Manga Worth Reading: Nononono

Nononono (ノノノノ) is a 13-volume manga series by Lynn Okamoto (author of Elfen Lied) from 2007-2013.

Summary

Nonomiya Nono’s father was an Olympic ski jumper who screwed up costing Japan an easy gold medal and for which he was ruthlessly harassed for after. He responded by forcing his kids to try and win the gold medal to atone for his mistakes, except his son Yuuta was only a decent jumper at best whereas Nono was a prodigy hindered by the fact there is no woman ski jumping category in the Olympics. 1 Beset by a self-destructive father her brother commits suicide to create an opportunity for Nono, letting her assume his identity after moving to a new school in an effort to make it to the Olympics and salvage something of her families pride.

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Appeal

Nononono is at its core a sport shonen manga about probably the only sport less likely to appear in a manga than Kendo. There are tournaments and you will lean more of ski jumping than you ever thought there was to know, which works here since unlike most sports series which require over-the-top, never-gonna-happen in real life situations to draw excitement out of matches this just requires you to look at people throwing themselves off cliffs at 60 mph. To that end the art for the jumps is amazing, letting still images do what pages of exposition and over-analysis normally accomplish elsewhere.

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When it comes to the non-sports stuff there’s a fairly good story about a girl forcing herself to give up any trace of her femininity in an effort to be able to eventually make it to the Olympics. It also recognizes the absurdity of part of this plan, notably that it was conceived more or less on a whim by Yuuta, in that Nono really hasn’t thought ahead on exactly how she’s going to pull it all off, she’s too focused on trying to make it work in school still. A number of people do figure out the truth over the course of the series, one of whom offers to out right commit fraud to help her since he wants to boost Japans regard in the sports world, which leave possibilities for how things could play out without the series having to address it directly. 2

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Downside

Okamoto’s art can be best described as “serviceable” for much of the series. While it excels in the action shots or in hints of characters being evil (shades of Elfen Lied bleeding through to here), most of the character designs are fairly flat and generic without too much distinction between them all.

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But you better believe the “bad guys” are distinct

On a more subtle note, for as good as the story is it teases being so much better if it wasn’t quite as restrained by being a Shonen series about an obscure sport. The drama with Nono and her identity creates a host of potential conflicts which are never tapped, from several of her friends never learning the truth (or how they would react to it) down to the fact that everyone who does find out does so either by accident or by their own accord to confirm suspicions. There’s a bit of a loss of agency to her from her never intentionally revealing things which is a miss and which is compounded by the fact that outside of the ski jumping Nono doesn’t have nearly as much individual presence as some of the other characters.

So… anime?

Sadly no, though not surprisingly.

Conclusion

Weeb Level: 3/10- Ski jumping isn’t a very Japanese sport and most of the other scenes aren’t too trope-y.

Fanservice: 6/10- This comes in waves, especially in the everyday life sections you can get a number of underwear shots of Nono when she’s trying to chance. There is also several shots of her bare breasts, enough that you can’t incidentally skip past them (plus late there is a chapter with a sexual assault in it having her naked almost the entire time).

Quality: 9/10 (for the sports stuff), 6/10 (for the other stuff)- Truly a tale of two halves, the series is significantly better the closer to the ski jumping or practicing for the ski jumping it sticks. The everyday drama gets a bit too out there and is too under-developed to care much, but damn do the jumps look amazing.

Where to read it: You can’t without ordering volumes from Japan. Now I know what you’re thinking, “why is there English in some of those images then?” Well the internet is a vast and wonderful place, figure it out.