So recently I finally got round to one of the many mangas I've had sitting on my hard-drive waiting to be read (as opposed to ones I buy, which is "anything I can buy" since I hate reading scans), and it was a doujinshi titled Masturbation Master Kurosawa (all sources refer to it as "Onani Master Kurosawa", but I have a bug in my ass about leaving in Japanese words so I won't do that, also I am aware of the hypocrisy in this given that I refer to Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei as such). When I first saw people talking about this, I naturally made assumptions based on the title and the pages posted.
What I was expecting initially:
Wank jokes, Death Note parody (it was sometimes referred to as "Fap Note", due to some obvious references early on, as seen above, and the fact that the protagonist looks and even acts a fair bit like Light).
However, as people talked about it a bit more (especially as translations got closer to the end of its four-volume run) I noticed readers saying that it was actually a coming-of-age story. To give the now overdue blurb, it centres on Kakeru Kurosawa, a solitary middle-school boy who, every day after school, masturbates in a seldom-used girl's toilet on the third floor, fueling this by fantasising about girls in his class. However, as things change, the story comes to focus on growing out of things and finding oneself, with bullying being a prominent theme.
What I was expecting at this point:
A coming-of-age story, that somehow starts with a loner fapping in a girl's toilet. I filed it away in the "To read" section of my mind, eventually downloaded it, and, just yesterday, finally got round to reading it.
What I eventually got:
I'm trying not to spoil too much, since it's honestly too good a story to spoil, but, even with my mended expectations, it still surprised me constantly. The story kept going in directions I didn't expect at all, but it was never the Code Geass style "asspull plot-twist for sheer what-the-fuck value", everything felt natural and carefully considered. Characters constantly defied stereotypes and clichés, and developed in completely believable ways. The artwork may look primitive but the writing and storytelling is brilliant, clearly produced by somebody with a real story to tell. Ultimately, it turned out to have more in common with Catcher in the Rye than Death Note (though it's been years and years since I actually read that so I don't know how precise this comparison is). I find it marred slightly by the "bonus" chapter, not because it's bad or irrelevant, but because I think the content would maybe have been better placed amongst the normal chapters, since the ending without it has considerably more impact. However, this is a minor quibble.
While I never really experienced true bullying at school, I found myself able to relate very well to one of the themes developed later in the story: that the awful things people may do or say as children can be either crucial to one's development, or end up not meaning all that much at all. Sometimes they can even seem to be both. All the events are so well-observed, though, that I'm sure almost anybody could find something specific they can relate to, and it's such a well-constructed story I'd recommend it to anybody regardless.
It's only four volumes so you've got no excuse! Go read it now!
(also I didn't think I would ever actually re-use that "bullying" label)