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A comic shows a girl acting as a villager who has to watch a young girl die Image: Viz Media

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Act-Age turns making movies into edge-of-your-seat blowout battles

The entertainment industry is a battlefield, but not in the way you think it is

Act-Age, a manga about a girl trying to become an actor, is not your typical premise for a Weekly Shonen Jump series. But the series’ outstanding popularity is proof that there can be way more to the shonen genre than good guys punching bad guys (Though there’s nothing wrong with that, either. One Piece fans rise up).

With the first volume of the manga finally hitting shelves in English this week, we thought it would be a good time to take a deeper dive into what makes Act-Age so appealing.

Who makes Act-Age?

Act-Age is written by Tatsuya Matsuki and illustrated by Shiro Usazaki. It’s the duo’s first serialized manga, making the quality of the series all the more impressive.

What is Act-Age about?

Kei Yonagi is a rookie actor who has mastered method acting, to the point that she sometimes loses her ability to see the difference between the real world and a movie production. So she goes a little bit feral, overly emotional, or angry — that’s what makes her such a good actor!

The story begins when a peculiar director discovers Yonagi and thrusts her into the world of acting. She has to figure out how to control her method acting, while learning other acting strategies from her rivals. Each arc focuses on Yonagi in a new job in a new situation, where she has to adapt and learn in order to outshine her costars.

Is this really that big of a departure from classic shounen?

Shonen manga isn’t always manga about young boys fighting superpowered villains. Sports manga like Haikyuu!! and The Prince of Tennis have always put an action-packed lens over activities that might not seem as exciting as a battle between ninjas. Even series like Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma and Bakuman showed readers that there are exciting battles in cooking and writing manga, respectively. Act-Age does that exact thing, but with the entertainment industry.

Is Act-Age good?

Yes. Act-Age might not be about a person trying to become the strongest fighter around, but it applies that story hook — of characters who grow incrementally more powerful with each plot line and can reveal shocking new abilities at any moment — to turn something as quiet as “acting” into an all-out action.

Act-Age is not a realistic depiction of the entertainment industry, but it never claims to be. Mundane ideas like “a girl filming a commercial where she cooks” are turned into explosive battle scenes. The exaggeration reminds me of the weirdly fake action basketball you’d see in Kuroko’s Basketball, but it’s never too over the top. Usazaki’s art complements Matsuki’s story so well that it takes a while before you realize how wild the scene you just read was.

And Matsuki’s characters are all likeable and earnest, without a real villain. The stars of the comic are really just trying to be the best actor around. Even if Yonagi doesn’t have any costars to actually “fight” against, she’s battling against herself, learning how to turn her past into a weapon for acting.

One panel that popped

Kei Yonagi taste tests a sauce with a dreamy expression on her face in chapter 2 of Act-Age Image: Viz Media

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