& (and) by Okazaki Mari


“The moment we held hands for the first time, I understood–
I’m sorry, but I don’t love you.”

There are two manga that I absolutely adore, but are inexplicably absent from my blog:  Natsuyuki Rendezvous and &.  What do they have in common?  The strength of these manga is that the artwork itself conveys the story and emotion.  In & in particular, the most important exchanges between characters involve no words.  And it’s done so well that you get it and feel it.  Beautiful, but perhaps hard to explain using this medium.  So I’m settling for an image heavy glance at what & has to offer instead.

Aoki Kaoru is a 26 year old woman who has never had a boyfriend.  Her severe adversity to physical touch causes misunderstandings and as a result, she keeps others at a distance.  Normally unattached and unmotivated in her own life, Kaoru decides to start up a nail salon as a side business in addition to her regular job as a medical clerk.  She stumbles across an old college underclassman friend, Shiro, and convinces him to loan her space in his own business’s building. Shiro is very talented, handsome, has liked Kaoru this whole time, is a bit awkward, but somewhat endearing.  It’s a standard setup for an incredibly…. boring and predictable romance story.  And it’s not why we’re here.

This is why we’re here.

Yagai Kouga is a 45 year old doctor that works at Kaoru’s hospital.  Yagai is a talented, but infamous doctor.  He’s blunt, arrogant, and a bit crude, but still manages to command the respect of others.  He’s just not exactly the refined, older gentleman that you’d expect in a romance manga.

“Why don’t you go do your job or get pregnant or something?!”

What starts as Yagai merely teasing Kaoru develops into something else–what exactly that is neither party can identify (or refuse to admit!).  In spite of his sometimes jerk-ish and childish behavior, there’s something that draws you in.  He’s rude, ornery, but also sweet, vulnerable, and fabulous.  Kaoru’s fascination grips you and drives the very powerful chemistry and body language between the two.

& is all about touch:  people who hate being touched, people too scared to touch, people learning to communicate through touch, people suppressing the desire to touch… this is where & comes alive.

As you can see above, Shiro gets Kaoru’s typical icy physical response.  But this literally melts away when she tries to identify the growing, but very foreign feelings towards Yagai–desire, passion, love?

It’s all about the flow of the panels and the tense atmosphere between the two.

This page *kills* me. His initial frown, followed by a very unconvincing “no.” A blush creeps in, unseen by her. He is the king of mixed signals–both to her and himself.

Yagai has his own reasons for pulling away, even though it is obvious he’s denying himself something he really wants–and a partner who is more than willing.  He pushes her away, insisting it’s just mutual physical attraction between the two.  Kaoru doesn’t care what he calls it as long as she can experience more.  Thankfully, we get to watch that!

Only Yagai-sensei can make a kiss on a bike with a little basket this hot.  He then bikes them to a hotel.  LIKE A BOSS

Again, it’s the art that does the talking between the two, so here’s a bit more.  This particular scene literally went on for an entire chapter and drove me into a frenzy!

But then it all comes to a grinding halt.  And not the good kind~  Yagai is afraid she actually cares for him and flatly rejects her as a result.  At the same time, he can’t completely pull away and continues to draw her attention, basically taking her feelings for granted while not being honest about his own.  Kaoru herself is frustrated, not knowing how to resolve these unfamiliar desires and emotions.  All the while, is Shiro planning a comeback?  Yagai better get it together and fast.

Torture, pure torture.  GTFO, Shiro D:

If you can’t tell by now, I absolutely adore this manga.  Having one of the hottest oyaji out there certainly helps.  I’m also emotionally invested in the characters–I will FLIP out if it doesn’t work out between Yagai and Kaoru.  FLIP.  It will be a while though–it sounds like Volume 3 (not due out for months) will focus on Shiro becoming a true threat.  But this is admittedly necessary so Yagai can emerge from his own rut–before it’s too late.

43 responses to “& (and) by Okazaki Mari

  1. That man’s a pretty hot oyaji… :’D

    • Yes, yes he is! He drives me crazy! I’m glad I’m not the only one that thinks he’s hot. It makes me a little less crazy :3

      • Oh no, you’re not crazy at all! 😀 Or, if you are, I guess I’m in that lump with you, ahaha. I’ve been thinking about that little thought ever since you posted the magazine cover featuring & several posts back. 😉 You’ve got good eyes!

