YanOta: The Delinquent and the Otaku Manga Review
YanOta: The Delinquent and the Otaku
Synopsis: Saeki Kazuko is your average adult otaku who also happens to dislike men and delinquents. Yet her neighbor, Aikawa Ryuou, is a delinquent grade schooler who won’t leave her alone! Her peaceful otaku days are in danger, but is there a reason for it? (Official Crunchyroll Synopsis)
Review (Warning: Spoilers to Follow):
YanOta starts out innocent and fairly typical; an awkward otaku, Saeki Kazuko, finds herself stuck with a delinquent youth, Aikawa Ryuou, who she doesn’t understand and slightly fears. What follows are a bunch of awkward misunderstandings as she tries to weasel her way back to the freedom of solitary otaku life while Ryuou silently and stubbornly clings to her. What makes the series stand out from its otherwise archetypal leads is their age difference and the fact that these two typical character types have been paired with each other. While you have likely encountered either type of character in other manga, they’re usually on their own and they’re certainly rarely, if ever, starring together as leads.
It’s pertinent to note that YanOta’s humour dives into potentially scandalous territory early on. In Chapter 1 itself Kazuko and Ryuou’s initial meeting leads into a trip to a Yaoi convention that features x-rated content. I want to make it clear that the series itself never gets graphic or vulgar regarding sexual content but there are a few sequences and reveals that could make some readers uncomfortable. For example, our female protagonist, Kazuko, very confidently proclaims that her ‘type’ is ”intelligent, shy, feeble shotas.” Shota, for those unfamiliar, is a term usually used to refer to young boys. Coupling that with the earlier reveal in Chapter 1, that she was headed to an X-rated convention, makes for an uncomfortable equation. But the manga otherwise keeps things very chaste, quickly clarifying in Chapter 2 itself that she is only attracted to 2D characters and that she maintains a clear distinction between them and real life. On that basis, YanOta stays a mostly pure series. It helps that the series keeps a number of elements vague. We aren’t privy to the actual exact age gap between the characters and while certain characters work to try and push Kazuko and Ryuou together romantically, it never gets overtly sexual. The actual interactions between our leads and Kazuko’s thoughts regarding Ryuou never even come close to crossing any lines (at least in Volume 1) so potential readers should be able to pick up and enjoy the series without fear they’re being lead down a dark hole that justifies attraction to minors.
All this actually brings us back to Chapter 1 where in its last pages, YanOta reveals itself to be a one sided rom-com. Ryuou is actually just a shy and awkward kid who has a crush on Kazuko and is trying his best with his limited, youthful knowledge of the world and romance. Having two inexperienced and clueless in their own ways characters for a ‘romantic leading couple’ means YanOta is a comedy rife with misunderstandings. A ton of its humour and its very premise comes from people coming to the wrong conclusions, being given misinformation or being unable to express their thoughts clearly. For example, we learn that the reason Ryuou followed Kazuko to the convention was because he overheard her talking about an “IRL meeting” and when he asked his parents what that meant, they told him it basically was something people use to ‘hook up’. Not wanting his crush Kazuko to hook up with someone, his mission thus becomes to shadow her and ensure she didn’t get any opportunity to do so. Or in Chapter 2, Ryuou overhears Kazuko fangirling and ends up thinking she likes someone called ‘Dave Shouta’. Like most comedies, YanOta is uneven. The jokes don’t always land such as the ‘Dave Shouta’ one I just described, and the heavy reliance on misunderstandings, especially Kazuko’s own idiocy, can feel a bit repetitive and frustrating. However, YanOta does manage some solidly hilarious or just outright startling moments that are sure to make you burst out laughing or gasp out loud.
The manga keeps things fresh by introducing and injecting new semi-regular characters, such as Panpanman, Kazuko’s only male friend, a fellow otaku. He quickly realizes Ryuou’s attraction to Kazuko and reveals himself to the audience to be ‘shipping’ them. His secret efforts to observe the two leads together while also encouraging their interactions are another source of comedy for the series. However, while his efforts to do so are chaste, it could still be a potentially uncomfortable element for those bothered by the undetermined age gap of our leads. I would like to mention something that is particularly amusing about Panpanman which is how the series portrays him as a rather charming and capable person, quite opposite to how most otaku men are usually portrayed in manga and anime. While he is visually drawn as a standard otaku body type, Panpanman is outgoing and talented, able to belt out songs and dances with total ease and flair. He’s neither arrogant nor awkward and this subversion of tropes makes his character a nice addition to the cast. It also helps to offset the more generic tropes one might find in the story otherwise.
On the topic of tropes and more generic content, there’s Shizuka, Ryuou’s classmate who admires Ryuou for his cool, ‘manly’ demeanor and wishes to be just like him. Shizuka is a mild mannered boy, admired and liked by the girls for his gentle and well kept ways but teased by the boys who claim his behaviour is effeminate. As a character, Shizuka is a bit bland. Rather, he seems more like a plot device, offering us a glimpse into how Ryuou is perceived by people his age, and also offering advice that lead to further comedic encounters and misunderstandings not only between them but between Ryuou and Kazuko.
YanOta starts off reading like a 4-koma comedy with Chapter 1 and 2 heavily featuring several single page, four panel long gags. But past that, it completely abandons the short 4koma format in favour of regular chapter long stories. Thanks to compact chapters however, most running less than 20 pages, the change doesn’t feel that jarring and YanOta is able to maintain its initial, energetic pace. The last chapter of Volume 1, Chapter 8, is actually its longest but even then it only comes in at 30 pages.This means that YanOta makes for a quick and breezy read more or less, making it less intimidating or demanding to dive into.
Speaking of Chapter 8, it’s the chapter where the manga finally shows us a fleshed out version of the actual first meeting between Kazuko and Ryuou. It’s teased and confirmed pretty early on, as early as Chapter 3 that Ryuou is actually a kid that developed a crush on Kazuko back when they were both much younger but Kazuko has no idea that he is that kid or that he has a crush on her. This where it feels like the manga is trying to give us a more intimate and deeper glimpse into their story, treated with a fair amount of seriousness even amidst a handful of jokes. It isn’t the best execution of a tender moment in an otherwise chaotic comedy. It doesn’t work tonally but it might charm those who like their comedy with a healthy dash of emotional, heartwarming content.
Overall, despite some potentially concerning content early on, YanOta is mainly a sweet comedy about young one sided infatuation, awkward odd couple leads and misunderstandings galore. While never graphic or crass, some of the humour can be shocking but still, assuredly harmless. If you enjoy comedy centred around awkward otaku characters or tsundere like leads, and above all, a comedy of errors, you may want to give this series a chance. With its short chapters and fast paced jokes, YanOta could be a comedy you find yourself chuckling out loud to. At worst, it shouldn’t take you too long to decide if it is your thing or not as the brand of humour and content remains consistent enough and compact enough to help you decide early on.
YanOta: The Delinquent and the Otaku is available digitally via Crunchyroll.com