Turns Out My Online Friend is My Real-Life Boss! Volume 1 Review

Hashimoto is your typical Japanese office worker, but he hates his boss – Shirase – due to him always being on Hashimoto’s case and being rude to him. Luckily Hashimoto has his friend ‘Uma’, via the online game Lia Fail Online, and they’ve agreed to meet up in the real world. What could possibly go wrong? Well, unless ‘Uma’ turned out to be Hashimoto’s actual real-life boss… but that would never happen, right? Right??!

This BL comedy is advertised on the back of the book as Cherry Magic meets Wotakoi: Love is Hard for Otaku, which is a fitting description. I would personally throw in a dash of My Love Story with Yamada-kun at Lv 999 as well, due to the online persona vs real life persona vibes to this story, but either way if you love nerdy romances and boys’ love, then Turns Out My Online Friend is My Real-Life Boss! is going to be a treat for you. According to the author notes at the back, nmura started publishing this manga in small chunks across Twitter back in September 2017 but started drafting the characters back in 2015. nmura only has one other manga under their name available in English (The Yearning Fox Lies in Wait) but outside a few short series and anthologies, this is so far their longest running series.

Despite the mangaka being relatively new to manga, you can tell there’s a lot of love for this story based upon their meticulous character designs, the layered nature of the romance here and comedic timing too. The first volume is very generous with its material, being over 300 pages long, with 19 chapters provided plus bonus content. It should be noted though that the chapter lengths widely vary; the opening ones were less than 2 pages long, whereas latter ones were standard length. They are also not all separated by plain pages or art spreads; they tend to bleed into each other so you may end up reading 3 chapters without realising it.

The comedy in this manga relies a lot on the trope of ‘misunderstandings’: one character says or does something, that the other misinterprets as something else. For example, a girl says ‘I love you’ to their crush, but the boy assumes she means it as friendship, not in a romantic sense. It can be a tiresome trope when it’s stretched to the point of breaking suspense of disbelief, but I think in this manga’s case it works. The relationship between Hashimoto and Shirase is multi-layered; they first had a tense boss/employee relationship, then unknowingly had a friendly online dynamic. Then when they met and realised they were one and the same, they had to re-establish both sides of the relationship; Shirase realises his boss demeanour was off-putting to some, and Hashimoto realising that Shirase has more going on with him than just work, on top of continuing to grind together in the online game.

As the pair work out the new dynamic, they grow closer, and language is used that could mean one thing but is often misinterpreted as another. For example, when Hashimoto and Shirase’s first meeting is overheard by a third party, Hashimoto uses language like ‘admiring’ Shirase and wanting Shirase to ‘notice’ him. In context, Hashimoto is talking about the boss/employee dynamic, wanting to be noticed and admired by the boss for your hard work. But the person overhearing thinks it is a confession scene, and it’s easy to see why. There are a few other similar situations in this story, all backed up by Hashimoto’s tunnel vision of thinking every conversation is about video games, but it works as comedy and within the story, without breaking the immersion. When it does come to the big emotional point, where misunderstandings start to unravel and the truth is revealed, it feels earned at that point in the story, like a dam being broken. You want to see where the characters will go from here.

As much as I enjoyed the story and look forward to more of it, I will admit that I think the lack of intimate knowledge of the couple is its main weakness at this point in the story. We mostly follow Hashimoto’s point of view, so we learn a touch more about him; he likes manga, gaming, and he’s a bit oblivious when it comes to romance. But for Shirase I couldn’t help but feel we barely know him by the end of the first volume; we get a quick look into when he first joins the game via a flashback, and he likes using ‘LOL’ a lot, but that’s kinda it. We don’t know if he likes his job, or what he really does (outside of being a manager) or why his feelings turn from friendship to romance.

That’s not to say the pair don’t look good together or they aren’t cute together (they totally are), but it would be nice in the next volume to learn more about them individually as well as as a couple. Ironically, the character we learn the most about in this volume is the third wheel in the relationship, and that’s Kumataro. He’s a younger man who also plays the game with the other two and eventually meets in real life – befriending Hashimoto and seeing Shirase as a rival. We learn that Kumataro is a student, works in a local shop, has multiple accounts in the game, is more emotionally aware than Hashimoto and so on. It’s funny in a way that the third wheel is more developed than the other two. He’s also used at the butt of some jokes, and I did enjoy chapters centred on him, but hopefully we’ll get more spotlight on the other two in the future.

The art for the manga is very good; the characters’ ‘real life’ designs all look very handsome and easy on the eye. The chibi designs of the video game characters are cute but also reflect the different sides of the characters too. I also really liked the in-between-chapters art; either the leads in cool poses or little alternative sceneries of the main couple meeting earlier in life. The details and shading were stunning, I wished they were in colour and glossy.

Translation is co-credited to Melissa Chiam/amimaru. The manga is easy to read and understand; I do think there’s a wide overuse of ‘LOL’ in the script (despite it being a joke that one character uses it a lot) they could have thrown in more Japanese emoji or even just ‘LMAO’ to vary it up but overall, its fine.

The first volume of Turns Out My Online Friend is My Real-Life is a fun, nerdy slice of romance that has the potential to be really wholesome in the long run. Fans of boys’ love, and video game-based romances, should definitely check it out.

Preview the first few pages of the manga on Kodansha’s website.

Our review copy from Kodansha was supplied by Diamond Book Distributors UK.

8 / 10


By day, I work in the television industry. By night, I'm a writer for Anime UK News. Twitter: @lilithdarkstorm

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