Shonen Note: Boy Soprano Volume 1

Readers may already be familiar with mangaka Yuhki Kamatani thanks to Our Dreams at Dusk: Shimanami Tasogare! (Seven Seas) or Hiraeth: The End of the Journey (Kodansha). The creator has made their name by crafting stories that tackle emotionally heavy subject matter and coupling this with gorgeous visuals. Today I’m here to take a look at Shonen Note: Boy Soprano Volume 1, one of their earlier works that has finally found its way to the West. 

The story follows Yutaka Aoi, whose family has just moved to a new town and is about to start middle school. While visiting the school with his mother, he overhears the middle school choir group performing and decides to join. 

Yutaka is a sensitive boy who loves singing and can sing soprano, something the school choir needs and so welcomes him with open arms. But for Yutaka this is a difficult time; his voice is beginning to change and that brings with it anxiety as he loses the comfort and familiarity of his own body at a time when he has a lot of other changes happening around him. 

Starting middle school means being surrounded by people he doesn’t know and joining the club was a spur-of-the-moment decision since initially, he’d planned not to join any clubs, even if asked to. It’s a lot to adjust to, especially for Yutaka who is very sensitive to sounds and emotions. 

Mangaka Kamatani never gives it a name, but it’s clear to use readers that Yutaka may be on the autistic spectrum, given how sensitive he is to noise and emotions. In this volume, we see him easily overwhelmed and shouting at everyone around him to shut up, as well as reacting to every day sounds like birds and people travelling to work or school. His level of sensitivity is something the average person doesn’t struggle with and for our protagonist, it’s both a blessing and a curse. 

When Yutaka is in the right environment and hears music, he finds himself in a rich world that sends his imagination into overdrive. Many of the characters around Yutaka comment that he’s pure and unblemished, something that’s quite unique. In fact, he might be too pure and ignorant about the world and that’s a theme Kamatani looks to explore as the series continues. 

Much like Our Dreams at Dusk, Shonen Note is about self-discovery and growing up. Yutaka’s world is changing and opening up around him, especially once the choir aims to compete in competitions. And he’s not the only one; plenty of other members of the cast and the club have things they need to work through to move forward. 

And it has to be said that Kamatani’s art brings the whole thing to life in a way no other creator could. Characters and backgrounds are detailed and it’s easy to follow the panels from page to page and keep a grasp of where each character is and what they’re doing. Most importantly, we’re seeing the world through Yutaka’s perspective and it’s very easy to understand his feelings in a given scene, thanks to the art. 

For scenes where Yutaka is listening to music or singing, we’re treated to whimsical images that convey his feelings while transporting us into a rich, almost fantastical setting. I often say it’s difficult for a series about music to convey the cast’s feelings through manga, which is a silent medium, but here it’s easy to get engrossed in the art and come away understanding exactly what Yutaka and the others are feeling as they listen and perform. 

As previously mentioned Shonen Note: Boy Soprano Volume 1 comes to the West thanks to Kodansha where it has been translated by Rose Padgett with lettering by Sara Linsley. This release has a page in the back noting it’s dedicated to Rose Padgett who has sadly passed away since working on it. It’s clear this work was a passion project, given the insightful translation notes at the back and how well the series reads. 

The series is complete in Japan with eight volumes for the English release Kodansha has already released Volume 2 with #3 following in April. In print, the series is being released in one of Kodansha’s bigger formats, which is a real treat given how great the artwork is. 

Overall, Shonen Note: Boy Soprano tells the story of a young boy who’s at a time in his life when everything is changing. As we go on this journey with him we’re treated to some fantastic artwork and thought-provoking storytelling, the likes of which you very rarely see in the same manga. There’s a reason Yuhki Kamatani’s work is enjoyed by so many and this is yet another good example of why. 

A free preview can be read on Kodansha’s website here.

9 / 10


When she's not watching anime, reading manga or reviewing, Demelza can generally be found exploring some kind of fantasy world and chasing her dreams of being a hero.

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