Twilight Out of Focus 4: the evening monologues Review

One day some beefcake is bound to think, “Hm, that boy’s not like the others.” That’s how it always goes in shojo manga, so… I have faith it’ll come for me.

Shion Yoshino’s main aim in going to all-boys Midorigaoka High School is to get himself a hot boyfriend! But even though he joins club after club (and excels at all the sports he tries) there’s no sign of romance in the air. In despair, he joins the Film Club (his roommate Kujo is already a member) but his flamboyant reputation precedes him and he comes up against the retiring Vice President, Rei Inaba who tells him bluntly, “You’re not gonna find a boyfriend here. You’re better off just quitting now.”

However, Shion is no quitter. He’s ready to take on a challenge, even if (self-absorbed romantic that he is) Rei Inaba-senpai rejects him so bluntly. But he doesn’t know what to think when Rei comes upon him in floods of tears in the music room and says, “You’re desperate for a boyfriend, right? Then why not try me out.” And why, when Shion removes Rei’s thick-lensed glasses to take a closer look at his face, does he agree (having just called him an uber-nerd)?

When it comes to being a member of the Film Club, Shion is something of a fifth wheel, yet he’s selected to be part of the team making a new music video, to the envy of his emo roommate Kirito Kujo who only joined because he was so impressed with the first music video they made with a university band (see Volume 3). And slowly, Shion finds himself caught up in the excitement of the club in creating a new piece of film, learning about the technical side and working with other people. Could this be a new passion for him?

In the fourth volume of Twilight Out of Focus, Jyanome’s engaging series about the members of a high-school film club and their love lives, we meet an unlikely new member in Shion Yoshino. In creating Shion, Jyanome has given us a decidedly different protagonist from ardent film buff and cameraman Mao – or the intensely committed second-year film club director, Giichi Ichikawa. Shion is not interested in making films or even learning how to make them; he’s just got his sights set on getting a hot boyfriend. The one-page openings of Chapters 1-5 show us Shion’s hopes and dreams in which he wanders naked through a dark landscape, thinking lofty, romantic thoughts, often in rhyme, such as ‘The moon shines over an empty, silent night. An angel lies in repose, wings wounded from his flight’ (these are written down in his secret journal, we learn later). He’s got a such high opinion of himself that he’s not, frankly, the most appealing of leading characters at the start, compared to earnest, good-hearted Mao (or even Giichi, who has his self-dramatizing moments as well). So, it’s not easy to feel sorry for Shion in the first chapters as he puts himself about so blatantly, even when he cries affectingly (and loudly) in the music room. Does Rei see through his naïve aspirations and self-dramatizing act to the real Shion? It turns out that Rei has concerns of his own (in spite of his laid-back persona), not least what to do after high school as graduation draws ever closer and he can’t decide whether to apply to university or look for a job.

With a well-established cast of characters connected to the Midorigaoka High School Film Club, Jyanome embarks on the most complex (and longest) of her four manga. In choosing to focus on such an ill-assorted couple (are they even a couple?) of central characters, it’s fascinating to watch them bumping up against their fellow club members. After Rei glimpses retired Club President Jin kissing Giichi, Jin (a little guilty at being found out) and he have a ‘serious’ talk about what’s going on in their respective lives. They’re childhood friends and Rei respects Jin – so when he advises him not to give up on Shion, he takes his advice.

Shion is probably the most ‘girly’ of Jyanome’s film club members so far, with his (undoubtedly) pretty face, androgynous figure and pink-dyed hair and penchant for cute clothes (his best friends at junior high were all girls). But it’s fascinating watching him change and grow as he gets more involved in the process of making a film and forgets about himself and his own preoccupations. And as for his unsympathetic ‘boyfriend’? Well, there’s a lot more to him too – although if I had to choose a favourite character in this volume I’d probably go for Shion’s long-suffering roommate, dedicated music fan Kirito Kujo, whose dry, realistic comments often help to bring Shion back down to earth.

If you’re already a fan of the earlier volumes, don’t worry: there are appearances here from Mao and his boyfriend/roommate, the charismatic Hisashi Otomo, and red-haired Jin Kikuchihara and his partner Giichi Ichikawa. The Bonus Chapter at the end features all three couples from the series. Also at the end are a character page each for Shion and Rei and a short afterword from the mangaka. It should be noted that this volume is rated 18+ for a reason, even though any scenes of a sexual nature are consensual, beautifully drawn and feel earned by the time they appear.

The translation (as for Volumes 2-3) is by Caroline Winzenried and makes for a streamlined read, dealing expertly with Shion’s poetry as well as some of his more colourful outbursts, aided as before by letterer Nicole Roderick. There are two colour pages at the front which showcase Jyanome’s lovely art; always a treat for the reader.

At the time of writing, there’s no mention from the US publisher of the next volume in the series which was published in Japan in 2022: Twilight Out of Focus: Long Take 1 but with (fingers crossed) the TV anime series coming later in 2024, we can only hope that Kodansha will bring us the sequel.

If you’re looking for a perceptive (and often funny) look at high school romance in an all-boys school that’s beautifully drawn, with appealing characters and some genuinely hot scenes, then Twilight Out of Focus is the BL series for you; why not give it a try?

Our review copy from Kodansha (Vertical Books) was supplied by Turnaround Comics (Turnaround Publisher Services).

9 / 10


Sarah's been writing about her love of manga and anime since Whenever - and first started watching via Le Club Dorothée in France...

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