- Mangaka : Mayuzuki, Jun
- Publisher : Yen Press
- Genre : Drama, Mystery, Romance, Seinen
- Published : July 2022 - Present
Jun Mayuzuki is the mangaka that you should go to if you want a heartwarming romance with a mature vibe to it. Her most popular work is the award-winning manga called After The Rain. It has been adapted into an anime series and there is a live-action adaptation as well.
Now she is back once again with another workplace romance story, but with more spice to it. It’s called Kowloon Generic Romance. And similar to her previous works, this one also received tons of accolades, such as being nominated for the 6th Next Manga Awards and the 14th Manga Taisho award, among other things. So let’s see how good it truly is through this review of the first volume of Kowloon Generic Romance.
The story takes place in the infamous Kowloon Walled City in Hong Kong. In the midst of dense buildings and crowded people, Kujirai Reiko walks gently into her office. She works as a realtor who is responsible for numerous apartments in several buildings in the heart of Kowloon.
There are only three people in that small, cramped office. Kujirai, her cheerful boss, and her carefree coworker, a man named Kudou Hajime. The story revolves around the interactions between Kudou and Kujirai as they navigate through the labyrinth city called Kowloon.
Both of them eat lunch, and sometimes also dinner, together. They take turns handling clients who wish to see apartments, dealing with complaints of the tenants who live in one of the buildings, and smoking on the roof of a building as they see the colossal structure called the Gene Terra that is currently under construction in space. Amidst these chaotic yet mundane day-to-day activities, Kujirai suddenly realizes that she has in fact fallen in love with Kudou.
1. Three-Dimensional Characters
Kowloon Generic Romance is a romance story for adults - there’s no question about that. As a matter of fact, just a couple of pages into the first chapter, the shot of Kujirai sitting on a chair with a disheveled shirt as she gazes into the distance with a cigarette in her right hand is pretty much all the image that you need to determine the intended demographic for this manga.
A couple of chapters into this manga, you immediately feel that these characters are truly living breathing human beings. They are individuals with distinct personalities, preferences, and quirks that are uniquely theirs. That is especially true for the two main characters, Kujirai and Kudou.
Kujirai always dresses neatly whether she’s going to work or simply going out on her day off. But at home, a loose shirt and short pants is all she needs. She likes to try new things, such as eating at the newly opened restaurant or tasting the new brand of snacks. But most of all, her idea of relaxation is smoking a cigarette and eating watermelon at the same time.
On the other hand, Kudou is a scruffy man who never pays attention to his appearance. At work, his shirt is often untucked and his tie is always loose, and on his days off, shorts and a t-shirt are all he wears. He’s not too fond of trying anything new. Once he finds something that he likes, that’s the only way for him. That’s why he always eats at the same place and buys the same snacks. Weirdly enough, he has a habit of touching the number “8” every time he sees it on a wall.
These kinds of things are the essence of “show, don’t tell”. The way they dress, which restaurant they go to, how they spend their free time… all of these mundane things are what makes them three-dimensional characters. These are the proof that they live real lives, and aren’t just characters created to move the story along.
2. Spectacular World-Building
While Kowloon Generic Romance is a 100% fictional story, the setting of the story itself, The Kowloon Walled City, was a real place. It was one of the most unique places on earth where around 50,000 residents lived within its 6,4 acre borders. It was a historical city that dated back to the year of 1898.
When the population of Hong Kong began to boom, more and more people decided to live in Kowloon, most of whom were outlaws and troubled people. To accommodate such a massive increase of residents, new houses and buildings were built on top of one another with barely any kind of planning in mind. The result was a cramped, walled city where the sun barely touched the ground. Sadly, the iconic Kowloon Walled City was demolished by the Hong Kong government in 1994.
So as you can see, the original place itself is already so fascinating, but the fact that Mayuzuki-sensei manages to illustrate the little details and nuances of the walled city makes it even more spectacular to see. The cramped alleys that Kujirai and Kudou have to walk through, the blinding neon lights of the stores, the street food vendors, the endless stairs, the messy architecture, all of those things are beautifully rendered in Kowloon Generic Romance.
As if that’s not enough, there are also the mysterious sci-fi elements to the story, namely the Gene Terra. It is a massive diamond-like structure hovering in outer space, but can still be seen from Kowloon. It was supposed to be a place that enabled people to live in space. There’s not much information shared about Gene Terra, but just hearing Kudou and Kujirai talk about it with a dispassionate tone is enough to make us wonder about what truly happens in their world.
Honestly, there are so many different facets of worldbuilding in Kowloon Generic Romance that we could easily create a dedicated article for it.
1. Slow Pace
If there’s one thing that might drive some readers off of this manga, it would be its slow pace. There’s really not much conflict happening here. What it has is puzzles and mysteries, and the author carefully spreads the clues needed to solve the puzzles through what are seemingly mundane day-to-day activities of its characters. That is why the pace of the story is deliberately slow. If that doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then Kowloon Generic Romance might not be for you.
Kowloon Generic Romance is a truly fascinating manga with three-dimensional characters, spectacular worldbuilding, and fascinating storytelling that somehow manages to blend romance, mystery, and sci-fi together. And it’s all rendered beautifully through the art of Mayuzuki-sensei. There aren’t really many stories that can be compared to Kowloon Generic Romance. So even if slow-paced romance is not your usual jam, you should still consider giving this manga a try.
Have you read Kowloon Generic Romance? What do you think about it? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.