Moteki is a short manga series by Mitsurou Kubo about a girlfriend-less guy, Yukiyo Fujimoto, who suddenly finds himself catching the attention of three different girls from his past just as he is about to turn 30. He decides that this is his once-in-a-lifetime “moteki” (lit. period of popularity) and his last shot at finding a girlfriend and not dying alone.
Interestingly, this is not exactly a harem title. While the three female characters, Aki Doi, Itsuka Nakashiba and Natsuki Komiyama, do have some kind of romantic encounters with Fujimoto, he soon realizes that his “moteki” is not what he imagined it to be and things won’t go smoothly as he had thought.
Fujimoto begins the story as a typical awkward Keitarou-type character who spends way too much time second-guessing the girls he interacts with and yet somehow manages to overlook all the important details.
The girls themselves are not entirely well-adjusted individuals (e.g. tomboy who finds it hard to be seen as a girl; girl who can’t keep her pants on when drunk) and seek solace and support in various forms through their encounters with Fujimoto, but he suffers from a severe inhuman lack of self confidence and is unable to see pass the fact that the girls have boobs long enough to compute their silent cries for help. C’est la vie.
Over the course of four volumes, Fujimoto learns that he is not the undesirable loser that he thought he was and that romance is about more than just finding the courage to say, “I love you.” He matures as a person and eventually finds the self confidence to help the girls around him and himself to become (slightly) more well adjusted individuals.
The interesting thing about Moteki is that it is written completely from the Fujimoto’s herbivorous-male perspective but the mangaka, Mitsurou Kubo, is secretly a lady whose real name is Mitsuko Kubo. She likes to draw a beard on her avatar and use a male pseudonym because she was told by her editor that it’s better to pretend to be a guy when drawing male-oriented manga.
You would never guess this from reading the manga because the monologues feel so authentic that I swore it was meant by the author to be autobiographical. Heh.
Moteki was originally intended to be a one-volume release but it was extended due to popular demand. I have mix feelings about this.
Volume 1 and, to a lesser extent, Volume 2 are very well written, but the story wanders off into a weird direction somewhere around the third volume when Kubo decides to introduce another socially-awkward extremely-creepy character (who just happens to be a popular manga artist) and dedicate a few chapters to his sad life story that ultimately lead nowhere. It was a completely wtf-inducing plot digression that was clearly not in the original plans.
On the other hand, one volume would definitely have been too short to properly let Fujimoto grow as a character.
The ending is not entirely satisfying — not every one of the three male female characters receive proper closure and there is one (or two) huge loose end left hanging — but the first half is good enough to carry the story to the finish line a winner. More or less.
The author apparently agrees with this assessment because there is a Volume 4.5 special release containing a few extra side-story chapters to give a proper finale to one of the girls who got screwed particularly badly by her haphazard story planning. (Let’s just say she doesn’t show up at all in Volume 4.)
Despite its flaws and faltering second half, Moteki is a brilliant bitter-sweet example of seinen manga with imperfect characters who feel human enough for you to empathize with without being too edgy, and heart-wrenching despair (絶望した) matched by moments of pure joy and tenderness. A good read.
I experienced a brief moment of surreality when Twitter was mentioned by one of the characters in the story. Somehow, it just felt so out of place in a manga, granted it’s probably because most titles I’ve been reading are years (if not decades) old.
Kubo also talks about visiting Singapore to see the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix in one of her end notes. The world is, like, totally interconnected, man.
I have half a mind to give the live action adaptation a try, but I think I probably won’t like it.