Review: Bitter Virgin

What has always impressed me with manga is that the authors are able to have so much story depth, character development, and hard hitting emotions in so few pages. The manga Bitter Virgin, only 4 volumes long, truly demonstrates this power.

Suwa Daisuke, a popular high schooler and teenage horndog, tries to flirt with the new student Aikawa Hinako. Aikawa, who is quite reclusive and shy especially around boys, immediately rejects Daisuke and flees from his presence. Frustrated, in class Daisuke loudly proclaims to his friends that he has no interest in Aikawa, easily within earshot of her. After school, Daisuke enters a church and when he sees Aikawa enter the church, Daisuke hides from her in the confessional. Unsure of what to do as Aikawa approaches, Daisuke poses as the priest, only to hear Aikawa’s shocking confession: her stepfather sexually abused her, leading her to have an abortion and then a child who was given up for adoption.

Daisuke’s public dismissal of Aikawa as a love interest allows her to trust him, and as the story continues, the two develop a strong relationship together. Throughout the manga though, jealousy, family issues, high school, and of course Daisuke’s knoweldge of Aikawa’s secret, all come into play in complicating this already fragile relationship. Will the pair’s friendship remain and grow or will their lives separate cataclysmically? That is the story of Bitter Virgin.

I think it’d be an understatement to say that this is not your traditional manga, but clearly it’s not. Even though the mood is heavy throughout the whole story, seeing something so tragic and true to life is oddly refreshing. Most of us I’d say read stories/watch films for some sort of wish-fulfillment or escapism; however, Bitter Virgin turns that around and instead makes the reader confront the ugly side of life. This is helped further by the autobiographical nature of the story. The author Kei Kusonoki explains in the side notes that she had a miscarriage and that she was quite affected by that event in her life.  The feelings that she went through at that time, and have kept since, helped inspire not only the overall story, but also the continuous theme of loss and regret that carry through in Bitter Virgin. 

Perhaps due to the story’s own honest power and complexity, the character designs in the manga seems surprisingly simple. That’s not to say that the art is dull. Instead, I think that the author just understood she didn’t have to add unnecessary flourish. For instance, the beautiful art of Trinity Blood and the flashy character designs of Sailor Scouts for instance would never make sense with such a plot. Kusonoki’s design choice I think helps add to the harsh realism of the story.

In conclusion, for me the tale of Bitter Virgin was gripping, tragic, and exactly the sort of manga I never knew I was looking for. I couldn’t relate to the characters situation, nor do I think the author expects many readers to have done so.  Instead, Bitter Virgin let me in as a silent witness to the scene, so as to impart upon me a fraction of the character’s emotions, and in my opinion to remind the reader that while life’s scars remain, hope and healing continues.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

[Not licensed presently in US]

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