A long time ago I saw a single-page scan of what looked like a one-off doujin Death Note parody where a kid made it his mission to masturbate daily in a girls’ toilet at school. His triumphant “Just as planned!” was amusing enough but I assumed it was a throwaway piece of toilet humour so after forgetting what blog I saw the pic on I thought nothing more of it. That was until the community word-of-mouth thing featuring Ghostlightning, David and Samshiel among others jogged my memory. The doujin in question was Onani Master Kurosawa and it proved to be more than just dirty jokes and a parody or two. A hell of a lot more.
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Make no mistake: this is a story with strong language and shows events and behaviour that are liable to offend some. It has some wonderful bits of humour though, including neat jabs at not only Death Note but Haruhi Suzumiya and Code Geass, but what makes this something I’d recommend so strongly is the fact that the superficial lulz accompany something more memorable and moving. If you excuse the pun, I never saw it coming.
The first half introduces the typical anti-hero; in this case a guy who is in no way extraordinary but has a filthy little pastime which he uses to attain comfort from the loneliness of Real Life. I’m not condemning the practice of self-pleasure BTW: everyone does it from time to time, and it even offers health benefits. Masturbation in of itself isn’t a bad thing, although doing it in the girls’ bathroom strikes me as a bit discourteous even when Kurosawa cleans up after himself. All in all though it’s harmless enough, if a little sad.
Misanthropic Kurosawa is hopeless with girls so seeks physical release from his isolation and frustrations through masturbating while fantasising about his classmates. His fantasies are pretty sordid but as long as he’s doing these things to them solely inside his own head, it’s a victimless crime if it’s a crime at all. A chance encounter in which he’s almost caught red-handed is the point where the story kicks off proper – this is when things get really interesting.
For Kurosawa to use his little hobby to dish out his own brand of justice on the class bullies suggested to me that, as twisted as he appears to be, he has some idea of right and wrong and would rather do something, even if it’s distasteful, to punish those who prey on the weak. There are moments, such as the time when Kurosawa backs down from one particular prank while on a school trip, that shows him at his most sentimental. He can’t bring himself to do the dirty deed for fear of breaking up the happy scene: Kurosawa, who has never experienced a relationship of his own, still can’t find it in himself to ruin someone else’s happiness.
Moments like this show Onani Master Kurosawa to be the insighful character study that it is, rather than the dark schoolroom comedy it appears to be initially. The turning point for me was the moment when Kurosawa’s true feelings for Takigawa surface: alongside the heady teenage lust there’s a more mature, deeper sense of affection which is totally outside of his experience. The ‘first crush’ thing is an all-consuming and sometimes painful experience that we can all relate to; the way in which this was portrayed dragged out a whole load of personal memories of angst and awkwardness that I’d rather not have been reminded of but for that I can’t fault its effectiveness.
Similarly, the pain of seeing the one you want dating your best friend is another thing that I’m sure many of us can identify with: again, I felt his anguish. It’s not really Nagaoka’s fault at all, mind: stepping back and seeing past Kurosawa’s biased viewpoint, that guy who’s irritating at first and goes on to get between Kurosawa and Takigawa is probably the best buddy Kurosawa could wish for. Better, even.
Kitahara one the other hand is pretty screwed up and I’m still undecided about how far my sympathy for her should go. Maybe she really is rotten to the core like she claims to be; her mistrust of others is understandable considering the bullying but there isn’t enough background for me to judge her one way or the other. I thought the narrative started to show a few cracks towards the end in that regard, but after reflecting on how her and Kurosawa’s predicaments were resolved I think it held itself together just enough to offer a satisfactory ending.
Sugawa seemed a bit of of an odd choice for the female interest in the latter chapters, but the open-ended nature of the relationship that she and Kurosawa share was still relevant. Kurosawa has developed a lot by this time and has certainly managed to shake off some of that Holden Caulfield antisocial attitude. I can’t stress enough that this is a story of redemption: he hits some heartwarming highs and has cringe-inducing lows but he learns a lot about himself and those around him.
He’s an unlikely champion for justice, which is where the boundary between hero and anti-hero cleverly blur. I can hardly admire someone like Kurosawa, nor can I condone his methods, but I admit part of me approved of the school bullies getting their just desserts. It was funny at first but soon it became clear that revenge doesn’t solve everything; ultimately you have to look within yourself for answers. While Light Yagami started off virtuous and lost his way, Kurosawa conversely attained salvation.
For all those homage and parody moments, this manga shines because it has so much to offer on its own. The pacing and dialogue are excellent, and I really love the art style too: it has the sketchy home-grown doujin look but the lo-fi pencil drawings are brimming with life and expression. So simple, yet so effective. While I could lament on little details that were left hanging, what really struck me by the end was how Kurosawa found his own way out of the figurative locked cubicle. Sure, his friends helped but the bottom line is that he chose his path through his own resolve.