Play It Cool, Guys Vol. 1 by Kokone Nata (Play It Cool Guys / Cool Doji Danshi #1)
Publisher: Yen Press
Release Date: March 9, 2021
Available through The Book Depository
Translator: Amanda Haley / Lettering: Lys Blakeslee
Summary: Enter: a bunch of cool guys who look like they got that unapproachable swag. But let’s be real-that’s not the true them.
They’re just a bunch of dorks who’ve got the act down pat. So sit back, grab some popcorn and enjoy watching a bunch of goofy guys try to look cool all day every day.
My Rating: ★★★★☆
My Thoughts: Play It Cool, Guys tells a comedic, slice of life series of vignettes following 4 guys who present a calm, cool persona but in reality…are incredibly dorky and awkward! Showcasing full color artwork, this first volume is filled with wholesome, hilarious and interconnected stories that present relatable and heartwarming, clumsy characters!
I absolutely judged this book by its cover when the publisher first announced its acquisition of this series! Little known reader fact about me, but you set a slice of life story in front of me, then without a doubt I will have finished it cover to cover eager for more. There’s a quiet simplicity to stories such as these that feel relatable and also like escapism at the same time, which I love!
Kokone Nata introduces a mundane, yet equally silly story following 4 guys: Hayate Ichikura, Shun Futami, Takayuki Mima and Souma Shiki where each of them are perceived to have it all together, but the truth is they are constantly goofing up and making hilarious mistakes. Genuinely what makes this manga not only fun, but also quite brilliant is how the plot uses such average, typical day-to-day moments like paying for a snack, listening to music with headphones on a crowded bus to build the extreme, underlying awkwardness of the guys!
Each of the 4 characters are rather unaware of their clumsiness in the moment, but it’s through the differing situations where you learn more about how one is affected versus the other. Hayate, an introverted college student, is the one most embarrassed and tends to be left overthinking about his mistakes. Shun, a stoic high school student, is more willing to let his mistakes go on unaffecting him and reflects on it afterwards. Takayuki, an overworked businessman, goes unaware of his goofs and doesn’t let them bother him. Souma, an upbeat college student, tends to be more aware of his mistakes but looks at it in a more positive way and is the most optimistic of the group.
The budding friendship is subtle, but one of the strengths as well seeing how each of the guys unique personalities plays off the other or the rest of the characters in a fresh way. My favorite aspect of the characters was seeing how effortlessly they stand on their own despite and have their own quirks, despite a similar awkward situation befalling them each chapter. Across this first volume, every chapter ends with the guys crossing paths in some way which leads to a nice transition to the following vignette. Seeing their stories intertwine was a highlight and each story builds leaving you wondering what future adventure is headed their way next.
The plot however, comes to life through the brilliant, full-color artwork that evokes the style of old retro comics, which brings a vibrancy to the ambience, unique character designs and an added charm overall. The artwork has a minimalist look to it but the use of bright colors and geometric page layout makes everything stand out in a unique way!
While the concept surrounding this series is absolute genius, my only gripe is that it can feel like people’s reactions to the guys come off as the same or repetitive (seeing them as cute or silly, etc.). However, the exception I remember is for Souma when he helps out a fellow college classmate with her fashion photoshoot or when the guys interact with each other.
Also let me just share some of the *many awkward moments the guys go through: Standing at a crosswalk and forgetting to press the button, listening to music full blast without realizing the headphones aren’t even plugged in, or using a bendy straw backwards.
I enjoyed the immersive realism to the story and each setting comes to life on the page because of the fantastic artwork merging that with the relatability of the silly goof-ups, it made for a charming start to a manga series I’m eager to read more from!
Play It Cool Guys is a comedic, wholesome and slice of life manga perfect for anyone looking to read about average guys who in reality are always clumsy and bit dorky! Through a series of anthology-style vignettes that connect across each chapter, alongside the retro full-color artwork and quiet comedic story, Play It Cool Guys Vol. 1 is a fantastic start to a new manga series! ✨