Story by Tatsuya Matsuki
Art by Shiro Usazaki
Araya’s past provided us with a better understanding of his drive as an actor and how Iwao was central to his life. Now that the story has returned to the present, it is time for Araya to face the predicament he has placed himself in, and accept the coming loss of his mentor. A key focus of this chapter is discussing the pursuit of acting and what it truly means to act. The flashback between Iwao and Yonagi in this chapter helps us understand that after ending Arisa’s career, Iwao resolved to save people by bringing acting into their lives. Acting serving as a savior to actors themselves is a concept that has been a part of Act-Age’s narrative since its inception. Yonagi is someone who was able to deal with her harsh childhood by utilizing acting as a coping mechanism. Araya’s introduction to acting also falls in line with this idea. Pursuing acting gave Araya a purpose to his life that he didn’t have previously, and allowed him to not be satisfied with the disposition that he was born into. Even if it meant losing his prestige in the film world, Iwao wanted to replicate these kinds of experiences for those who truly need them. Iwao also brings up that while acting requires an actor to connect to an individual, this connection lives on ever after death. Araya is the character to whom these words hold the most weight as his acting is driven by his love for Iwao, and with his death approaching, Araya is afraid of this connection being lost. In truth, Iwao believes that this connection does not end with his death, as he will live on in Araya’s memory and through the acting that they loved so much. The realization of this is what helps Araya finally break free from his frozen stance, imagining Iwao and his theater group helping him stand up, allowing the play to end. The chapter concludes with Iwao’s final moments on his deathbed, admitting that while he can never atone for what he did to Arisa, he hopes that the actors he has refined will one day be able to save her.
Usazaki’s use of immersive gestures and expressions are in full force this week, and are as stunning as ever. Seeing the shift of Yonagi’s initial expression of sadness to one of relief towards Araya’s mental state, provides a strong emotional impact towards the reader. The use of simplistic and nearly blank backgrounds also helps establish the focal center of the chapter. Araya is completely immersed in his role, to the point that even the stage around him is of little significance. This imbues the scene of Araya imagining Iwao and the theater group with greater significance as it represents him breaking from the immersion that he’s trapped himself in while also acknowledging these connections being a culmination of his acting. Out of everything currently running in Weekly Shonen Jump, Act-Age’s visual storytelling continues to be unmatched, and chapter 51 is a testament to that.
With the end of this chapter, it seems that the Stage Production arc may finally be at its end. With Iwao having finally passed on, it will be up to Araya and his fellow actors to keep his legacy alive, and for Yonagi to use the experience she’s gained from the production to take her acting to even greater heights. It’ll be interesting to see where Act-Age will go from here, and I’m sure that I’ll love it.