“Not Your Idol” is “Not My Normal Kind of Manga”, so, with that in mind, my opinions and comparisons are possibly going to be a little outside of what this books’ target audience is used to.
Not Your Idol follows Nina Kamiyama, formerly “Ren-Ren” of the Pure Club idol group. Nina chose to give up the Idol lifestyle after being assaulted at knifepoint by a fan and the manga covers her attempts at shedding her previous life under her new identity but also with coping both with being discovered and with the trauma she is faced within a book that tackles some surprisingly deep themes.
I found it hard not to think of a few things whilst reading this volume, the most prominent being that of Satoshi Kon’s “Perfect Blue” (which if you haven’t seen, you really should change that), which covers similar themes of a young woman dealing with the fallout of being in a pop group and fans who take things too far, though, in Perfect Blue, the themes are much more adult. That’s not to say that Not Your Idol doesn’t deal with adult themes, it’s just not quite as gratuitous as Perfect Blue. Whereas Satoshi Kon’s anime deals with a woman trying to find her identity and work, Makino’s manga tackles what it is to be female and other people’s perceptions of how women should present themselves. In short, it tries to broach the conversation (well… its not really a conversation) surrounding how a woman dresses and how her behaviour “allows” men to behave in certain ways.
Due to its high school setting, it’s easy for the manga to try and deal with this in very black or white methods, the characters emotions and thinking aren’t as fully developed as if we were dealing with an older cast, and as such the discussion mostly revolves around boys being disgusting and girls “asking for it” because they wear short skirts, whilst Kamiyama is ostracised due to her choice of wearing trousers to school and having short hair (an attempt to distance herself from her past and disguise her identity).
It’s not just female appearance that’s tackled here, however, as the main male character, Hikari, who studies judo, believes that he’s not muscular enough and carries bodybuilding magazines around with him. All of this in the first volume gives a strong impression, though it’s not without its problems, pages can look a little cluttered with dialogue boxes, whilst said dialogue can often be pretty basic and rather clumsy. All the key characters are fairly typical in their appearance too, Kamiyma, in particular, reminds me of Naoto from Persona 4, with there being some fairly obvious comparisons between the two.
Not Your Idol was provided as an advanced copy from Viz Media and NetGalley