Title: After Hours
Author/Artist: Yuhta Nishio
Number In Series: 1 of 3
Publisher: Viz Media
Genre: Yuri / Seinen / Romance
Released: June 13th 2017
The crowd is hopping and Emi isn’t … so she ends up hiding a corner after her friend ditches her to flirt with a guy! Emi figures the night is a bust, but then someone amazing comes to her rescue. Kei is a DJ, and her effortless self-confidence captivates Emi. This just a wonderful night out or the start of the rest of her life?
This is a series that was recommended to me because I was looking for yuri titles that featured adult characters, rather than falling into the normal category of high school romance. There’s nothing wrong with that setting of course, and there are some really good series within the genre, but what I wanted was something a little different. After Hours certainly ticks the boxes there: Our main character Emi is 24, and her love interest Kei is 30. Without the trappings of a high school, we’re free to explore some other themes than the norm, and that really helps the book stand out. There’s no sense of ‘what will my friends think’, no S-Class leanings, and no ‘two girls can’t do this.’ In that respect, this is very much a manga that fits with the modern world.
Emi is a lead that I felt like I could relate to quite well too. At the start of the book, she’s at a bit of a loss with her life. Essentially, she’s struggling to find her place in the world, having realized that the job she took on was not what she thought it would be. I know myself that when I left full-time education, things were not quite as I expected, and this was a sentiment that rang true for a lot of people that I knew too. The setup involving the nightclub was also something that struck a chord with me. Like Emi, I never really got on with clubs, even at the age when I was supposed to enjoy them. I’ve also been abandoned by a friend at a club, so I know well how that feels.
Kei meanwhile is a great foil for Emi. She’s a little older and is content with her place in the world. Her self-confidence and her playful nature are instantly likeable, and they both combine with her life experience to help give Emi some perspective when it’s needed. At no point does she feel unnecessarily over the top though. Yes, she’s more outgoing than Emi, but it feels natural rather than becoming a caricatured polar opposite.
The supporting cast members only really appear for short bursts. That’s fine, as it’s the interactions between Emi and Kei that are most important, but they’re far from being background fodder. Each gives Emi the opportunity to put across a different aspect of her journey, ranging from her general conversation with the friend that abandoned her in the club to learning a little about the DJ scene from Kei’s colleagues. What I liked was that the two worlds do contrast a little like night and day, with the restaurant conversation feeling like it sort of represented Emi’s general life and the music scene being more of a new adventure for her.
In terms of romance, it’s handled pretty well. The two ladies do end up in bed together pretty quickly – the scene is fade to black if you were wondering – but it’s not like we suddenly hit a point where everything is perfect after one night together. They clearly like each other, and both obviously feel like they want to make a go of things, but it’s not rushed. Emi still has some hang-ups, both relationship-based and otherwise, and being with Kei is something that she’s enjoying but isn’t certain how to approach. Like I said, there’s never a sense of ‘two girls can’t be together,’ but Emi is genuinely surprised with how fast things are moving. What this means is that the drama is kept low-key, based entirely on Emi’s outlook on her life, and things are let develop at a more natural pace.
The art is really good. Stylistically, the characters do feel modern, and wouldn’t feel out of place alongside late 2000’s hits like K-On! My only real complaint here is that the style does mean that it wouldn’t be unfair to say that Emi and Kei don’t necessarily look 24 and 30 respectively. It’s not a huge deal, there are certainly plenty of series that are stylized in this way, but it would have been nice to see the characters look a little older. Outside that, there are some real treats in there though. Either Yuhta Nishio is familiar with DJ equipment or he did a lot of research because the level of detail on some of the shots of the decks is fantastic. He also does a great job at capturing the atmosphere in the club scenes.
In all, After Hours does a great job of presenting an adult romance that runs at a realistic pace. This isn’t going to be an action-packed thrill ride, nor is it going to rely on large amounts of sensationalized drama to push things forward. Instead, we have two women at slightly different stages of their life, enjoying each other’s company and growing together. This is an easy 4.5 out of 5, and I’m looking forward to the final two books in the series.