Tsubomi Shirakawa, 18 years old, has graduated from high school, but while her circle of friends have already found jobs or started college, she has decided to become a “Freeter,” and begins part-timing at a local rental video store. Meanwhile, she finds out that her cousin Noni, whom she has not met from as long as she can remember, has debuted in show business. Tsubomi may have a chubby figure but was uninterested in beauty of figure or form. However that is about to change when, a coworker, Shiro, brings her to visit a bar where she falls in love with the owner, Nasukawa.
I came across this by manga seemingly by accident when I was looking through covers (since that’s how I usually pick my next read). I was attracted to the somewhat indie style and josei feel. Expecting a unique story and character, I was pretty excited to start. Unfortunately, it was nothing extraordinary.
Cousin has some unique qualities but that doesn’t necessarily make it a good manga. We have a chubby protagonist who is insecure and has low self-esteem, which already sets it apart. As we follow this main character’s growth and development, from insecurity to confidence, it sounds like a great premise. Will she find love? Will she undergo a massive transformation? Those are questions that keep the story going and they’re good questions. The answers, sadly, are not satisfying.
Another quality that sets this manga apart was the art style. It felt very hand drawn and imperfect, which I felt encompassed the indie mood the manga wanted to give. It had a rugged, honest feel. I really loved that about the story. It didn’t glamorize the character but showed her sometimes in unflattering angles. The best part of this manga is easily the main character. She was, although sometimes a little dramatic, genuine. Her reactions, her appearance, her emotions all felt infiltered. And the art stylr really helped encompass tbat. I wanted to love this manga so much! So, what went wrong?
The plot felt all over the place and lacked direction. The introduction is killer, we get to know the Mc and the people around her and everything is going well…then it loses momentum. The Mc doesn’t know what she wants and is confused–and clearly, so is the mangaka. I was just disappointed at the execution of the story. I had high expectations and I just didn’t feel connected to the character or understood them. When there was a certain affection, it wasn’t fully explored or developed. It’s frustrating when characters and situations are introduced but the story doesn’t take it anywhere, dead ends appearing everywhere. This might either be due to the writing or possibly the translations. Either way, the story becomes this uninspiring and pointless story.
Perhaps that was the whole point of the story. That not everything is clear cut and you will be confused in life, etc, etc. But I didn’t feel like it was a worthwhile read. I didn’t care for any of the characters and nothing was really happening with the side characters. It just felt like a colossal waste of my time.
Why is it called Cousin you may ask? I actually have no idea. I don’t think even the author knows. Perhaps the idea was to somewhat involve the cousin character but she appears very little and is not even fully integrated into the story. The main character has a cousin who is beautiful and a model, so her presence is only needed to be used as comparison to the main character but she really has no importance. Comparing a character that feels genuine vs a character that is fake and happy and pretty seems to be the only function for having that character exist. It’s funny how they try to tie her in at the end, totally forced and random.
I don’t really recommend this Manga but if you’re interested in unique art and characters. Dialogue between characters isn’t bad, as the writing is decent, and there is some nice character development. The overall story felt lacking and underwhelming, though. This would’ve been much more enjoyable if there was a clear direction and message being invoked. Do not waste your time.