Otoko Oidon: The Future Never Comes
Volume 7 of Otoko Oidon is as sad as all the rest.
Tori falls ill from his sarumatake-only diet, though he recovers (chapter 1). Nobotta manages to save 6,000 yen only to lose them to a burglar (chapter 3). Later on he starts doing really well with his part-time at a bookshop, but the local ramen shop owner gives him booze to celebrate the fact and Nobotta gets so drunk he misses work the next day and gets fired (chapter 7).
It’s no surprise that the question of Suicide begins to crop up. The last two chapters in the volume deal with a new woman, Hiroko Mihagino. She is awfully nice to Nobotta, and as we’ve come to expect from this manga, it’s not because she’s in love with him. The actual reason is rather peculiar: it turns out Hiroko is a counselor for suicidal youths and she’s identified Nobotta as a lad in trouble. Nobotta himself is outraged when he discovers this.
In Volume 8 Nobotta has to save a ramen shop customer who wants to kill himself because he’s failed his university entrance exams (chapter 7). This is very poignant because Nobotta is not in a position to even try to take those tests. He’s far behind this guy and yet the guy is sad enough to want to end it all.
In chapter 8 Nobotta overhears the girls in the hostel discussing his situation. One of them wonders what will become of him if he’s unable to go back to school this year. Another replies that she knew someone in that same situation, and that person ended up throwing him/herself in front of a train. Nobotta goes back to his room quite upset and says: “EVEN IF ALL OF MANKIND COMMITS SUICIDE, I WILL NOT DIE. DON’T WORRY”. It’s a powerful statement at the same time as it shows his weakness. Who is he telling “Don’t worry” to? The concerned women who can’t hear him in the other room? Himself?
Now on to the funny stuff. My favorite scene in these two volumes is probably in chapter 5 of volume 7. Nobotta is doing his part-time at the bookshop and a young man comes in to make a purchase. He walks to the counter and declares loudly: “I want to buy this Complete Volume of Abstruse Philosophy”. Nobotta is impressed, the man must be a genius. But then he realizes the customer is buying two books: the book on top is indeed the Complete Volume of Abstruse Philosophy. The one below is titled Super Erotic Illustrated Guide to S & M Pornography. Nobotta says: “I see”.
The ramen shop owner comes in later, and not realizing that Nobotta is working the counter, he comes straight up with the book he wants to purchase: Super Erotic True Tales: Voluptuous Women Collection. He’s terribly embarrassed when he recognizes Nobotta but he goes through the purchase anyway. What a man 😀
The relationship between Nobotta and the ramen shop owner really blossoms in these two volumes. The 14th and last chapter of Volume 8 sees them going together to do some hanami. True to the tone of the manga, they arrive late and all the blossoms have fallen. They still enjoy themselves though. For the middle-aged ramen shop owner, Nobotta still has the chance of a bright future ahead of him. The owner himself is not in the best of places: he gets drunk often, he buys naughty magazines in between the time he’s being berated by his wife, and he seems to look to the past with longing. What makes everything so sad is that no matter what he might tell Nobotta or himself, there is no real difference between the two. If the ramen shop owner, a good man with no great abilities or connections in society, failed to make it big, what makes us think that Nobotta’s fate will be any different?
Oh, and last but not least, we finally learn in Volume 7 how a person living in an apartment building with a pet bird arranges for the bird to relieve itself: out the window!