Act-Age #55-59

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Story by Tatsuya Matsuki

Art by Shiro Usazaki

With the start of a new story arc, Act-Age has entered some unexpected territory, shifting focus away from the professional acting world and more towards Yonagi’s life outside of it.  For most of the series’ talented actors, acting is not only their career, but what also gives them purpose. In the case of Yonagi, acting has served as a coping mechanism for her to emotionally bare the hardships and responsibilities forced upon her at such a young age.  That being said, it’s obvious that what Yonagi is doing is far from healthy, and she’s in fact losing her sense of reality by immersing herself too deep into her roles. Since her performance in the Night of the Galactic Railraod, it’s clear that her sense of self has only gotten worse, and is a risk towards her mental state.  Kuroyama’s decision to force Yonagi to take a hiatus from her acting career serves to counter these symptoms.  Presently, acting is Yonagi’s sole focus and with the exception of her relationship with her siblings, she has no identity outside of it.  In order for her to not lose herself in acting, she needs to find a grounding in reality that is outside the confines of her career.

It would be safe to say that taking a manga that’s about professional acting outside the realm of the profession itself is a risky move for the series, but Matsuki’s handling of the story in these five chapters helps differentiate the story arc while also cohesively connecting it to what came before.  The introduction of Yoshioka and the school festival film helps tie the arc to the series’ acting focus, facilitating a place for Yonagi to still use her acting skills in the new setting. Yonagi and Yoshioka build a friendship based on their shared interest in films as well as Yoshioka’s fascination in Yonagi.  With Yoshioka being Yonagi’s first friend outside of acting, it’s clear she wants their friendship to be based off these common passions rather than their difference in social status. Yonagi’s eventual decision to not use professional equipment or the help of Akira in producing the film shows her resolve to stay true to this belief, and create a film with Yoshioka that is a genuine collaboration of their friendship.  Just as Yonagi is valuing their friendship through the film, Yoshioka is also placing value in it through his concern for Yonagi’s well-being. After being informed by Akira of the dangers of Yonagi’s method acting, he has been cautious of having her act out anything that could contain detrimental emotions to her well-being. Both Yonagi and Yoshioka are looking out for each other’s best interests, and as such, their film is the net result of their friendship.

Even so, the film is far from the sole focus of the story so far, being paired alongside Yonagi’s struggle to fit into the traditional high school environment.  Before acting, Yonagi had cut herself off from building relationships with those around her, so that she could focus on the survival of herself and her siblings.  As such, Yonagi’s attempts to build traditional friendships have proven to be difficult for her. The introduction of Asahi and her resentment towards Yonagi serves as a great example of this.  Asahi grew to hate Yonagi for ignoring her in the past, interpreting it as a sign of Yonagi looking down on her. Trying to gain Asahi’s friendship forces Yonagi to reflect on who she was in the past as well as in the present, and how she want herself to be defined in the future.  The video Yonagi and Yoshioka send to Asahi perfectly encapsulates Yonagi’s self-awareness of her past behavior, and her desire to rectify it moving forward.

Due to being out of the theatrical setting, there haven’t been a ton of moments for Usazaki to show off her talent for transforming scenes into a cinematic experience, but whenever there is an instance of acting within these chapters, it shines in full force.  In chapter 57, the two-page spread of Yonagi acting out a breakdown in the face of a “looming threat” to scare off students in a hallway masterfully creates an unexpected sense of tension in the chapter. Chapter 59’s video directed at Asahi is also wonderfully depicted, showcasing the drastic difference in Yonagi’s past expressions to how she currently wishes for herself to be seen.  Even outside of the series’ traditional environment, Usazaki has found a way to make her artwork as beautiful and immersive as ever.

Matsuki has taken Act-Age’s story in a direction that few could have predicted, but so far things are looking great.  Even with Asahi finally on Yonagi and Yoshioka’s side by the end of chapter 59, it’s clear that their obstacles in successfully completing the film for the school festival are far from over.  With all the said, it’s going to be a real treat seeing where things go in the coming weeks.

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