Is Love the Answer? A Manga Review

Is love the answer or is it the question? The standalone manga Is Love the Answer? by Uta Isaki explores what love and sex mean for college-age Chika in this coming-of-age tale featuring aromantic asexual representation.

The cover of Is Love the Answer? by Uta Isaki

The manga opens with a glimpse into Chika’s struggles among her peers during her high school years. While her gal friends and male friends pressure her to date, form romantic obsessions, and physically hook up with boys, Chika feels incredibly distant and even alien, envisioning herself as floating in space and observing them from afar. She doesn’t understand the feelings her classmates describe, nor does she have any remote interest in this behavior. After a few emotional vignettes, the manga jumps ahead to Chika’s first days at university, during which she encounters a psychology professor whose work she’s read and admired. Their conversation changes her perspective, as Chika pours out her heart on a shared train ride and the professor opens Chika’s mind to new possibilities, such as rejecting romantic and sexual cultural “norms.” Thereafter, Chika embarks on a journey of self-discovery and new friendships, finally beginning to understand herself for who she is.

I’m happy to report that this is a great read! It features a variety of characters, a fairly in-depth look at asexuality, and found family vibes.

However, reader be warned (and the manga does provide a content warning for this on the table of contents): in some of the opening pages, a character commits sexual misconduct. It is brief and the only instance that occurs in the book, but it may be jarring for some readers.

The asexual representation in this book is pretty strong and well-done. Although the first definition of asexual that Chika encounters online is not quite correct (stating “not experiencing sexual attraction to others regardless of gender,” which is true, but then adding “and having no interest in or desire for sexual intimacy,” which is not true), it is later corrected with an accurate definition. Other identities that fall under the ace umbrella are also mentioned and defined, such as demisexual and graysexual. Chika, who identifies as aromantic and asexual, values these terms as a way representing her orientation, but also asserts that they do not fully define her nor do they entirely capture the nuance of her individual experience; rather, they work for her at the moment, and she feels good about claiming them. In addition to this, I also appreciate that Chika befriends other ace characters whose experiences depict different ways of being ace. For example, there are aces with different romantic orientations and relationships with sex. In one excellent scene, the professor delivers a poignant monologue, stating:

Picture of excerpt from Is Love the Answer? in which the professor says the quote below the picture

You don’t have to conform to some generic idea of what asexuality is. If you think you’re asexual, that’s enough.

Is Love the Answer? by Uta Isaki page 147

It was gratifying to read about a cast of ace characters who all varied yet supported one another. There were important discussions about relationship expectations, treatment towards aces, and self-identity. Indeed, some characters do make disparaging remarks towards Chika when she tells them she’s ace, such as comments that she cannot claim she doesn’t like sex if she’s never had it. As unfortunate as it is that these reactions mirror much of society’s belittlement of asexuality, rest assured that these characters do take accountability for their harmful words and apologize sincerely. At the end of the manga, the creator included a page detailing Chika’s aromantic and asexual orientations, including a note explaining the thought process that went into crafting Chika’s identity. So, I’d say that the asexual representation is well-done and nuanced.

While reading, I felt that the ending of this was rather abrupt. I was unaware that this is a standalone until after finishing it, and the conclusion felt especially sudden to me. There were some aspects that were lacking as well, such as the “school” element (which feels nonexistent), but it felt acceptable that this was a trade-off for the stellar ace rep. One last small criticism is that the speech bubbles were occasionally confusing, with the attribution arrow missing from many of them, leaving me wondering, “Who is saying this?” That aside though, this is a strong self-contained manga.

Readers who enjoy coming-of-age manga and aro-ace representation should certainly pick this one up.

If you like Is Love the Answer?, check out I Want to be a Wall volumes 1 and 2.


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