Surprisingly enough, I was nowhere near crying when I finished reading Tsumugi Taku’s Hot Road. It may be because the last arc is a little weaker than the rest, but I think there actually is more to it.
It is interesting to note that the narrative styles most inapt at telling stories – those unclear in conveying what actually happens – are often the best when it comes to conveying feelings.
In fact, it would be tempting to call Tsumugi Taku’s narration bad. It is, indeed, often hard to understand what is going on. My friend Tetho claims that shoujo mangaka are ten years behind shounen mangaka on this matter, and even when taking Hot Road’s age into account, it is pretty easy to agree.
But rather than incompetency, the cause of this difference is that in our case, there are more important things to convey than the very storyline.
The story of Hot Road is indeed nothing too big: an adolescent girl gets in a conflict with her mother, enters the world of bousouzoku, falls in love with a boy. Things do happen, but they are not too far beyond the ordinary.
But rather than a love story, Hot Road is more of an ode to adolescence, and Tsumugi Taku’s stream-of-consciousness writing style is particularly suitable for bringing the reader to empathize, first with the main character, and then with a vague nostalgia of the mangaka’s youth, which her work is imbued with.
If, when I began reading the series, I could only feel how sweet and how much more subtle than in other shoujo manga the romance felt – and actually is – my attachment to the characters slid slowly from identification/empathy to nostalgia/contemplation.
The day which I finished reading the last volume, I was sitting in the train next to a girl who looked more or less my age. She was quite good looking, but I was surprised by how adolescent she looked. She was wearing shortpants jeans, a pink tank top under a light shirt, listening to her blue iPod with Hello Kitty headphones, her skateboard shoes nonchalantly resting on the front seat.
What hit me was how far from her I felt, how non-adolescent she let me feel. I’m quite young and still a student, so thinking of myself as an adult is still quite new for me, and despite having never been the kind of adolescent that she probably is – and despite being, as an otaku, eternally childish – looking at her made me feel a little nostalgic.
And there was something of the same feeling when I closed the last volume of Hot Road. While looking, amused, at this father two seats away trying to keep his four adorable children under control, I couldn’t help but recall the tormented but sweet adolescence of Miyaichi Kazuki and Haruyama Hiroshi, and smiled.
Thanks to owen for the proofreading.