29 Aug / Captivated, by You by Yama Wayama, translated by Leighann Harvey [in Booklist]
Adolescent challenges are a ubiquitous rite of passage from which no child seems immune. And yet relatively recent manga sensation Wayama – her three titles published in her native Japan have each won major lauds – manages to charmingly defuse some of the most potentially volatile situations, with captivating protagonists and expressive artistry.
The first half of her stateside debut, smoothly translated by Leighann Harvey, belongs to Hayashi, who’s chosen by a classmate as “someone cute” during a field day scavenger hunt: the label sticks and rightfully so. He’s always his own self, finding satisfaction in regularly “doing something meaningless” because he can. He’s also an artist, works in his family’s Chinese restaurant, reads extensively, is kind to strangers, and surreptitiously distracts bullies.
The second half stars an entertainingly mismatched duo: classmates Nikaidou and Medaka, the former a social pariah believed to have supernatural powers, and the latter determined to – if not befriend – then at least interact. Medaka’s mention of manga horror legend Junji Ito proves to be an ideal connector. Wayama’s self-insertion at book’s end of a burdensome middle-school memory adds bittersweet resonance.
Readers: Young Adult
Published: 2019 (Japan), 2021 (United States)