    • Thanks, I’m glad you also caught onto his appeal. 😀 I couldn’t help myself and have a few more pics of him on my tumblr, like here and here.

      • Ahahaha, thanks! xD I especially like the second one, could almost swear he’s about to eat her until the last small panel. 😛 *stalks you on tumblr too* >_>; As you can probably tell, I don’t have much to do…

  2. Well goddamn almost makes me want to do some shoujo! that was an amazing post thank you ❤


  3. So how come you never read anything good? I looked at your MAL and you have a metric ton of stuff under your belt, but almost all of it is shoujo garbage and you have apparently not touched anything in the top 100 list.

    • Normally I don’t tolerate anonymous little shits like you, but you use MAL’s ratings as a gauge for good manga? That’s so cute.

      I hope you realize your comments need approval and I let the first one through to give you a friendly shoo/boot in the ass. So crawl back to your festering little corner on MAL. The fact that you consider a list of what’s popular on an English speaking site about Japanese manga, most of which is untranslated, as the ultimate source/”staples” is hilarious. I have a number of the top 100 titles on my list.. many of which, I don’t actually like at all. Maybe you should think for yourself when it comes to reading instead of letting others, often with questionable taste, decide for you. There’s a lot out there you have no clue about, but it would obviously be wasted on you anyway.

  4. Pingback: Natsuyuki Rendezvous by Kawachi Haruka | the manga habit

  5. I love this oyaji too. I think I loved it before when I saw it on your pics but he does look even more sexy now 🙂
    I tried to read another manga by the same author and it was very weird but artsy, this looks more even better though.
    When you described Yagai I couldn’t stop thinking about House M.D. XD. I know, they are different, but that first paragraph got me like that.

    BTW, you kick ass! At the risk of sounding like your fan-girl, I better prostrate at your feet. Thank you for the great post.

    • Hi Queen 🙂 Thanks and good to see ya!

      Actually, you’re not alone about the similarity to House. Physically, they look alike and my impression is that Yagai is basically a very diluted, toned down version of House. The utter arrogance and chronic pain/pain-killer problems are not present, so Yagai doesn’t have the same extreme, self-destructive nature. But Yagai still reminds me of him (the bold, hot oyaji doctor~). According to an interview, there’s a real live model for Yagai out there—I want to meeeeet him. :-p

      I’ve only browsed through her other works—I hear good things about Suppli, but am hesitant due to it being 9 volumes with no furigana. I’ve only poked around some of her older stuff.. I agree that & looks to be the most impressive to date by far!

  6. Pingback: Oyaji Romance Manga Selections | the manga habit

  7. This is why a join the Oyaji club. XD I haven’t really read any of Okazaki’s stuff, but I’m certainly looking forward of reading &. And do you know any josei series featuring older gentlemen? I tried to look at the club, but too much BL is not my cup of tea (even though I do love a certain manga called Eroica). D:

    • The josei series with older guys I know I already pretty much covered in the club/on my oyaji romance page here. There’s not a whole lot, honestly. BL sadly is the best genre in terms of giving old dudes a crack at being a main character. But yeeeah, Eroica.. the BL undertones are just a small part of Dorian’s romantic self 😀

      • Ah, yes, I didn’t see the recommendations in the upper right side of this blog. I was interested at Otoko no Isshou, although I couldn’t read the raw version with my rather limited Japanese. Thank you though! 😀

        By the way, I also enjoy your Kawachi Haruka posts. The lack of scanlation/series licensing is really sad. She’s become one of my favorite mangaka.

    • NP 🙂 Thanks–Kawachi Haruka needs more attention. It’s scandalous that her stuff is not regularly translated. I’ve been reading her for 2 years at most and she’s already one of my favorite mangaka. Everything she writes is brilliant and different from her previous work. So here’s to hoping she gets the love (in English) that she deserves!

