Kotonoba Drive is the latest series from Hitoshi Ashinano, writer of the highly acclaimed Slice of life manga Yokohama Kaidashi Kikou. Despite that, it surprisingly doesn’t have any reviews yet. Time to put that right!
In Kotonoba, we follow the laid-back everyday life of Suu, a young woman with a part time job at a spaghetti restaurant and an ability to see mysterious sights such as landscapes of the past and humanoid forms of birds and insects, but only 5 minutes at a time. Each chapter tends to focus on one of her supernatural encounters, ranging from heart-warming to melancholic to mildly creepy, but always mysterious
Suu herself is a likeable character, who fits the tone of the series well, with the innocent charm and happy go lucky attitude of your average slice of life lead, but occasionally giving off the indecisive and melancholic air of someone stuck between adolescence and adulthood, still unsure of their place in the world. There are also several recurring side characters, such as the owner of the spaghetti restaurant and Suu’s childhood friend, who don’t feel out of place but at the same time don’t get enough development to be more than one-dimensional.
The strongest part of Kotonoba is probably the art and panelling. Ashinano has really honed his sketchy, screen tone-less art style over the years, and his drawings manage to feel minimalistic while still managing to bring to life more complex things such as strong winds and the interior of a forest just with his beautiful linework and some nice use of silhouettes. The panels flow easily from one to the next, and that combined with the mostly visual storytelling and dreamy and atmospheric art makes Kotonoba an immersive and effortless read.
The only thing holding the series back is the fact that the whole manga doesn’t manage to add up to more than the sum of its individual chapters. The supernatural occurrence of the week format is immediately gratifying, but fails to flesh out any of the characters besides Suu as mentioned before, and the chapters don’t really build on themes or show any progression for Suu, leaving Kotonoba with less depth than its more famous predecessor.
Overall Kotonoba Drive is a beautifully drawn slice of life manga with a charming main character and cathartic supernatural elements, perfect for a late evening or lazy Sunday afternoon read, that I would recommend to any fan of the genre.