I have spent several hours yesterday chasing after a manga called “A Peephole” or "Nozoki Ana" by Honmyou Wakou, finding it, and marathon-reading it. Was I impressed? Well, I found it worth blogging about, so take a wild guess.
By all rules of reviewing, I must state the important details first, so be warned: this is an adult manga. Hentai. I must be nuts to review a hentai manga, you say? Why on Earth would I do that?
The answer is, because it’s certainly adult rated, but it’s also a lot more that just last evening’s fap material. It’s not the first time I run across porn with a story and some meaningful content. Sure, I opened it for the promise of nudity. Leafed through it because it had explicit sex. But I couldn’t put it down because it did a great job at spinning a story and at fleshing out its main characters.
Also, because it was titillating as hell. Keikaku doori.
The name of the manga has the basic fetish exposed right away. This is, indeed, a story of voyeurism. Two characters, a he and a she, live in adjacent apartments “connected” by a crack in the wall, barely large enough to serve as a peephole. The guy is pretty freaked out by it, while the girl treasures it as her pet project. This story being a declared adult work, it’s not very subtle or roundabout about setting the main detail right away: the guy finds out it’s a peephole by accidentally looking in on his neighbor having fun with herself. He wants no part of this, so he makes a beeline to her door to warn her, hoping to settle it with as little fuss as possible. The girl next door, instead, tricks him into appearing to assault her, takes a damning snapshot, and proceeds to blackmail him into leaving the peephole open for shared usage. He gets viewing rights Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, while she gets the same for Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Sunday is day off for both. The rule comes with a codicil: full consented exposure. No covering the hole, whatever the viewed subject is doing; also, no warnings to visitors. Slightly later on, a second codicil is appended: this game is a secret, so they should interact as little as possible at school (they’re both attending the same art college). Everyone should think they’re just passing acquaintances, barely talking to each other.
Well, I’m not going to go into all the details of the narrative. Suffice to say that the girl is the pervert of this tandem, and she’s often setting herself up for embarrassing exposure, usually to force others into the limelight of her own private penalty game. I find the depiction of her deviance realistic and believable: she has to be in control at any given time. She plays twice this game where she lets other look/touch her anywhere but without intercourse or without kissing. Once, she allows kissing, but only through a towel. Voyeurism and blackmail often travel hand in hand, and she uses it sparingly to protect herself and her little game. She’s also quite selective – she takes what opportunities come along, but she keeps her focus narrowed to include only her neighbor, and whatever ill-advised idiot tries to force him/herself between them.
The guy, Tatsuhiko Kido, is almost her polar opposite. He’s a very honest guy who doesn’t like putting others in a bad spot at all. His conscience bothers him when he takes advantage of someone. He’s not an eunuch. He’s the average everyman you find in any adult manga, erogame or hentai anime. For a welcome change, he’s not a moping, whiny and indecisive idiot (well, volume 5 and onwards seem to say otherwise, but he has mitigating circumstances); quite often, he’s proactive, and tries his best to keep up with Emiru. He’s just cursed with a little too much feminine attention focused on him (why hello there, hentai staple setup). He don’t need to chase after girls and he’s no great womanizer. He never feels threatened by the girls gravitating to him by means of plot contrivance. On average, he says “no” when he means no and “yes” when he means yes.
Volume one sees him hooked up with the hot and horny Yuri-chan, his official girlfriend, in about as many as three chapters. She homes in on him out of jealousy, but their relationship gets more relevant as time goes by, because he falls for her in leaps and bounds, and they both place a great deal of trust on their torrid affair. As any self-respecting hentai, this one throws a number of spanners in the works, in the guise of other girls trying to get in his pants for all the wrong reasons. They’re largely transitory characters, gone by the end of each volume, but each one of them plays a role in drawing the peeping partners closer, often exposing yet another facet of their complex personalities.
Emiru, the peeping girl, slowly peels her many layers, to expose a pervert with firm principles and values, and a pretty twisted sense of fair play. Despite all these, you never know where you’re standing with this gal: she acts passively where most people act aggressively, and she springs to action when you least expect her to. In my own interpretation, she’s a social chameleon, slipping from role to role without pause, and in every single role she is being herself. Her prolonged contact with Tatsu is somehow shaping her up into something different from her old self, as he tends to bring her good side out.
Lastly, this story of sexual tension build-up & release goes through a series of sentimental conundrums, from betrayal to redemption, showing how many meanings people can attach to sexual intercourse – gift; weapon; love; goodbye; treasure; curse; make-up; revenge; safe haven; a parting of ways; betrayal. While the execution has its mandatory, scheduled sexual incident per chapter (or every second chapter, when plot comes calling), there’s an underlying realism of relationships coming together or falling apart, a struggle to find sure footing amid shifting sands. While the relationship building up between the main characters hits predictable ground in volume 4 and then in 5, their relationship is never simple, never fully trusting, never on equal footing.
Also, speaking of the scheduled, probability distribution sexual misadventures of the main characters, the manga keeps a realistic ratio of failure to success – in such things, it takes two to tango. The dancers are often not on the same foot at the same time. Not every great tease ends with a good bonk. And not every failed bonk is really failure. It’s give and take, and it’s usually unevenly spread.
So, in lieu of a conclusion, this is the story of the mutual seduction of two very different people, with opposite worldviews, who learn to know and value each other through a succession of control/dominance games. They share an instantaneous chemistry right from the start, but can they attain happiness without trying to change one another? Well, read it and be entertained, moved, and even touched when you least expect it.