  8. where can i read this because i cant find it on the internet

    • I’m tired of these comments, so I’m not immediately trashing this one. It should be PAINFULLY obvious if someone bothered looking around my blog for 1 minute that I BUY everything on here. But apparently you didn’t and/or felt the need to ignore my signs and pleas not to ask me where to download something. You *can* find it on the internet, but it’s a Japanese manga that requires *purchasing* to read it. That is how I read it and it’s the only currently available method. Even if it wasn’t, a quick Google search would clear this up and you don’t need to bug me about it. I don’t have some magical repository of translated, free manga no one else has. So deal I guess. But not here.

  9. Hello :D! It’s the first time I’ve stumbled on your blog (by searching for information on Okazaki Mari) and I LOVE IT 8DDDDD!! I also watchedy ou on Tumblr = w =.
    & looks so interesting!! And you make me want to read it so much AJSFLHAKSFHK OTL. But I don’t know Japanese so… QQ
    I’ve read Suppli up to volume 8 and it’s REAAALLY GOOOOD. Just like &, the art talks for the characters and I love how there’s multiple pairings, and they’re all very interesting. You should really read it : D!!

    • Hi 🙂 I’m glad you’ve found the blog interesting. :3 & is a great manga. I’ve mean meaning to get Suppli for a while and skipped onto & first.. I’ll get it some day! It sounds great.

  10. This is very, very, very pretty art. If only I could read more Japanese…it’s stuff like this that makes me want to see more in the josei genre.

  11. So is Yagai/Kaoru the manga’s endgame couple? If that’s the case I want to know because I’d like to stop wasting my time on it. A lot of people seem to like Yagai but he just isn’t appealing to me, I much prefer Shiro.

    • I’m guessing it is? There’s a lot to overcome before that happens and the mangaka is not going to make this easy on us.. or the characters I should say.

      But I have to say, if only that qualifies this manga as a “waste of time,” I think you’re not focusing on the strength and beauty of its story, characters, and art. Even if it didn’t work out between Yagai/Kaoru, while it would break my heart on their behalf, I wouldn’t consider it a “waste” of my time as these things are more about the development/journey versus the endgame. So many manga have shitty endings or don’t go in the direction I’d want anyway.. I feel like I wouldn’t get to read anything decent with that qualification.

      • It’s not “only that”. this manga is one of those that isn’t all that appealing to me in the first place. It’s a decent manga, not extemely good but not bad either. I like the heroine and I like Shiro but it hasn’t really grabbed my interest like other manga have.

        This is just a manga I’ll read when I don’t have any other to read. If it’s not going the way I want it to (which is not necessarily Shiro/Kaoru but rather the exclusion of Yagai who, for some reason, annoys me terribly) I see no reason to continue.

        There are many other mangas out there that might suit me better and I prefer to look for them than spend time reading a manga that I’m not too invested in where a character I dislike is given too much ‘screentime’ for my liking. Hence the “waste my time” comment.

  12. Wow, an oyaji love interest in a shoujo manga! I’m pleasantly surprised to see this. This sort of scenario seems pretty uncommon [compared to other situations in manga], but recently, I’ve found myself sort of gravitating towards stories like these ;;

    And there’s a group scanlating it too! Oh my, I must check this out * A *

    • I was excited too! Such a rare treat and it’s adorable so far. I’m glad it’s getting translated and can’t wait until a paper volume is released. I’d love to see this type of scenario more in shoujo manga.

  13. I just can’t understand why Mari Okazaki’s work is so hard to find in translation in the US. She’s one of the few josei artists that produces work for real adults with normal IQs. Suppli is my favorite manga by far and I’ve been searching hi-and-lo for a translation of “&” into English, French or Spanish. Scanlations take forever! Help! Anyone?

  14. Oh my goodness, I’ve fallen in love with this manga O.O I love both of the potential love interests and personally it doesn’t matter to me who gets the girl at this point. The oyaji’s crooked, yet seemingly uncanny facade justs pulls me right in. He’s so asdfghjk~~ ❤ . Each character is also very unique. Alas, I have yet to learn any sort of proper Japanese literature, so buying them is kinda out of the question. I'm dying, I need to read it boo. ;__; I'm trying to find romance with some characters (Oyajis :D) similar to Yagai, and recommendations?

