Story by Tatsuya Matsuki
Art by Shiro Usazaki
When Act-Age first debuted in Weekly Shonen Jump at the beginning of 2018, I was blown away. The series brought along a unique premise with its lead character Yonagi’s ability to act solely through her past experiences, and has since been able to explore the immersion of actors in their roles as well as the thin line between reality and fiction that their performances convey. Paired with a growing cast of fascinating characters and gorgeous artwork, it has easily become one of my top series in Shonen Jump alongside Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba. As we head towards the conclusion of the Stage Production arc, these qualities are presented at their finest in chapter 48.
Throughout this story arc, we’ve seen Yonagi’s acting grow exponentially due to the influence of her fellow cast members and Iwao’s coming death. As the first day of their performance nears its end though, it’s clear that her co-star Araya is far from done evolving. This chapter allows us to go inside Araya’s mind as he and Yonagi act out their final joint scene as Giovanni and Campanella. When Araya speaks his final lines directed at Campenella, we see him start visualize Iwao in Yonagi’s place. Araya has begun to understand that as Campenella must leave Giovanni, Iwao must leave him. Iwao has been arguably closest to Araya more than anyone else in the theater crew, and in acting out this scene, he realizes that he has yet come to terms with his loss. As Araya recalls how he’s avoided the reality of the situation, we gain a sense of what has truly been weighing on him, and how it has all been building up to his current feelings. Araya has once criticized Akira for not understanding his own feelings, but he has committed the same mistake in that he had failed to understand how much he cared about Iwao. The culmination of Araya’s emotions leads to him ad-libbing a line as Yonagi is about leave the stage, becoming completely immersed in his role of Giovanni.
It would be no understatement to say that Usazaki’s art is some of the most beautiful work within Weekly Shonen Jump’s lineup. Just as the actors in Act-Age manage to immerse their audiences through their performances, she brings the cinematic and theatrical stories to life in her artwork. The best example of this is seen when we see Araya’s character slowly reach out to Yonagi’s, only for her to walk away. Little dialogue is spoken in this scene, but the gestures and facial expressions alone convey Giovanni’s desire for Campanella to stay with him and Campanella’s acceptance of his own death, just as Araya and Yonagi are presenting to the audience in the story. Being able to effectively depict a fictional story within an existing narrative is a difficult task, but Usazaki has managed to pull it off flawlessly.
It’s clear that this arc is almost over, but Matsuki is continuing to keep readers on their toes. Iwao’s current condition is of pressing concern and it’s unknown whether or not his actors will be able to see him before his final parting. That being said, the show must go on, and the cast must make sure that Iwao’s final theatrical work ends in success. Yonagi’s reaction to Araya’s line will be the final factor to the performance’s outcome, so it will be interesting to see how things play out next week. Once again, Act-Age has managed to breathe unparalleled depth into its characters, resulting in an emotionally engaging chapter from start to finish.