Disclaimer: I tried to write the review as spoiler-free as possible but I didn’t manage to avoid slight spoilers so keep it in mind if you are sensible towars minor spoilers!
Act – Age (Kanji: アクタージュ ) is a manga series written by Tatsuya Matsuki and drawn by Shiro Usazaki. It had it debut in the 8th issue of the Weekly Shonen Jump by Shuesisha, which was released on January 22, 2018. After the abrupt ending of Act – Age, 123 chapters and 12 volumes in tankobon format were released. I’ll talk about the circumstances later, but let’s move on to the story.
The story tells about a high school girl being alone and having the dream as being an actress. Her circumstances weren’t the best, she has to raise up two siblings since her mother left and her father passed away. Although she’s working part-time (but got fired), her family’s financial situation goes from bad to worse. Therefore, she’s questioning herself if she’s actually able to do anything right since she failed another audition even though she’s sure that she met the criteria for the topic (sadness). In the next day, she got “abducted” by a movie director (Sumiji Kuroyama) and now she has her first job for an advertisement. And that shouldn’t be the last role for Kei Yonagi. Is she able to reach her dream?
Tatsuya Matsuki made a great story with Yonagi as the central main protagonist. He knew exactly which characters should be in focus in different arcs which are also in relation to Yonagi. Also, he created a very good antagonist: Chiyoko Momoshiro. I don’t want to go further into details, but imo the rivalry between Chiyoko and Kei is amazing, if not the best in the entire manga industry. They are like day and night, bright and dark: the polar opposites. If Act – Age would be still ongoing, we’d get pleased by Tatsuya’s writing skills.
I already lost some words about the rivalry between Kei and Chiyoko so I wouldn’t go into further details. Apart from the main rivalry, the surrounding protagonists and side characters are pretty good. They fit into the main story but they obviously aren’t in the center of the story. Still, you can learn much about them since they aren’t “flat” characters but fulfilled with background history which can clarify why they would go so far by doing this or that. They aren’t perfect for sure as in other manga, but they still are very good and play a deserved role in the story.
Shiro Usazaki’s trademark are def. the eyes of the characters. They are full of details and generally speaking, the character designs are pretty good. Again, you can see the contrast between Kei and Chiyoko very well (hair color, length etc.). The art overall improved absolutely in two years. In the beginning, details (except the eyes) were lacking, the overall art style felt like it was compressed in a bad quality intentionally, but after around 35 chapters you clearly could see the improvements. The chapter covers are pretty creative and well drawn. There are manga which has a better artstyle (e.g. [Oshi No Ko]), but it’s still higher than the average artstyle. Good job Usazaki!
As I wrote in my prolog, Act – Age got cancelled due some circumstances. On the 8th August 2020, NHK revealed that Tatsuya Matsuka got arrested on suspicion of committing an indecent act with a female middle school student. Consequently, the last chapter (123) was the first and last chapter after the incident. The last panel of Act – Age speaks more than thousands word. A potential masterpiece got cancelled due one stupid act of the story writer. It still breaks my heart and I’m pretty sure that many people feel the same as me: If Tatsuya wouldn’t have act like a pedophil adult, we’d looking forward to every Shounen Jump to read another chapter of Act – Age. But that’s the reality. As I mentioned before, Act – Age released its last chapter which is more or less a rushed ending. So technically the manga has a real ending. But the ending doesn’t feel like one and I personally can’t read it anymore.
So, how shall someone feeling reading Act – Age? Well, I think it’s important to seperate the Tatsuya personally (idk if someone likes him after the incident but that’s up to you) and Tatsuya as a story teller and his works. Act – Age’s intention was never illustrating Tatsuya’s interests or anything different. Act – Age is an unfornute masterpiece which definitely deserved something much better than the last chapter. If you are interested in the acting industry, in well-written rivalries or just want to read nothing generic, give Act – Age a chance because it shouldn’t suffering from Tatsuya’s action.
I hope you enjoyed my review. English is not my native language and I actually wrote this review to get used to write long stuff again so don’t roast me for mistakes <3