I play a lot of tabletop games, so one thing that I can easily recognize is a superficial theme, whether it’s on superb or deficient rules. Don’t get me wrong–a good theme can really sell a game by bringing together its diverse mechanics. A great example is Broom Service, which unites its strange mixture of bluffing and resource management with the conceit of brave and cowardly witches trying to deliver potions. Without the theme of witches, however, Broom Service would still be a pretty great game. By comparison, a superficial theme, say your generic movie tie-in game, looks layered on with a trowel despite whether the game is a compelling one that invites its gamers to play it more than once. (And that almost never happens.)

So after about twenty pages of reading Anonymous Noise Volume 1, I had a similar feeling regarding a musical theme that is heavily superimposed upon a manga that’s happier when playing the love triangle. However, it takes more skill to play the love triangle than it does to play its musical analogue, and creator Ryoko Fukuyama hits the right notes as she’s marking the trine between Nino and her two indispensable loves, Yuzu and Momo.

By this time, however, I did have the sense that I was suckered into a teen story with an invitation that promised rock and roll romance. Not that I don’t like the former as much as I like the latter; I have three long boxes full of Archie and Betty & Veronica comics that would tell on me if I lied. And Anonymous Noise compares pretty well to the teen genre–in terms of teen manga, while I don’t like it as much as My Love Story, I enjoy it more than Nisekoi. Still, there remains the unpleasant sense that the creator holds up a false yardstick for the reader. And if you’re expecting Anonymous Noise to measure up on the Rock and Roll Romance Yardstick, you’re going to be disappointed.

So while I’m going to give Anonymous Noise my recommendation, as it has a good story and likable characters, I do so with the caveat that the reader should go into Anonymous Noise with the sense that the manga is more of a straight love story, and its theme of music a completely dispensable one that could be easily replaced by magic, psychic powers, racecar driving, mech robots, or a candy shop. But while the musical theme is just packaging, you will probably still enjoy Anonymous Noise.

Anonymous Noise Volume 1 arrived in bookstores on March 7th, 2017, but if you find it sold out, you can buy it directly in print or digital through Viz Media.

Viz Media sent the review copy.

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