One-shots about love are pretty much my favorite manga to read. Whether it’s a josei, a shonen, or a yaoi title, or any other demographic, romantic one-shots allow the mangaka to tell a contained story without the pressure of a multi-volume series which leads to stories feeling more earnest. Don’t get me wrong, I own all nine volumes of Don’t Be Cruel, but there is a certain certainty with which one-shots are told. That’s the case with The Girl Without a Face.
Written and illustrated by mangaka Tearonaron, The Girl Without a Face is published in English by Yen Press, translated by Caleb D. Cook, and features lettering by Binaca Pistillo. The one-shot takes place in Zabo Town and centers on a couple and, through a series of short vignettes, the one-shot offers a look into their life together. The only thing is that, as the title implies, the girlfriend doesn’t have a face. That’s because Zabo Town isn’t just a normal town, it’s the place where yokai live, and Noppeko-chan is a Noppera-bō, a yokai without a face. And her boyfriend, well, he’s a human and completely smitten with her.
The one obvious issue with the one-shot is that we don’t really know how Noppeko-chan eats, sees, or smells, but we know that she does. Why? Well, she diets, she stares, and all of it leads us to believe that she had all of her senses – even if the lack of mouth means she doesn’t talk, but apparently, the lack of eye doesn’t affect her. It’s slightly confusing, but that may come from my lack of cultural understanding of the folklore that the Noppera-bō comes from. That said, even with this gnawing question, the story goes off without a hitch.
There are cuddles, kisses, and ultimately a display of affection and understanding made to go without words. Love, in The Girl Without a Face, is a feeling, and specifically one that speaks louder than any words.
But while the stars of the story are Tearonaron’s couple, Zabo Town is as much a character as they are. It’s filled with yokai like the Kudan and Hanako, and more that build out this fantastical world for the two to live in. Additionally, Tearonaron actively takes yokai that come with fear, like the Kudan who only predicts catastrophe in lore (explained on a full page of the manga) or Hanako, who is synonymous with horror and makes them into friendly inhabitants of a friendly town. The Girl Without a Face is as much a slice-of-life for Zabo Town as it is for our leads, and that helps the story thrive.
My only critique is that we don’t get the chance to see much of what Noppeko-chan thinks. Except for a few, each vignette begins the same, with narration from her boyfriend, “I’ve got a girlfriend,” as he walks the audience through small moments of their life. There is confusion, misunderstanding, and gentle, wholesome love. But, Tearonaron switches in some vignettes to Noppeko-Chan’s perspective, but because we only see it a handful of times, it left me wondering more about what she feels. Now, it’s clear in the perspective we do get, she’s as smitten, but it would have been a nice addition to make this manga shine even more.
Overall, The Girl Without a Face is an emotional read that lives in wholesomeness and love. Tearonaron is able to tell an entire life in only 188-pages, and while I would love to meet these two characters again, this one-shot is perfectly fine on its own.
The Girl Without a Face is available now wherever books are sold.
The Girl Without a Face
Overall, The Girl Without a Face is an emotional read that lives in wholesomeness and love. Tearonaron is able to tell an entire life in only 188-pages and while I would love to meet these two characters again, this one-shot is perfectly fine on its own.
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.