A Girl on the Shore (うみべの女の子)
By Inio Asano
Note: Mature Audiences Only and Spoilers!
I borrowed this book from a friend of mine for about two years, and he asked for it back last week. So now I am forced to read it before I return it to him.
A Girl on the Shore is a coming of age manga. Two junior high school students, Koume Sato and Keisuke Isobe, explore the world of sex as they enter a casual, “friends with benefits” relationship with one another.
This manga invites readers to explore this question, “What’s love?” from the perspective of young adults. In this case, our two protagonists, feel incomplete and seek fulfillment and satisfaction with each other. Koume Sato uses Keisuke Isobe’s body as a way to cope with her insecurities because she was used as a sexual plaything by a guy named Masaki. She mistakes love for lust and ends up using people to fulfill her sexual satisfaction, and so she seems to view love and intimacy as nonexistent since she was taken advantage of by a guy. In fact, when Isobe suggests that they should start going out, Koume instantly rejected him.
As for Keisuke Isobe, he was in search of a different form of love, self-love. After his older brother passed away, Isobe has this self-blaming mindset as if he killed his own brother. I think he uses Koume as a coping mechanism to deal with this loss because she not only allows him to escape his issues but she gives him the attention and affection that he doesn’t seem to get from his family. In other words, both characters have this misconstructed understanding of what love is and how a good relationship is formed. Honestly, though, I just think these kids were trying to grow up too fast, but they didn’t have the necessary role models they needed to guide them into proper young adults.
The last thing I would like to note is how divine timing plays a role in their relationship. Ironically, I had this discussion with my friend about divine timing and how “timing is everything” when it comes to relationships. However, I told her that sometimes it takes our whole lives to realize who we truly love and care about but then it’s too late to make something happen because our soulmates end up with other people. In this story, it happens to Koume. Koume didn’t realize that she has feelings for Isobe until it’s too late. When she finally tried to confess her feelings towards him, he rejects her.
Isobe met someone else, and the person he met is “The Girl on the Shore.” It is when he was contemplating suicide that he met this mysterious girl. In a way, the girl on the shore saved him, which was something that Koume wasn’t able to do. After meeting this girl, Isobe changed. Rather than being pessimistic about life, it seems that the girl on the shore has given him the desire to live. Yet, it is also revealed in the end that Isobe may have gotten into trouble with the law as the police come to question him about a previous incident (Isobe got involved in a fight with bullies who drove his brother to suicide). Thus, the girl on the shore could have possibly been an excuse for Koume to get over him because he knew that he was going to get in trouble by the police and so, he didn’t want Koume to get involved with him. Thus, “The Girl on the Shore” represents two interpretations: a new beginning or an ending of a relationship.
Some readers may find this manga a bit uncomfortable due to the graphic nature of the story which involves, sex, depression, and suicide. However, I found that the themes this manga dealt with are real issues that young adults have to go through, especially the feelings of incompleteness. We are all trying to find people that would accept and appreciate us, or in other words, the love we desire and want in this life.
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