Nov 22, 2021
Shoujo, school, romance, drama are as cookie cutter as they get. These tags dominate the shoujo comic sphere. It has been done over and over again, with almost the same set up, plotline, only deviation is in the quality of the drama and the message of the comic. For Koi wo Shiranai Bokutachi wa, or We don't know love, it started really well.
I didn't quite emphasise how overdone the setup is, of all the shoujo comics on the top list, at least 60% of them have this premise. It can't be helped, it is the target audience, young girls. That being said, Koi wo Shiranai
Bokutachi wa started out great by breaking off a little from other shoujo comics, but nothing new for the author, by framing the story from the boy perspective. I was pleasantly surprised by the premise and tone initially. It is a little slow and methodical, letting the audience into the melancholy and inner struggle of the character as he experiences his ups and downs. That was pretty well done and interesting. As for the cast, it's unfortunate but other than the 2 so-called main characters, the rest of the cast can be a little bland, even forgotten, or can be considered token. It is the fault of the story for shifting focus from character to character, yet did not provide enough screen time for them, nor elaborate on them enough.
A little spoiling ahead.
The childhood friend and the best friend are both nice people archetype. I have little to say about them, even if their narration isn't terrible. Their act was only interesting because of the main character, or characters emotional roller coaster and stake in their relationship. Then, there's the cheerful band guy with his crush. While he's not unlikable, he's also the very embodiment of cookie cutter. I neither hate nor love him, he's almost realistic in that sense. His crush is also the strict quiet inexperience girl archetype. Her dealing with her emotion was interesting, but that's also about it. I can sort of tell she's supposed to be more prominent than other "secondary protagonists", but I don't find her character to be different enough.
The good thing about the cast, is that they are all likeable, but best of all was the 2 leads. I really adore how the main character is simultaneously doesn't seem to care about what he does, yet being depressed about things that happens to him. It's quite real, and relatable, not the part where 3 of the girls are interested in him at some point, of course. The shoujo comics don't usually depict male's insecurity very well, while female insecurity is dramatised a little excessively. I'm not saying women's struggle is overly emphasise. I am saying people's emotion is more subtle and is a process of accumulation. Depicting that might be a little boring, but I don't think the comic did a bad job. It relies on inner dialogues to communicate insecurities, which is apt for people of their age. The main character is such a down-to-earth yet emotionally depressed guy that you feel for him, but you can also see that it is merely a phase. He might feel terrible for his own circumstance, but he can overcome it, because it is merely youthful passion, which is abundant in shoujo comics, but often is quite "dream-like", which I would described as cheesy. That's some decent characterisation.
Then there's the other main character. Her role initially seems like a villainous one, but then as the story progressed, we sort of realised she's exactly the same as the main character, someone tormented by their emotional fickleness. She was the hidden main character until the later half of the story. It keeps the drama under our toes, threatening to bubble up at any moment. That's the kind of fun drama and Korean dramas so expertly and exhaustively harness. By the end, I think a lot of the audience was on her side. We saw her insecurity and weakness, and then the hero came in to save her. But, her hero isn't some sort of popular, random chad out of her fantasy. It's the friendly neighbourhood guy who went through similar struggle, able to sympathise and care for her. That's why the relationship works, and the terrible, cheesy, drawn out ending is earned. Their journey was interesting and full of youthful impulse, which is what makes shoujo manga ticks.
I do think I have to mention the weak and quite abrupt ending. I wonder if the author doesn't want to end there and was forced to, or did she ran out of patience and decided to kill it after pouring out the rest of her story ideas. You would get it if you read through the comic. It's not the worst of ending, but definitely for the ride that the audience went through, as well as the details she dished out in the last 3 chapters, it could have had a longer, more drama filled story, the likes of Seo Kouji stuffs and Korean Drama. Instead, it ended on a rather unsatisfying note. I envisioned the author thought about adding more drama such as the 2 main characters noticing the difficulty in connecting to each other and overcoming the girl's emotional burden. The childhood friends couple having some hot and cold episode. The main character developing some dangerous sympathy for the librarian etc... I do prefer to end things short and sweat, for the genre, it's almost counter-productive. The characters are relatively fun and likeable enough for me to want to see more.
No more spoilers
While I do think there's much left to be desired, I think Koi wo Shiranai Bokutachi wa is worthy of every shoujo comic fans time, boys and girls. It is a rare breed that done shoujo comic some justice rather than milking the genre dry by squeezing the low hanging fruits. It does make me miss high school, being hype by friends relationship and giving them comfort when they have problems. That's pretty high praise for a school comic.
Reviewer’s Rating: 7
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