After Hours Volume 3

After Hours Volume 3

The Viz yuri manga series After Hours concludes here as it started — with an emphasis on feeling instead of plot, and prioritizing club life over love. I find in general that yuri series are more elliptical than others. I suspect those looking for that kind of content (or to see characters finding themselves and their feelings) like the uncertainty and ability to read between the lines, while I find it annoying.

My trying to puzzle out what was going on in this volume was complicated by my not reading volume 2. I remember the big complicating problem of volume 1 being whether Emi was going to tell her boyfriend that she was now in love with another woman. I’m not sure how or whether this was ever settled, as the first third of volume 3 is all about Emi, DJ Kei, and their friends putting on a huge rave.

Emi’s sudden discovery of her talents as a VJ is only one of the things I found unbelievable about this series, but it’s clear that it’s just not for me. The women are drawn to look too young, I don’t find club culture as fascinating as author Yuhta Nishio apparently does. The relationship between Emi and Kei is too nebulous, particularly given the ending. (Spoilers below the cover.)

Before the series concludes, though, we get a chapter to breathe, in which the women visit a shrine for New Year’s and have a date while discussing the future. Then Emi is visiting her parents for a few days before settling in with Kei, but everything changes in the rest of the book, for one final storyline about how outside forces can disrupt plans.

The one thing I liked about this volume were a few emotional moments that were lettered and shaded and drawn in such a way that they reminded me of Keith Giffen’s later Legion of Super-Heroes work. There are extreme eye close-ups and focus on particular body parts to demonstrate strong emotion. (Actually, they both probably stem from some European comic influences I don’t know enough to identify.)

After Hours Volume 3

What I found most frustrating about this series is that, given that it was pitched as a romance, there isn’t a happy ever after. The second half begins with Kei disappearing, without getting in touch with anyone, even Emi. I appreciate that this gives Emi a chance to finish coming into her own as an adult, but it really damaged the relationship for me, because I couldn’t find myself wishing for Emi to be with anyone who would do that. Kei seems satisfied with vague hopes for the future and her new group of friends, but I was expecting something else.

I’m reminded of Blue Is the Warmest Color, in that this is another in the genre of “life-changing lesbian encounters”. It’s ok for relationships not to be forever, but that approach, more typical of an art film, doesn’t blend well for me with all the rave and music emphasis. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)

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