Could a chance meeting in a club lead to something more?
Emi isn’t sure why she goes clubbing. Every time her friend drags her along with the promise “I won’t just forget about you when I meet a cute guy!” and, well, Emi isn’t quite sure why she keeps believing that this time will be different. But something was different this time, as Emi slips away to hide she’s rescued from a drunk by Kei, a lively woman who feels totally in her element at clubs. As the two of them slip back to Kei’s apartment, Emi wonders why she feels so comfortable with Kei so quickly.
Although our two leads look rather babyfaced they are in fact adults! Even with the current yuri boom in English manga publishing it’s still unusual to have a cast of fully adult characters with absolutely no school setting to be seen. I personally like many yuri stories with teenage casts, but the similarities and tropes can start to wear on you after a while — just changing the characters’ ages is enough to change a lot about the stories themselves. It does feel a little odd to see just how quickly Kei and Emi hit it off; the first few pages of the second chapter made me think that Emi had moved in with Kei and several months had gone by, only to be shocked when Emi mentions a few pages later that it’s only been one night! That was my largest quibble with the story: It doesn’t mesh with my personal experience of making friends as a young adult like Emi, and that did take me out of the story a little bit.
I do really love the relationship between Emi and Kei. The two of them can talk to each other so easily, seemingly for hours, about anything — it seems like a rather nice relationship to be in. This is a story that’s heavily focused on its cast and so far it looks like one of the main storylines will be about Emi navigating young adult life. Emi has been more of the main character so far but presumably the story will also focus heavily on Kei’s life, too.
The art is on the simpler side. There are lots of loose shapes and broadly applied screen tones making the art as a whole feel a little minimalist. Backgrounds quickly fade out, only items close to the “camera” are detailed, and there are few scene-setting shots that are completely devoid of characters in them. I got the sense that for Yuhata Nishio the art wasn’t as important as the story they were trying to tell about Emi and Kei’s relationship. That does make me a little sad since the frequent club scenes have the potential to look very unique and creative, and art should be a critical part of all visual stories, but I’ll admit that for me the story was the bigger draw from the start so having low-key art is not a deal breaker for me.
Stories focused on the everyday lives of young adults can be tricky; unlike high school or even college there are fewer clear goals and I feel that this can lead to stories that meander more. With those worries in mind I am interested to see what future volumes of After Hours bring. There was one line by Emi that really caught my eye, “I got out of college and failed, just like everyone else. A boring story.” Boring or not, it’s the story that so many of my friends and I are going through and I’m rooting for Emi. I want to see how meeting Kei and being introduced to a different side of the clubbing world are going to change how she looks at her life and where she’s going to go from there.