Goze Hotaru: 10 Chapters Later



The simplest way I could explain how Goze Hotaru is faring after 10 chapters is with the following: it’s the only new manga that I’ve kept up with weekly since day one, this year. Pretty easy way of putting it, no? If that wasn’t clear enough, the answer is that Goze Hotaru (and by extension Kou Tosaya) is damn good, and for quite a few reasons. It has all the makings of a long term favorite for Shounen Jump+ and manages to do so without sacrificing even a little bit of itself in pursuit of that success. Allow me to explain.

One of my biggest criticisms of newer mangaka is their fear of knowledge. So many other major players that enter the Shounen Jump arena are spooked by its size and reach, shrinking back into themselves and slinking into the shadows. They have the impact to land themselves in that space, but many lack the confidence to back it up- which leads to excessive exposition. You’ll have flashback after flashback, wordy conversations one after another- all to clarify information that’s not entirely required to read the series. In a sense, it can certainly satisfy the lowest common denominator, but the result is an undeniably tiresome affair that quickly causes a work to lose steam. Goze Hotaru however? To it, the best questions are left unanswered- in words.

To the inverse of the newbie’s mindset, Tosaya sees knowledge as power– and power is earned, not given. They leave breadcrumbs and broken notes behind, hidden meanings in interactions and conversations. Goze Hotaru doesn’t leave readers blind like Hotaru or Sango, but similar to these girls, the possibility of Tosaya allowing them sight is there. It’s really quite interesting as so many pieces integral to the story exist separate from what Tosaya will explicitly tell you, instead relying on visual storytelling in more than just a few areas- a creative twist considering the limitations of the lead characters.

And boy oh boy, that visual storytelling is wonderful. Much like the cadence of Sango’s impossible to follow singing, Tosaya’s history of the Goze Hotaru follows a similarly wild pulse within. The early days focus on the challenges of leading a life as a blind person, quickly moving into Hotaru’s mentoring as a Goze while making a sharp pivot towards the goal of the story, and ultimately arriving at a point that adds a great deal of questions for the reader. It’s really, really impressive that Goze Hotaru could find so much space within the span of 10 chapters- and that’s without counting upon the creativity of storytelling within the manga. Tosaya’s use of song in relation to Hotaru as a character, and the story at large, is truly impressive. Hotaru’s emotional state influences how the reader sees the story, which is itself just a foil for an aspect of narrative development in the manga.

The greatest example of this (so far) came in chapter 10, for example. Here, we see the culmination of Sango and Hotaru’s butting of heads in an electric experience for the pair of them. It works wonders for Sango’s more flippant and “simple” character and it cracks the lid open on Hotaru’s as well. For the entirety of the series we’ve known that Hotaru’s passion is conveyed to the reader through sparkles that appear on the page- this chapter is different though. That passion becomes so strong, so involved, that a story doesn’t appear to a reader- in the usual sense. The passion of the moment is so strong that we get a proper flashback to Sango’s childhood, which is subsequently followed up by not one, but two color spreads in the chapter to signify Hotaru’s sparkling passion in the moment.

It’s work like this that directly challenges the knowledge the reader has of Goze Hotaru. Did you think that Sango and Hotaru might have been in the same boat? Sango’s flashback denies that possibility while offering another. Does this mean that the head Goze of the troupe, Oyuki-san, has a backstory like Sango’s… or something else? Could color in these sequences possibly mean something more? Could it be that Hotaru is able to see in some capacity through this passion? It’s a whirlwind of possibility, and one that could only happen when a mangaka has supreme confidence in their work.

Most impressively however, is how short this journey has been so far. In fact, this is the very first time that we’re seeing Hotaru actually perform in Goze Hotaru. As with every step the young Goze takes however, it’s done with incredible purpose- in this case, dragging out Sango’s backstory. Just look at previous developments to get a better understanding of Tosaya’s intense degree of planning. Back in chapters 3 and 4, Hotaru was tasked with finding strings for Oyuki-san- which she “successfully” did. In the process Hotaru’s resolve both reminds Oyuki-san of her past, and knocks Hotaru right out. After waking up however, she’s met with a lady that had previously met her father. Sheer coincidence, you would say… but, it remains planned from the perspective of Tosaya. It finds an emotional blow that’s able to transition into Oyuki-san’s past and setup an interaction that wouldn’t normally happen, forcing the plot of Hotaru’s journey forward. And there’s dozens of these examples throughout these 10 chapters. The easiest one to pick out is the rain of chapter 6, which Oyuki-san calls out as oddly uncharacteristic for the season. Of course, it just so happens that Hotaru falls and gets separated from the group, leading to quite a few different interactions.

All of these pieces and ideas and executions lead to the same conclusion- Goze Hotaru’s 10 chapters feel like much more than just 10. In the same sense, it also makes it feel like the manga could reach out until the end of time if its early days are this dense. Goze Hotaru might not end up a mega-hit or Shounen Jump best seller, but its creative impact as a series will be hard to understate in the years to come. It sports every talent under the sun within these 10 chapters- giving Mama Yuyu a run for its money with creative panelling, challenging new series like Centuria to a battle of quality, and going toe to toe with so many other series on so many other aspects. Out of everything running in Shounen Jump+ currently, Goze Hotaru is undeniably one of the most well-rounded series we’ve got.

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