Silver Nina Volume 1 Manga Review
Reviewed by: Linny
Synopsis: After being fired from his job in Tokyo, Shimazaki Shutaro returns to his family home in the countryside as he struggles to decide what his next step should be. There, he meets his 10 year old, half Finnish and half Japanese niece, Nina. Suddenly, Shutaro finds himself appointed as Nina’s babysitter and thus begins a calming, amusing and heartwarming slice of life tale set in the countryside.
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
Silver Nina features one of the classic and popular slice of life set up of a young adult male and a young girl thrown together by circumstances and learning from each other. Readers might immediately find themselves remembering or comparing it to other similar stories like Barakamon or Usagi Drop. And while Silver Nina has some vague and basic similarities with those stories, it manages to stand with some unique characters and set up of its own.
In Silver Nina, our young male protagonist, Shutaro is like most other young and lost male leads in slice of life stories. He isn’t a bad person by any means but he does seem to be lacking motivation and direction in his life due to an unexpected setback, in this case, being fired from his job and then being unable to find another job in Tokyo and being forced to return to his parents back in the countryside due to his personal savings running out. All of this works to make him a likeable enough character, even when he seems less than driven early on in the story, you might find yourself cutting him some slack after all the rejection he had to endure in Tokyo. Volume 1 never explains exactly why he was fired from his job, and this may be too much speculation on my part, but I do wonder if that will turn out to be a big reveal later on in the series.
Nina too, might feel a bit familiar to readers thanks to her positive and chirpy nature though she does manage to stand out thanks to her being immediately revealed to be a bit of a Japanophile right on the very first page of the manga. She makes a great conduit for readers who are new to life in Japan and thus can learn through her first experiences, or even anyone who has a general interest or fondness for the culture and lifestyle out there. She’s given all the beloved nuances of a fictional child character in a manga, precocious yet playful and innocent. She often spouts wise words that are meant to inspire not only Shutaro, but the readers as well, though it’s pretty amusing to find out where she learned some of those sentiments from.
The first volume is mostly devoted to Shutaro helping Nina experience all the things she wanted to or needs to as she prepares to start her new life in Japan. There’s a lot of focus in this volume on Nina getting to eat all kinds of staples of Japanese cuisine. Having dreamed of living in Japan for a while, Nina has a list of food and activities she thinks are fundamental for her to experience such as eating ramen and going to the beach and convinces Shutaro to help her do so. Shutaro, on his part, ends up either coming up with an on the spur of the moment activities for them such as convincing her of the importance of washing her hair often, or taking her fishing.
The first volume also has a few emotional beats, as unlike a lot of other manga, Nina’s mother/ Shutaro’s sister does seem to take an active interest and role in Nina’s life. We learn that she uses Skype to stay in contact with Nina and she even knows all the little quirks of her daughter, like how Nina tries her best to hide her own sadness and all the little subtle signs that let you know that Nina is actually sad. Nina’s mother passes on all this knowledge to Shutaro and pleads with him to take care of Nina well for her, making it clear that she too actively misses and thinks of her daughter. Then, there’s a chapter where we come to learn that as happy and carefree as Nina may seem, she does long for the absent parents in her life as Shutaro realizes that she longs to be pampered by a father figure. This chapter might make a more conservative/ new to manga and anime reader raise an eyebrow as Nina convinces Shutaro to wash her hair for her and bathe together, but it’s played out very chaste. In fact, when Nina tells Shutaro’s friend that they took a bath together, it causes a hilarious reaction of extreme shock. (Also for those having terrible Usagi Drop flashbacks, do not worry, this relationship seems to remain strictly chaste)
As the first volume is so heavily focused on Nina and Shutaro, we do not really get to explore any of the other characters though some of them are clearly going to play bigger roles or have recurring roles in the story. One of them is Tomoe, Shutaro’s childhood friend who happens to be working part time at the restaurant run by Shutaro’s father. She becomes a regular part of the story thanks to the fact that Shutaro often convinces her to act as their personal chauffeur whenever they need an emergency ride and ropes her into their various adventures around the countryside. There’s already a bit of an insinuation that she and Shutaro might end up together but in classic manga style, I wouldn’t be surprised if this potential relationship takes forever to start.
Silver Nina is a competant slice of life tale. It may not be the most amazing one out there but it has all the right components to be a satisfying read for fans of the genre as well as fans of the classic young adult male- young female child set up in manga. Nina and Shutaro are both extremely likeable characters and every chapter is brimming with humour and heart. In short, Silver Nina is a perfect read for anyone seeking a comforting read about life in the countryside through the eyes of a defeated but kind young native man and a bright young foreign girl.
Silver Nina is available digitally via Crunchyroll.com.