
Act-Age Volume 1 consists of chapters one through seven which were first serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump and does a great job of introducing readers who may not understand the acting world. Every time there are terms brought up, Matsuki takes the time to weave expositional elements into the story that makes the definitions clear for the readers by either showing us examples in scenes or by providing us literal definitions in dialogue. By putting so much time into exposition, some writers would lose focus on their characters, and that was my concern after chapter one. Thankfully, Matsuki expertly uses the exposition in the volume directly to affect their characters, especially Kei.
Through her method acting, we get to understand who Kei is. Because she is an adept method actor, being able to morph into any scene and character which means that it would easy to lose her in her roles. But, her talent has one specific quirk – her acting talent has to be something she feels honestly. Using experiences she’s been in, Kei channels it into her acting, forcing vibrant and massive emotions to come out nearly immediately. This also means Kei’s interpretation of instructions isn’t always what the director has in mind.
The first scene that you understand this is when Kei is instructed with other prospective actresses to face a fearsome wolf in the forest. While the other girls feign fright, Kei channels her love for her siblings and leaps into action, fighting the wolf, using her body as well as her face to change the scene and to show power. Her imagination needs to be grounded in reality and in the moments when she acts you realize her strength and how its come from her hardships. But, the complication of Kei’s talent is showcased when she enters real acting gigs and her sense of self pushes against her instructions.
When her first job from Kuroyama comes, she’s tasked to make her father dinner. While she meets the task, she channels what it’s like cooking for her family, one that doesn’t have a father. While the clients are satisfied and the crew blown away, she isn’t happy with there performance, understanding the lie it tells. On her next job, she’s instructed to watch a young girl be cut down. But, that’s not her. Causing havoc on the set, she refuses to play the role of the extra as directed, instead, she leaps into action. While she loses herself in acting, Kei finds herself there too.
While we find ourselves getting closer to Kei, a former actress provides commentary on Kei’s method acting, which is sure to be a foreshadow. In doing so, we see the potential danger for Kei. The inevitable burn out, losing herself, and ultimately becoming a shell of who she is. With this undercurrent grounding Act-Age Volume 1, there is an ominous future on the horizon and Kei is sure to continue carrying this series forward. Overall, Act-Age Volume 1 is a wonderful shonen series, and one that is a must-buy. With chapters available on the VIZ Media’s Shonen Jump, no need to just stop at chapter seven.
Act-Age Volume 1 is available from booksellers on July 7, 2020.
Act-Age Volume 1
Overall, Act-Age Volume 1 is a wonderful shonen series, and one that is a must-buy. With chapters available on the VIZ Media’s Shonen Jump, no need to just stop at chapter seven.
Kate is co-founder, EIC, and CCO of BWT. She’s also a Certified Rotten Tomatoes Critic, host, and creator of our flagship podcast, But Why Tho? and Did You Have To?. She also manages all PR relationships for comics, manga, film, TV, and anime. She has an MA in Cultural Anthropology and Religious Studies focusing on how pop culture impacts society.