I'm a little surprised that "Self" has no reviews. This isn't the manga of the century, but it touches upon some themes that, to my mind at least, mark it as unique.
Youichi is a twenty-something man with complete sangfroid. Nothing really disturbs his inner balance. His composure remains calm, too, into the bedroom. Youchi, kind and attractive, has never had a problem with finding girls willing to sleep with him. And yet he comes to believe that whatever pleasure he may receive from the encounter, it is dwarfed by the pleasure of the girl. He believes, in short, that sex is for women.
never had to masturbate; and here is where the story takes an interesting turn. It is a relatively common plot to feature a woman who has no experience in masturbation; far more rare is it to center such a plot around a man, particularly an otherwise attractive and healthy man. Youchi's growing interest in masturbation, sparked by a frequently checked out book from a library he works for, relieves the sexual energy he'd dammed up for so many years. The manga, in essence, charts Youchi's path of self-discovery.
I don't mean to intellectualize "Self" too much. There are many sex scenes, after all - but none of them feel like fan-service. Indeed, the palpable dread with which Youchi approaches sex is visible in the art. The art is, overall, not the selling point of the series; at times it's pretty drab, with faces all looking fairly similar and indistinct. But it also helps to convey the sense of numbness brooding within the protagonist, whether by accident or design. That numbness, the plot implies, comes from a particular memory, and it is through masturbation that Youchi begins to break free of its hold. Additionally, the pacing and framing of the manga are noteworthy. There are quite a few impressive panels.
It is refreshing to see masturbation portrayed as a tool for self-exploration, as well as for, in a more obvious role, sexual exploration. Others have recommended "Onanie Master Kurosawa" from "Self," based primarily on the fact that they both feature masturbation. Kurosawa does employ masturbation, but "Self" goes a step beyond that; it explores it.
The art is rather flat (though some people seem to like it), and the characters, excepting Youchi, are largely forgettable; this is, after all, a fairly introspective manga. The characters are largely mirrors through which we see Youchi's progress. But "Self" is commendable, and worthy of being recommended, on its premise and conceit alone. At the very least, it is not as forgettable as the majority of manga in its score range, and indeed is as memorable as many in higher tiers.