What would you do differently, if you woke up 3 years in the past? That’s the question posed in Mitsurou Kubo’s 12 volume shōnen comedy-drama. When loner Kin’ichirō Imamura falls down a flight of stairs on the day of his high school graduation, he wakes up 3 years in the past. In fact, it’s his first day of school. It’s an exciting premise, but is Again!! worth reading?
First published in Weekly Shōnen Magazine by Kodansha from 2011 to 2014, Again!! finished up its western release of 12 tankobōns in December 2019. Again!! is a unique blend of comedy and drama with a touch of romance and sports elements. The series was popular enough in Japan to have a live-action adaptation once the manga serialisation wrapped up.
Perceptive readers may have noticed the mangaka, Mitsurou Kubo is one of the creators of the popular Figure Skating anime, Yuri on Ice. A fantastic anime that also blended elements of comedy, romance with sports. Surprisingly, Kubo has only one other release in the West, seinen rom-com; Moteki.
The same old story Again??
Again!! centres around Imamura, a teenage boy with a big problem. He’s got resting bitch face! Well, it’s not exactly called that in the manga, but his glum look gives off the impression that he’s a delinquent. Not exactly making the best impression on his first day, which leads him to have a very pessimistic outlook on life. He ends up going through high school with no friends. That is, until the do-over.
After his graduation ceremony, Imamura remembers about the now-defunct Ōendan. This is brought on by a sense of nostalgia from the memory of the clubs captain performing 3 years ago. He heads over to an abandoned school building to visit the Ōendan old club room. While skulking around, he startles one of the popular girls; Fujieda. Of course, she thinks Imamura is a bad guy and makes a run for it and ends up falling down a flight of stairs. Rushing to help, a non-athletic Imamura also trips headfirst, landing on Fujieda. The next thing, Imamura wakes up in bed looking a little younger, yup, he’s now 3 years in the past.
After much confusion, Imamura decides that during his do-over, he will make use of his time at high school. He sets his sights on finding out what happened to the Ōendan and getting the club back together. Fujieda is less than happy, her do-over life isn’t as great as before.
So I’ve mentioned the Ōendan a few times now, but what the hell is it? It’s a form of organised cheering that is popular in high schools, universities and sometimes even at companies in Japan. The members of the Ōendan are a lot more formal than American cheerleaders and use fight songs and organised cheers and shouts to support their team. The culture is also very disciplined and stern, something that Imamura will soon learn himself!
The adventures of the Ōendan become the main focus of the series, and at times the series even resembles a sports manga. But there is still the do-over element. Imamura, surprises himself and Fujieda, wanting to use his do-over time for good. Throughout the series, we are introduced to more characters that orbit Imamura and the Ōendan. It’s pretty intriguing to see a pessimist try and help other people in need.
The new characters are not just plot points for Imamura and Fujieda to fix or overcome. They slowly become people you care about and really root for. You said there is a hint of romance. Well, yes, there is. There are some great surprises along the way that I don’t want to spoil that for you!
But it’s not all character lead. We have plenty of mystery too. What is the do-over? Is this do-over real? Can you travel back to the original timeline? Lots of questions that you’ll just have to read the series to answer.
One small issue with the series is that I felt one arc outstayed it’s welcome. I was ready for the arc to be finished when it was clearly only half done. However, it seems that Kubo picked up on this, as later arcs don’t tend to draw out the action as much and are more succinct. Not to say they were super short, but this economy really drover the series along once it found it’s pacing.
If you’ve seen Yuri on Ice, you’ll know it hits you in the feelings, but will also have you laughing out loud. Again!! is the same. There are plenty of jokes, be it visual gags, characters hilarious ticks or just people getting what’s deserved in the most comedic fashion possible.
Something I noticed while reading volume 1 of Again!! is that Kubo is an excellent character designer. None of the primary or extended cast is a generic or stereotypical manga character. Each character looks one hundred per cent unique and is immediately recognisable. Both subtle and significant signals are displayed to help you identify at a glance who a character is and on what timeline.
Again!! really increases the comedy stakes with its use of faces. Kubo is incredibly adept at the full detailed renderings, but when the time comes for some laughs, the gremlin faces are unleashed! There were many times in each volume when these faces had me giggling to myself. The rival Ōendan captain is a particular favourite.
While reading through the 12 volumes, you start to notice that the Kubo is having a lot of fun with the chapter pages. They range from the same style of the regular artwork to chibi patterns. Of course, the subject matter for these can reflect the contents of the chapter. However, a lot of the time they are homages to other works, or just bizarre. It’s always a treat to see what the next one will be.
Is Again!! worth reading?
If you’ve made it this far, then you surely can tell that I love Again!! It’s a series that’s easy on the eyes and always looks fantastic no matter the situation. Drama, comedy or just creative chapter title pages, the artwork still radiates quality.
Imamura is a refreshing protagonist. For once, glass half empty people are represented by the main character, how often can you say that happens in manga? Not only that, but the supporting cast are also all loveable characters.
I would have been happy to spend another 12 volumes with them as they navigate their teenage dramas with the Ōendan cheering them on. Not only that, but the mystery around the do-over is also interesting and keeps you coming back until the very end. Do your self a favour and pick up the first few volumes because Again!! is worth reading!