Title: A Girl on the Shore (うみべの女の子 / Umibe no Onnanoko)
Author: Inio Asano (Story & Art)
Genres: Coming of Age, Slice of Life, Smut, School Life, Drama, Romance
Published: 2009 – 2013 (magazine); 2016 (omnibus)
Volumes: 2 [Complete – also available as a 1 volume omnibus)
Japanese Publisher: Manga Erotics F (magazine); Ohta Publishing (tankōbon)
English Publisher: Vertical Comics
Available to Purchase in English?: Yes (Indigo / Amazon / Barnes & Noble)
This Review is Based On: The entire series
Synopsis: In a seaside town where very little happens, middle school students Keisuke Isobe and Koume Satou live a rather dull life. But when Koume’s crush breaks her heart, their situation becomes quite unordinary. She starts a “no-strings-attached” relationship with Keisuke, whom she had previously rejected, both finding solace in the other in order to fill the emotional voids in their lives. However, being “friends with benefits” becomes complicated when real feelings begin to develop, as the consequences of their relationship start to take their toll on those around them and themselves.
‘Umibe no Onnanoko’ takes a harsh look at love, relationships, and the emotional price that will be paid as the result of a decision made between two teenagers. (MAL)
Due to the mature nature of this manga, there will be mention of sexual content. There will also be some major spoilers for the plot. Please read at your own discretion.
I’m reviewing the one volume omnibus, which came shrink-wrapped due to the manga’s graphic nature, so I knew very little about A Girl on the Shore going into it. A Girl on the Shore is the first of Inio Asano’s titles I’ve read, so I didn’t know what his art style was like nor what kinds of manga he typically creates. And I didn’t Google anything beforehand because I didn’t want to accidentally spoil anything for myself. Blind reviews are my favourite kind. ^_^v
The premise of A Girl on the Shore is that in the seventh grade (about 2 years prior to the start of the manga), Keisuke Isobe confessed his feelings to Koume Sato, but she rejected them. Fast forward two years to ninth grade (last year of middle school in Japan, aka junior high), Koume now has a crush on high school student Misaki, a pretty boy-idol type of student who always has girls flocking to him, despite his arrogant personality and the little care he shows to said girls. It’s not stated outright but I interpreted one of the scenes early in the book as Misaki taking Koume’s virginity. (It’s either that or she started menstruating.) He also coerced Koume into giving him oral sex, though this isn’t shown.
Koume asks Misaki to go out with her and he rejects her, saying he only dates girls who “look like Angelina Jolie.” However he’s still open to taking advantage of Koume if she’ll let him. Naturally upset at being rejected, Koume bumps into Keisuke on her way home and he invites her over. This opens the door to the two middle school students having a sexual relationship. Koume’s motivation being to get over Misaki, and Keisuke’s because he still has feelings for Koume and hopes he can convince her to like him.
A note on the artwork: aside from any erect male genitalia being erased, everything else about a naked teenage body is visible. Both Keisuke and Koume have already hit puberty so there’s things shown like body hair and budding breasts. There’s even a panel of blood on Koume’s underwear in the opening chapter. Japan’s standards on what’s considered obscene has always confused me a little (no aroused male genitalia? Really? Yet every part of the female form is fair game??), but even I was surprised at the taboos Asano was breaking in this title. However what’s shown isn’t egregious or obscene, only graphic and real. It’s just two teenagers being sexually experimental with each other. And they do experiment, quite frequently actually. >_>;;
Keisuke and Koume continue to have a sexual relationship for much of the manga, with their trysts usually taking place at Keisuke’s house because his parents and brother are gone, giving them the privacy they need. (His parents are who knows where, while his older brother committed suicide prior to the start of the manga.) After Koume receives a digital camera as a gift, Keisuke gives her an SD card so she’ll have extra room for pictures. However there’s an unknown girl on the SD card, and her good looks make Koume jealous. When she snoops on Keisuke’s computer one day while he’s sleeping, Koume finds a folder on the computer titled “Girl on the Shore” (containing the same picture that was on the SD card) and deletes it.
Which on one hand is kinda stupid, because you’d have to delete the trash bin on the computer to permanently kill the file. Koume is only shown deleting the file, meaning it’s likely just in the trash bin and not permanently gone from the computer. On the other hand, I totally understand where Keisuke is coming from. What Koume did with his personal property was pretty crappy and there’s no excuse for it.
This incident flips a switch in Keisuke and after an ugly confrontation with Koume where he tells her not to contact him or come by his house anymore,
the two teenagers end Keisuke ends their casual relationship. I found this whole situation rather ironic because Koume had always appeared rather indifferent to Keisuke’s feelings for her, even though he’d liked her for a few years. But by the time she slowly works out in her head that she does in fact return his feelings, she commits a huge breach of trust causing Keisuke to no longer want anything to do with her. She’s now the one chasing after him and he’s done with her.
There’s a couple of subplots going on, including Koume’s friend Keiko having feelings for her friend Shota Kashima, and a brief “love triangle” (if you can call it that) between Keisuke, Shota and Koume. (Shota has feelings for Koume, who is either oblivious or ignoring them.)
By the end of the manga there’s a small timeskip and Koume’s found herself a boyfriend in high school. But even though he’s determined to get her to like him (or at least show him visual signs of attraction), Koume is still rather apathetic towards him. She does finally allow him to kiss her after a month of dating, albeit somewhat reluctantly. What’s happened to Keisuke by the end of the manga isn’t really known (when he rejected Koume he’d talked about going to a high school in another town), and Shota’s been dating Keiko for the last year and a half.
This leads me to my biggest complaint about A Girl on the Shore, which is the character of Koume Sato. I really, really did not like her. As Keisuke points out a couple of times throughout the story, she’s always telling him to do certain things with her or for her. Keisuke used to go along with it when he liked her, but after she broke his trust, he set a boundary for himself where he would no longer do as she commanded. I just found Koume really annoying and kinda two-faced, the way she’d act one way with her friends at school and like another person when she was alone with Keisuke (something else he’d also pointed out to her). Koume’s just a brat who uses people and doesn’t seem to be able to connect with anyone of the opposite sex on an emotional level.
So just who is the girl on the shore? It’s Keisuke’s name for the girl in this picture on the SD card he gave to Koume, but I feel like it’s also a reference to Koume. She’s often shown standing alone on a tiny little beach, watching the waves roll in or taking pictures on her digital camera. Both the opening and closing panels of A Girl on the Shore also feature Koume standing on the beach; alone in the beginning, and with her male friend Shot at the end.
I will admit that A Girl on the Shore didn’t end at all like I thought it would. The description on the back of the omnibus says, “But what they find in each other over the course of a summer might be far greater than anything they were expecting. Their lives are going to change. And this will all transpire before high school exams!” So I was thinking that there might be a couple of bumps along the way, but that Keisuke and Koume would still end up together. After all Koume is (presumably) Keisuke’s first sexual partner, and Keisuke is Koume’s second, so they had that whole “young love” thing going for them. Just goes to show you how well I can predict stories’ endings. ^^;; At least Koume doesn’t end up with Misaki!
Do I Recommend This Title to Others?: Yes, although I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as some of the other titles I’ve reviewed for AAB. (So I give it a yes, just not an enthusiastic one.) That being said this title still gets points from me for its realism, Asano’s art style, and the frank depictions of teenage sexuality.
Final Score: 7.5/10