Superhero manga have become an increasing presence in recent years, with My Hero Academia and One Punch Man both continuing to be popular. Given how this series deals with the troubles such characters may face, along with an anime adaptation in the pipeline, Shy may well become the next big superhero series to gain popularity.
Set in the middle of the 21st century, superheroes have restored piece to the world. Each country on Earth has its own hero representing it. For example, Britain has Davie Wonder John, better known as the rock star superhero Stardust. Russia is home to Pepesha Andranof, aka the drunken superheroine Spirit. Japan meanwhile has Teru Momijiyama, who is Shy. That’s not just her secret identity – it’s also what plagues her. Shy suffers from chronic shyness.
Still a high schooler, Shy is keen to help others, but the fact she is so shy often hinders her. The first we see of her she is taking part in a superhero stage show for kids at a theme park, and as she comes off stage she vomits into a bucket due to her nervousness. At the park, Shy is called upon to help some kids stuck on a roller coaster. One of them tells Shy to rescue the others first, which she does, but before Shy can save the last girl, the ride rolls backwards, crashing and knocking the girl unconscious.
A month later, Shy is still traumatised by what happened, believing she cannot be a hero if she cannot save everyone, and thus has become a shut-in. Despite encouragement from her robotic sidekick N. Vilio (aka “Shrimpy” because he looks like a shrimp) and her best friend Spirit, she still feels awful. It is not until she overhears a boy wanting to save people from a fire, who in turn is inspired by Shy, that our heroine feels the courage to help others again and save those from that fire.
Later, back at school, a new transfer student joins Shy’s class. The person in question is Iko Koishikawa, a girl who walks into class on crutches. Shy quickly deduces that Iko is the girl on the roller coaster from the earlier incident. Again Shy worries, but Iko holds no grudge against the person who saved her. However, Iko is once again put into danger when a mysterious boy gives her a ring. The ring transforms Iko slowly into a monster, but Shy is able to stop the transformation and save her, although she gives away her true identity in the process.
Shy and Iko are invited to a meeting of other heroes in a secret base located in space where they learn the boy in question is a villain called Stigma, who uses his rings to bring out the darkness in people’s hearts. Shy and the other heroes now have the mission of stopping Stigma from causing more disaster with his rings.
The main appeal of Shy is the storytelling. While many superhero stories appear to be just about the brave hero saving the day, this manga is about the problems such people would undoubtedly face during their life and how they try to cope. The open chapter has big shocking moments, the biggest of which is when we see the younger Iko unconscious in the roller coaster that Shy was unable to stop. The sight of her injured body is disturbing, and this obviously leads to Shy becoming more reclusive with her fear that she is no good because she cannot help everyone.
Bukimi Miki’s writing and artwork work brilliantly together in this moment. Ajani Oloye’s translation is also good too, especially the use of jittering speech when Shy gets into one of her panics. Arbash Mughal’s lettering is nice as well, using a range of different fonts, including a more computerised text for Shrimpy, and a more cheerful one for when Spirit is in one of her more intoxicated moods.
However, you can argue that Spirit is problematic as a character. As each hero represents a different country, it appears easy to slip into some nationalistic stereotypical aspects – i.e. the Russian hero constantly taking a swig from hip flasks of vodka for example. Other characters however do continue to remain mysterious. We are yet to know what the motivation of Stigma is, and no doubt this too will become a big part of the series.
Regarding this volume, there are some extra features, namely a two-page bonus comic featuring Shy and Iko, and preview of the next volume, in which Shy gains new powers and we encounter more heroes, namely the Swiss heroine Lady Black.
This series does seem to have the potential to become a hit, especially when the anime adaptation debuts. It will be worth keeping an eye on this.