A review of the first volume & first impressions
(NOTE: Kowloon Generic Romance is rated "M" for "Mature." 🔞)
Kowloon Generic Romance by Jun Mayuzuki is an enigma. By the end of the first volume, you'll either be stoked for the next volume or have mixed feelings about it and the series. This first volume (and perhaps this entire series) rides or dies by its twist ending. You can't just drop the series after the first volume. Otherwise, you wouldn't know what the story is really about, but I'm getting ahead of myself.
Serialized in Weekly Young Jump and written by the same mangaka as After the Rain (licensed and published in English via Kodansha's Vertical imprint), Kowloon Generic Romance follows a real estate agent named Reiko Kujirai as she navigates Kowloon Walled City. Yes, the same larger-than-life, legendary city Kowloon Walled City but with Mayuzuki's own sci-fi and dystopian twist. In this first volume, we see Kujirai's day-to-day life along with her work colleague and love interest Hajime Kudou. Our heroine Kujirai is a reserved and serious 32-year-old woman who loves eating watermelons while smoking. (Apparently, they go well together.) In stark contrast to Kujirai, Kudou is an irresponsible oaf with a good heart and a love of gambling. Looks like he has a crush on her too...
In the first volume, the pair goes to lunch a few times at Kudou's favorite place and once at a charming and classy bar The Goldfish Teahouse. They investigate and settle a noise complaint in the building of one of their properties. Finally, they fix up a unit to show a potential renter. Separately, they go about their day doing stuff too, but I'll leave that for you to discover. Seemingly everything and nothing happens all at once, and it's all due to the repeated motifs, themes, symbols, and that ending.
For example, the characters discuss the big themes of nostalgia and romance throughout the volume. Part of the romance is found through vision. Within the first chapter, Kujirai goes from wearing glasses to not needing them. Her vision improves seemingly overnight and as a result, she starts to take note of her surroundings, which include Kudou, and thus discovers her love for him. Other themes, motifs, and symbols include random things like the number 8, fish, and the city itself. The city is a character too, a mysterious and nostalgic one.
I know Mayuzuki's cooking something. I'm just not sure what it is nor am I completely sold on what's going on so far. As I alluded to earlier, I am in the mixed-feeling category. I'll have to keep reading to decide how I feel about this series, but ending the review on a positive note, the art is gorgeous. The book's front and back inside covers are decorated. The front inside cover shows rows of apartments while the back inside cover shows Kujirai's apartment nestled among the others, and it shows her smoking and chilling on her balcony. The outside back cover is the same as the inside except it's highlighter yellow. The front cover is simple just showing our gorgeous heroine in a nice cheongsam dress with her signature watermelon and cigarettes.
Also, the art throughout is stunning with multiple panels devoted to character's actions or lingering on characters and their emotions. The emphasis on emotions and characters and a female lead among other things is why some people may miscategorize this manga as a "shoujo" or "josei," and while this manga isn't either (it's a seinen manga because it runs in a magazine aimed at adult men), shoujo/josei readers may enjoy this series if they're looking for those things plus slice-of-life, sci-fi, and a slow-burn romance minus the fanservice, which is kept to a minimum.
Besides fanservice, there's other suggestive content such as drug use (smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol), sex, nudity, and gambling. As of this first volume, the mature rating is there mostly for the intended-for-adults aspect of the story rather than for a gratuitous amount of sex, nudity, or violence. You know, a mature audience. For real, be ready to bust out the literary terms theme, motif, and symbol for an extra deep dive. You don't have to go looking for meaning. It's right there but not obnoxiously so.
There's much to talk about this manga but calling it or comparing it to shoujo manga a la "shoujo-adjacent," "a shoujo disguised as a seinen," or some bullshit variation is not one of them. It's a seinen manga (even ranked #3 on the 2021 Kono Manga ga Sugoi list for male readers) with a wide appeal much like the many shoujo and josei stories that also exist, have a wide appeal, and are chocked full of meaning but aren't called "shounen-adjacent" or whatever. *Taps sign.* As always, stories can be enjoyed beyond the target audience whether or not these stories are discovered and consumed by a wider audience is... a topic for another day.
In closing, Kowloon Generic Romance is a mature-rated manga that is off to a promising start with solid characters, an interesting setting, great art, and a vague plot. Kowloon Generic Romance is a meaty and meaningful manga. Perfect for ex-English majors. You may want to pick up v. 1 & 2, maybe even v. 3, to start. Note, Yen Press released v. 1 in a large trim format in July 2022, and since then, all three volumes are out with volume 4 scheduled to be released in July. Also note, the series is still ongoing in Japan, and the series is now over 8 volumes long.
Check out Kowloon Generic Romance via the Yen Press website here.
(If you're really dying to see more of what's going on, watch this video, celebrating the release of volume 8 in Japan, at your own risk.)
So, what do you think about Kowloon Generic Romance? Let me know via the comments below or on Twitter @ThatMangaHunter.