Act-Age is an ongoing Weekly Shonen Jump series from author Tatsuya Matsuki and artist Shiro Usasaki. The first volume of the series introduces a number of characters who will form the basis of this series. Our leading lady is Kei Yonagi, a teenage actor with remarkable drive. She is currently raising her twin siblings, Rui and Rei, on her own after their father left and mother died. Kei finds herself juggling rearing two children along with school and acting auditions. In one such audition, she meets acclaimed director Sumiji Kuroyama.
Kuroyama watches Kei’s performance in awe and desires for her to star in his magnum opus. In Kuroyama’s mind, she’s the only one who can handle the role he is looking to fill. He needs her to become a star because only she can provide the emotions he needs in his work.
However, Kei’s performance style could be her own personal undoing. In order to act in nearly any role, Kei draws on personal experiences. She method acts and fully takes on the role of the character she is pretending to be. It gets to the point where Kei so fully absorbs herself into her roles that fantasy and reality blur.
Herein lies the conflict early in the series. Kei is a fantastic actor, but only as far as she can connect with the role. At one point, Kei is asked to star in a commercial where the role calls for her to act as though she’s preparing soup lovingly for her father. The advertising agency loves her performance; however, Kei feels she failed. She has never prepared soup for her father, as he abandoned her family years ago. Instead, she has prepared soup with the maternal love she has for her siblings. She felt her matronly performance failed to accomplish what the advertising agency wanted. These moments where you see inside Kei’s head and how she connects with each new role are fascinating.
The first volume ends with Kei and a group of young actors all trying out together for a role in a film that bears a striking resemblance to Battle Royale. If the series they present is anything like the original Battle Royale, this will be a challenging and violent role. Seeing Kei absorb herself into it will be intriguing and, possibly, dangerous for those around her. Her ability may prove to be too much, which makes for great drama. I am absolutely looking forward to where this goes in volume two.
Act-Age is the story of a teenage actress named Kei who is juggling school, acting, and parenting her twin younger siblings. She is a method actor who fully absorbs herself into each new role, which sometimes provides her with triumphant performances. Other times, it can be dangerous, as her commitment leads to a blurring of the lines between fantasy and reality. The first volume ends with her auditioning for a potentially violent role and it absolutely has me hooked. I look forward to seeing where this story takes us and how Kei adapts to these new environments.
Overall Rating: A
Art: A — I really enjoyed the series’ art. Usasaki’s art style fits the story and characters well presenting the messiness as well as the humanity of each character. For those concerned with fanservice, it is at a minimum with this series with only a few moments of familial bathing with obstructed nudity and few, if any of the more heinous fanservice crimes I’ve seen in more recent manga series.
Characters: A — This is where the story shines. Each character is fully realized. Kei is a complete character with layers upon layers, from her relationships with schoolmates and siblings to her acting. Kuroyama is much the same way; we see what’s going on in his head and how he feels that art is above all things. This drives him and it makes him a very engaging character.
Story: A- — Can I give nearly straight A’s? Nah. The story is good and each chapter builds on the last; however, there were a few moments that felt a little forced. Also, every single character comments on Kei’s beauty. No, literally, every character at some point commented on it. While this became a bit tiresome, when you look at the world of acting—beauty being paramount is a reality. It was almost too on the nose to the point of being repetitive, like the Wachowski’s implication that Neo was a Jesus fill-in, in the Matrix films. Overall, though, I really liked the story and look forward to where this journey takes me.