Never Know I’m There
Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible, volume 1
By Nene Yukimori
Nene Yukimori’s Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible, Volume One (Japanese: 久保さんは僕を許さない, Hepburn: Kubo-san wa Mobu o Yurusanai, Kubo Won’t Give Up the Mob (Is Me)) is the first of twelve volumes collecting Yukimori’s speculative fiction manga series. Prior to collection, it was serialized in Shueisha’s seinen manga magazine Weekly Young Jump from October 2019 to March 2023.
High school student Junta Shiraishi has turned being unremarkable into what would in other contexts be deemed a superpower. He is effectively invisible. Classmates speculate about his whereabouts in Junta’s presence. Even automatic doors have a hard time noticing Junta. Since Junta has no control over his lack of presence, his ability is more of a burden than a power.
Pretty and popular Nagisa Kubo has a curious immunity to Junta’s invisibility. This has consequences.
Her attention is caught when Junta snubs her, being unaccustomed be being greeted. She engages an astonished Junta in conversation and learns about Junta’s curious condition. Nagisa reacts as any schoolgirl would on learning that a schoolmate is involuntarily invisible, with SCIENCE! Or at least, experiments.
Determined to test the limits of Junta’s power, Nagisa encourages Junta to act outrageously in class. Just how eccentric can Junta be before those around him notice him? Is it possible there is no limit to his power, that no possible action on his part can force classmates to acknowledge his presence?
There are limits to Junta’s Not My Problem field1. There do not seem to be limits to Nagisa’s interest in Junta. Is this purely a matter of scientific curiosity and teenage love of wacky hijinks? Or is there some other motivation behind her interest in Junta?
Not to spoil things overmuch but there’s pretty much always some other motivation beyond Science! when two schoolmates are paired in a manga. Precisely why Nagisa’s romantic interest should fall on a boy so unremarkable is unclear2. As it happens, Nagisa has her own power, the power of romantic inarticulateness, which is probably why this was a twelve-volume series and not a one and done.
Luckily, Nagisa is not the only person immune to Junta’s power. His family can also see him, which is why he did not starve to death as a baby. As it is, one can only speculate at all the coping skills he must have to survive. How, for example, does he manage to cross roads without being run down?
I don’t think Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible lends itself to volume-by-volume reviews, although I will be reading more volumes. The manga is relentlessly upbeat and charming; the highest stakes here are teens being mildly embarrassed as they flail away at romance.
Kubo Won’t Let Me Be Invisible, Volume One is available here (Amazon US), here (Amazon Canada), here (Amazon UK), here (Apple Books), here (Barnes & Noble), and here (Chapters-Indigo).
1: Those limits are well short of having to dismember classmates. Suddenly I am very happy this manga is by Nene Yukimori and not, say, Junji Ito.
2: The ability of women to perceive virtue in the most unremarkable of males is of course an ability on which the continued existence of the human race depends.