    • Yagai is a pretty special beast, which is why I love & so much. Many oyaji in romance stories are the loveable, yet self deprecating type that just need a second chance. Yagai is feisty, yet guilt ridden when others aren’t looking. Arrogant, yet encourages and praises Kaoru with a matter-of-fact attitude. For similar writing, I’d probably go to Nishi Keiko’s men. There’s Otoko no Isshou (he’s like a less bratty Yagai, ha), Nakajima Nakajima (emphasis on the bratty, arrogant side), and Koi to Gunkan (Sasha isn’t so different from Yagai).

      Also, if you haven’t read Ojikoi, go for that. It looks like Amatsu Sora Naru will come out in English at some point, so watch for that title.

  15. OMG! I’m all for Yagai-sensei~~~~~ ❤

    Thanks for the summary~

  16. Where can I find the Japanese raws? I’ve been studying a bit just for manga like this one!! It’s great!

  17. GUAHHH!!!~~~ & = best josei I read for a long time!!! > A A<

  18. I adore this manga! I just stumbled on OKAZAKI Mari and have been trying to stalker her on social media. Loved your review/ synopsis. So hard to find okazaki mari lovers.

  19. I travelled to Japan last fall and I came across ‘&’ while strolling through a mangastore. I was instantly drawn in by the artwork and so I bought the first two volumes on a whim. Since my Japanese is pretty limited, it’s quite a challenge to translate and every single page is another battle. 😀 But it’s so worth it! And I don’t mind not getting every single detail because as you said the artwork conveys the emotion so well – i found myself covered in goosebumps several times. 😀 Oh and by the way: Team Yagai all the way! Who on earth would want Kaoru to be with Geek Boy??? However, I just started reading Vol 5 so I expect a lot of heartbreak still to come… *sigh*

    • It really is a beautiful manga. So that was a great impulse buy! That’s how I find a lot of my treasures too.

      The art is great at evoking emotion. There’s a heartbreaking scene you’ll see at the end of Volume 7 and you can just see that character’s world shatter with no words spoken. Love it.

      Yes, you’re far enough to see how there’s only one team in play in this manga–Team Yagai! There’s zero chemistry between her and Shiro. It’s so boring with no emotional or physical sparks. Gross. Most people I’ve seen root for Shiro haven’t read very far to understand who he is or see their “relationship.” There’s quite a few of them though! There’s a thread that linked me on mangafox that I’ll check every now and then http://forums.mangafox.me/threads/341308-%28spoilers%29-Shiro-vs-Yagai-sensei Funny how a number of early posts are like “eeeew gross old man!!” But you know, it’s mangafox.. so yeah. They are the ones who are ultimately going to experience heartbreak >:-)

      • Well, for younger readers it’s probably hard to appreciate the appeal of a (hot) middle-aged tsundere. 😀 But how one can prefer and root for the socially retarded stalker guy is beyond my imagination. Maybe because I know too many guys of that type myself… XD But I guess I’m a bit hard on Shiro-chan. Deep inside he’s a decent guy. And clinging to an unrequited love is not a nice state to be in. Anyways, I’m really looking forward to what’s still to come. I’m pretty much a late bloomer when it comes to manga and waaay past teenage so it’s nice to find a story with some depth that does not need to rely on crazy plot twists or filler storylines stretched out over endless volumes…

  20. I too want her to end up with yagai…he’s really hot for an older dude that’s for sure! I’ve cheated and looked at the very last chapter and…haha I kinda get the gist of what’s going on but if I say anymore I’ll be slaughtered for daring to utter a possible spoiler lol I will say that…Spoiler!!!! I just can’t help myself lol i am horribly dissapointed in that last chapter like it hurts so much lol We do see her and yagai holding hands with their backs to us but…it very well may be a flashback that he’s thinking about since on the previous page he was thinking back at all their other mems. Yeah so appatently she gets no one and that sucks sooooo bad. Why label it a romance if in the end shes alone? I’m praying I’ve misread everything and that’s really them at the end though…in the two extras we see yagai breifly and heroine however never together. Very last page of second extra ahows heroine looking really sad then it says & the end so that just obliterated all hope for me 😦

  21. really love this.. but doesnt have enough scanlated chapters in manga sites.. i feel bad for shiro but then the heart wants what it wants, so Yagai wins. this one is also a change of my reading pace for me..

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