As a person, Nobuku Tanaka is unassuming and unremarkable, and her quiet demeanor has her sinking into the background. In other terms, she’s a side character in life. But even side characters need a lil’ loving, so, with a little help from her coworkers, she steels herself for that scariest of introvert problems: getting close to the cute boy you’ve got the hots for.
A quirk of this manga is pointing out Tanaka’s various quirks, such as having trouble speaking up or overthinking things, but what it doesn’t point out are her mannerisms. Words are at a small premium, so more emphasis is placed on her minute actions whenever she’s mustering up the courage for an outing or what have you. You can even tell just how generally anxious she is as a person in how she grips her bag. Pointing out her quirks is a mildly amusing running gag, but the narrative’s that much more enhanced when it leaves the reader to notice these seemingly insignificant details.
The Inner Vs. Outer Dialogue:
Tanaka and her crush are terrible at small-talk. Their conversations are heavily mimeographed from a Tomozaki and Kikuchi conversation, with the pair not conversing as much as they are making observations about their environment. It’s stilted, makes for a dragging pace, but is incredibly great at capturing just how incompetent they are at even basic conversation. Contrasting what they say is what they think: this almost poetic introspection that reveals how smart both romantic leads are, despite what they show.
The manga’s hook is that Tanaka’s introversion casts her as a side character, but that’s all. It barely even uses it for setup. Tanaka is a side character, but to which main character’s life? Technically, we’re all side characters to someone’s life, but the manga doesn’t comment or play off this metanarrative, and if you scrub a few lines from the first chapter and change the title to An Introvert’s Love Story, practically nothing changes about this manga.
This is one of the sweetest romances I’ve ever read. Usually, romances in the romance genre are just backdrops for the characters to go out shopping or study for an upcoming test, but this is one of the few stories I’ve read where the romance is the sole focus. There’s hardly any drama and steers well clear of any potential drama, and the betrayal of the metanarrative still stings like a broken heart, but it’s endearing seeing the two lovebirds go from socially incompetent to socially incompetent but in love.