by Rebecca Silverman,

Forget Me Not

GN 1

Forget Me Not GN 1
Serizawa, a young law student, glimpses a familiar face just before he crashes his scooter. After he wakes up in the hospital, he realizes that while the woman who inadvertently caused him to crash recognized him and called an ambulance, he can't recall her name or her exact face. As he tries to piece together the women he knew in the past he tries to connect to her…even if, deep down, he wonders if he even deserves to meet her or have her save him at all.

Forget Me Not puts readers in a difficult position. Protagonist Yusuke Serizawa isn't really a bad guy per se, but he has hurt plenty of girls and women (and presumably males; they just aren't central to the story), and even if it was due more to immaturity and peer pressure than any vicious thoughts on his part, there's no denying that he hasn't always behaved his best. And yet there is something touching in his quest to figure out what woman from his past saved him after his scooter accident, a desperation in his need to fix a past he still feels guilty about that is endearing. That's not always a comfortable emotion as we see his history with females, but it does drive the story forward in an interesting way and makes it difficult to stop reading.

Based on a Taiwanese novel by Mag Hsu, which was in turn adapted into a Japanese TV drama before becoming an ongoing manga, Forget Me Not's origins may help to explain its unusual sensibility. Told almost as a series of interconnected short stories rather than a more traditionally ongoing narrative (a writing style reminiscent of how Mitsukazu Mihara wrote her series Doll), this volume covers two full tales and one partial story of the different women Serizawa has been involved with in his past. It begins in the seventh grade and then covers tenth and twelfth grades as well, hitting on key transitional moments of Serizawa's school years – the first of middle school and the first and last of high school. In each of these settings he meets a girl, all very different, and he handles the relationships with varying levels of maturity. The first story is the most striking, as it incorporates themes of peer pressure and budding hormones and feelings to make for a more complex character interaction between Serizawa and the girl, whose real name We Never Learn. Other students have nicknamed her Nobuta after a character on a popular TV show, and even as Serizawa grows closer to her, he never bothers to actually find out what she's really called. This indicates that she's almost not a person to him; she's an ideal to his seventh grade self, the sweet girl no one else appreciates and whom he comes to see as the outlet for his developing sexual feelings. She's the girl he treats the worst, due to a combination of peer pressure and immaturity, and even though we're clearly going to meet more women from his past (the manga is six volumes and ongoing as of this writing), there's a hope that she is the one who saved him, because if there's anyone he needs to make things up to, it's Nobuta. On the other hand, after what he pulled, were I her, I wouldn't ever want to see Serizawa again, which may be the biggest indicator that she's not the one.

The other two girls in this volume, a high school classmate and a young college student working at a cram school, are much less interesting both in terms of character and how Serizawa interacts with them. While Nobuta can be written off as the “quiet bookworm” stereotype, the plot surrounding her is more interesting than those around the other two. Once again, we don't learn their real names; the high school student is simply “foreign” while the teacher is nicknamed Hermès for her expensive wardrobe. In many ways, Hermès is simply Nobuta 2.0, sharing the same shyness but now feeling comfortable expressing her feelings to Serizawa. The foreign girl, on the other hand, is a textbook tsundere, throwing slaps and smacks around for the thinnest of reasons and generally coming of (to someone who isn't fond of the type) as not worth Serizawa's time. The one thread that links all three women so far is that Serizawa feels somehow obliged to spend time with them, as if it is his duty to take care of the wounded souls. He appears to feel this more keenly after his experiences with Nobuta so that by the time girl number two comes along, he is fully entrenched in his feelings of obligation.

Where the story goes from here should be interesting to see. From chapter covers we can see that there are many likely candidates for the mystery woman's identity, but what is more important to this story is Serizawa himself. He needs to come to terms with his past and that he cannot take full responsibility for everything, even as there are some acts that he really needs to own up to and should feel guilty over. In order to find his mystery woman (with whom he speaks sporadically on the phone), Serizawa must learn to stand on his own two feet and make his own choices, not be influenced by the people around him to the point where he makes mistakes. Watching him grow into this character will be interesting, even as some of his choices are difficult to get behind. Nao Emoto's soft art enhances his internal struggles while making each girl distinct and appealing and the story easy to read, and on the whole this book is intriguing even with misgivings about the reliability of its hero. Life isn't always as we picture it and doesn't always give us the answers we want, and seeing Serizawa come to terms with that and himself seems to be the overarching story. It should be one worth following.

Overall : B+
Story : B+
Art : B

+ Soft, attractive art, the underlying themes of the story are interesting. Good depiction of how peer pressure can affect people and their relationships. Intertwined short story format largely works.
The women are all definite tropes and stereotypes, detracting from the story's impact. Not quite enough cultural notes, Serizawa is a bit of an uncomfortable protagonist.

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Production Info:
Story & Art: Nao Emoto
Original creator: Mag Hsu

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Forget Me Not (manga by Emoto)

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Forget Me Not (GN 1)

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