Whilst I mainly write about games, anime, and films on this site, I also spend a lot of time reading – whether it be novels, comics, or manga. For manga specifically, I tend to either get entirely absorbed into a series, or read one volume and decide it’s not for me. When I do get absorbed, I find there’s a wonderfully fulfilling momentum to reading through several volumes of a manga you love.
A manga I’ve gotten into recently is Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible, which is both written and illustrated by Nene Yukimori. I’ve just finished the first four volumes (and I’m eagerly awaiting the fifth volume out early this year). In this post, I’m going to run through some reasons why the serialized storytelling of Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible captured me so much – and you never know, maybe it’ll make you give the manga a shot too!
It Goes Both Ways
Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible focuses around the two characters of Nagisa Kubo and Junta Shiraishi, two high school students who sit next to each other at the back of class. Whilst Kubo is relatively popular, Shiraishi goes literally unnoticed (and I mean literally) unless he makes a scene – and only Kubo seems to pay any attention to him. The manga blends together the genres of slice-of-life, romance, and comedy, and is structured in quick-fire episodes that act like short stories, each focusing on particularly noteworthy situations that the pair get into. Some of these episodes lead into each other, and some act standalone; either way, the brisk nature of the episodes makes the manga incredibly readable.
Now look, I’m aware that Kubo isn’t the first manga where a boy in high school unexpectedly finds a girl noticing him. However, this manga has a certain charm that makes it believable and sweet, and it also exercises a lot of restraint in terms of the more fan-service-esque moments that many stories of this genre have. I’m not here to judge fan service or anyone who enjoys it, but I appreciated how Kubo is mostly about building the friendship between Kubo and Shiraishi first and foremost, with the romantic undertones increasing over time.
The general dynamic between the pair is that Shiraishi seems largely content with the way people don’t pay too much attention to him, whilst Kubo regularly appears to surprise Shiraishi and show he isn’t as alone as he thinks he is. As they get to know each other, they each get pushed into new scenarios that they may have avoided otherwise. There isn’t a reckless pining from one character towards the other – instead, it feels like a two-way dynamic that is gradually developing amongst all of these funny scenes and interactions. The combination of Shiraishi’s reserved nature and Kubo’s playfully chaotic mannerisms are conducive for both humour and genuine character progression. One of my favourite moments is Kubo completely blindsiding Shiraishi by suggesting a kiss before saying “Psych!” and leaving, whilst Shiraishi just facepalms in hilarious exasperation.
An example of Kubo pushing Shirashi in a positive way is when she learns that he struggles to connect to other people in the school society he chose. Kubo proceeds to subtly get Shiraishi to start talking to his society partner Sudo in a group environment, and there’s a lovely moment afterwards when Shiraishi thanks Kubo for doing so. It works both ways too, as when Kubo gets ill one day at school, Shiraishi puts aside his hesitance for any form of intimacy so that Kubo has someone to literally support her to the school nurse. There are little unspoken details like when Shiraishi is wondering whether to put his arm around Kubo and she grabs his hand, and it comes across as a real platonic moment of support between the pair. This manga left me with the impression that it cares about doing the necessary legwork to build the character relationships. I hope it maintains this as future volumes come out and the temptation to do bigger and bolder stories grows.
Lover, Not A Fighter
In many ways, Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible reminded me of Kaguya-sama: Love is War, another superb manga and anime. Kaguya-sama has a similar set-up of two high school students in a will-they-won’t-they dynamic, with serialized stories of how they get into fun and comedic moments. As much as I like Kaguya-sama, it can feel like the character relationships stagnate now and then, and certain moments definitely feel like fan service (especially in scenes with Chika Fujiwara). Whilst Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible is still early in the story it’s telling, so far it’s had satisfying arcs of character development where Kubo and Shiraishi are finding value in the way each is helping the other, and all of the four volumes have finished with the characters in noticeably different places than when they started.
When I say different places, I mean in terms of the core character relationships, rather than literal life changes. If you’re looking for big, bombastic plot developments, Kubo hasn’t leaned much into that so far, outside of getting to know the families of Kubo and Shiraishi, and some stories where Kubo is helping Shiraishi study for tests. Almost all the attention is on the central Kubo/Shiraishi pairing, and that laser-focus could potentially be seen as either a strength or a weakness. My opinion is that it works for this particular manga, and that the several stories that comprise each volume end with a fulfilling step change in how comfortable Kubo and Shiraishi are around each other.
I briefly mentioned that we start to meet the families of Kubo and Shiraishi; these are the main supporting characters outside of a couple of friends Kubo has from school. Kubo lives with two sisters, one older and one younger, and the different perspectives they have on the main characters provide a lot of funny moments. In particular, Kubo’s older sister likes to tease Kubo for the obvious signs she shows of having a crush on Shiraishi. Meanwhile, Shiraishi has a younger brother himself, which allows Shiraishi to show some maturity of his own as the older sibling. The family members are effective foils for providing new context to see Kubo and Shiraishi in, preventing the manga from having repetitive settings.
Style & Substance
With a manga, the art is just as much a part of it as the writing is. Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible has a mix of elegant, beautiful character portraits as well as exaggerated expressive moments, such as chibi-style drawings of the characters when they’re overly frustrated or happy. This combination provides a contrast that accentuates both approaches, and it reminds me of the art direction in Your Lie in April, another manga/anime I adore.
In addition, there’s a dynamic use of cut-out panels and background sound placement in Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible. Each spread has a fantastic balance of dialogue and imagery that contributes to the aforementioned easily-readable nature of this manga. It feels like Kubo knows that the readers are there for the characters and the subtleties of their expressions. If the in-story art isn’t enough for you, each volume and episode has extra pieces of character art for Kubo as well!
I always like to read any author notes or extra features in these compiled manga volumes, and the afterwords by Nene Yukimori have a grounded feel to them; there are the usual thanks to the readers, and also extra notes about the videogames they’re playing! There’s something endearing about the author just going full fan-mode about their new Final Fantasy or Persona game. As well as this, there are pages of introspective and romantic poems by the editor, which Nene Yukimori convinced them to add in!
For now, that pretty much wraps up my thoughts on Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible. I went through the first four volumes at a rate of knots, and will be picking up future volumes as they release – hopefully, they continue the positive trajectory it’s on so far. Writing about manga is something I haven’t done before on this site, so hopefully you enjoyed this post. Maybe I’ll do another article in the future once we’ve seen where the story goes!
I’m aware that there’s an anime adaptation of Kubo currently airing, so that’s something I plan to get around to watching at some point. Going by the trailer, the anime appears to capture the charm and innocence of the manga, and I’ve heard positive things from other bloggers who have watched it, such as the great AK on their blog Everything is bad for you (click here to read their post)! Whilst I’m at it, here’s the trailer for the anime, below:
Right then, that’s it for this week! Have you read or watched Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible, and if so, did you enjoy it? Feel free to let me know your thoughts in the comments below, to continue the conversation.
Have an amazing day, and I’ll see you next week to see if I’ve finished Horizon Forbidden West yet… !
2 thoughts on ““Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible” is the Feel-Good Manga I’ve Been Looking For”
Thanks for the mention! It does sound like the anime is capturing the spirit of the manga well from what you say. Sadly the anime is on hiatus now for over a month, so I might check the manga out in the meantime.
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No problem – thanks for reading. After all those weeks, I finally decided to pick Kubo off the bookstore shelf and I’m very glad I did!
Perhaps with the hiatus it gives me a chance to catch up at least. Considering the short format of the manga, the anime will have to be careful not to catch up too fast!
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