The romance market is full of titles where an innocent girl is romanced by an older, sophisticated man. But how about if the older man is just as innocent as the girl? That’s the situation in the fantasy historical manga Ne Ne Ne. Read on for the review of Volume 1!
Back Cover Blurb
Awkwardly ever after! Married off to a man more than twenty years her senior, Koyuki has no idea what her new life has in store for her. She’s so in the dark, in fact, that she hasn’t even seen her husband’s face! But Koyuki isn’t alone in fumbling through the intricacies of wedded bliss. Mask-donning Shin might have many years on his young wife, but as it turns out, he’s just as naive as she is! Will this pair of innocents ever get past their awkwardness (and the age gap)?!
According to the writer’s afterword, the title carries the meaning of “nenne,” someone who’s young and unsophisticated or naive about sexual matters. That pretty much describes our newlywed main characters, even if one half of the pair has a physical appearance that gives the opposite impression.
That’s Shin, a man in his thirties. Because of his ability to see and attract the supernatural, he’s beholden to wear a half-face mask to avoid being possessed. And because of family interests, he’s beholden to accept an arranged marriage with Koyuki, a pretty teenage girl. Sounds a creepy lolicon set up, but it’s not.
That’s partly because the story’s set in Meiji-era Japan, but mostly because Shin, despite his age, is so clueless about romantic matters that he’s essentially a teenager in the body of a middle-aged man. Although Shin is a respected, accepted member of the community, his supernatural abilities (and mask!) have prevented others from getting close to him. Which means he’s unfamiliar with intimacy, physical and otherwise. Compounding that is his father-in-law’s threat to “rip [his] spinal cord from [his] living body” if he touches Koyuki before she turns twenty. As such, even though Koyuki and Shin are married from page 1, there’s absolutely no sex, and the consummation of their marriage looks like it’s years away.
Meanwhile, Koyuki is completely unaware of her father’s threat to her husband. But despite having no choice in her marriage, she’s fond of and fascinated by Shin, whom she views as utterly sophisticated. As such, she’s determined to be a good wife and frustrated because Shin, although he is kind, treats her like a child.
And there we have the basis of most of the comedy in the story. Both genuinely want the marriage to work and have growing affection for the other. However, because they’re new at that type of relationship, misunderstandings and awkwardness ensue. Koyuki is the type to wear her emotions on her sleeve, but Shin’s mask makes him appear calm and collected even when he not. So it’s a fun contrast between Koyuki’s impression of Shin and his actual panicked emotions when they get just a little too close.
By the way, there’s no strong story arc. Chapters are episodic, and their interactions mainly take place in a household context. Shin may be connected with the supernatural, but the narrative focuses on a very domestic relationship. So even though the couple has a pet dragon, Pochimaru acts like the family dog more than anything else.
Extras include six pages in color, the creators’ afterwords, and translation notes.
Ne Ne Ne has a random set up, but it’s surprisingly cute and funny. Despite its unlikely cast, the awkward romance between Shin and Koyuki can only be described as innocent. If you’re looking for something sweet that’s set in a bygone era with a touch of supernatural, this title delivers.
First published at the Fandom Post.