Smoking Behind The Supermarket With You Volume 1: Turning Heads



Considering its success and undeniably popularity, I’m sure to catch a lot of flack, but I think that if there were a Jinushi series to praise… it wouldn’t be Smoking Behind The Supermarket With You. Yes, I did say that and I’ll stand by my gut in saying that Jinushi has put more effort and creativity into their work on Activity Report of Anti Exorcism Division Sixth Sense Department, From Tensei Ciry Rinne Ward Office. I can definitely say though, that the former work stands head and shoulders above the latter in terms of naming sense. Regardless, I’ll establish my argument later, right now I want to talk about the present and the release of this series.

Smoking Behind The Supermarket With You has quite the interesting history. Jinushi originally started serializing Rokurei (that series with the long name) before this one, but after some feedback from their editor created a one-shot for Smoking Behind The Supermarket, which in turn blew up. The first chapter was posted on Twitter, and ending up landing over 190,000 likes in the span of a couple of months. Back in June, after the initial pandemonium around the series levelled out a bit, Jinushi was by TheTV, a JP news platform. It’s an interesting interview, and provides a lot of context (even though it’s in Japanese), so I definitely recommend checking it out. Regardless, this was a very big and surprising release for Jinushi, and it went on to win the 2022 Next Manga Award for web manga, and placed very highly in a number of other awards and rankings. So, ultimately the question then shifts from which of Jinushi’s works are better to, has Smoking Behind The Supermarket With You earned its accolades and reception?

The best way to examine that is by breaking apart this first volume- which is disappointingly yet understandably not printed in Square Enix’s higher end format/style. Anyways, episodic manga is not much of anything new to fans of the medium. Chapters that remain self-contained, yet all the while contribute to an overall narrative are undeniably the bread and butter of countless fan favorite and well received series (take ‘Tis Time For Torture, Princess which has an anime airing this season).

The larger question posed is whether or not series are able to maximize that approach to creation, and there’s a lot of aspects that contribute to being able to succeed. On the plus side, I believe that Jinushi’s character designs for Smoking Behind The Supermarket With You contribute to that success. Flexible, fun, and very unique, they offer plenty of expression and style that’s able to keep very same-y interactions refreshing and engaging. Even further is Jinushi’s ingenuity in regards to said designs. Sasaki, the middle-aged office worker, is rather restricted due to their suit that they find themselves stuck in thanks to work. It can quickly become stale looking at all the same designs when the clothing isn’t much to write home about, but Jinushi understands that and is able to create circumstances where we find Sasaki in atypical clothing for the salaryman.

More impressive however, is Tayama/Yamada’s design. Though, for those that don’t quite understand how the two names exist, allow me to quickly explain. The kanji for ‘da’ in Yamada’s name has multiple readings, which typically depend on where the kanji appears in the word. When it’s the first, it’s read as ‘Ta’, but if it’s further into a word it’s typically read as ‘da’. Explanation aside, Tayama’s design is a really great antithesis to the limitations provided by Yamada’s. Where a uniform restricts Yamada, Tayama remains stylistically free- aside from a few character defining aspects. The first of which is the classic leather jacket that you see Tayama wrapped in on the cover. The sneakiest and most enjoyable bit however is Tayama’s choker. It definitely fits with her style, but more important than that it’s the key to hiding her identity. You see, Yamada has a beauty mark on her neck, right where Tayama places her choker. Very sneaky stuff, but very fun all the same and a great example of Jinushi’s creativity despite the apparent restrictions.

So, the designs are good, and by association the art is good… right? Well, I’d say yes and no. I think there’s definitely some strong pieces, but I think that the weight of two ongoing series can definitely be felt in Smoking Behind The Supermarket With You. Shadows are often missing from characters and objects, and environments are used sparingly and even then are typically partially drawn. Not that it’s bad, but that it objectively is missing a lot of what is present in Jinushi’s Rokurei. Though in both cases, I think that Jinushi is expressing a lot of traits of a beginner in the manga world, and that’s perfectly fine. There’s a decided lack of confidence in presentation between both, though Rokurei edges this series out exclusively due to nature. Similarly, they work very hard to ensure that there’s no boxy panels in their layouts, but because of that their trapezoidal and angled panels can become a little tiresome.

Though I think where that lack of confidence really shows in Jinushi’s art and layouts is their nature. Sasaki and Tayama’s candid relationship and conversation truly lends itself to a melodramatic feel and experience, but the art and appeal feels devoid of that idea for the most part. Plenty of the closeups and more detailed interactions from Tayama exhibit that feeling, but overall the work feels lacking. Where’s the long shadows, the angles and space that displays both the proximity of the pair and their isolation from the outside world? The sheer romanticism that is synonymous with cigarettes and smoking? It smacks of missed opportunity, and a willingness to settle for the status quo that frankly upsets me. It’s a childish thing to say, I know, but I just find that when there’s such potential thrown in my face it’s a little hard to accept the “average” for these types of episodic stories. Thankfully though, it’s about the most scathing criticism I have to share- for the art.

With That, We’re Left With Story

It’s been a long road to get here, and the conclusion might leave some readers annoyed, but I have to simply say it: Smoking Behind The Supermarket With You’s story is simply good. It’s comfortable in its episodic nature, it doesn’t feel an intense desire to get a rise out of its characters, or to really mess with the status quo all that deeply. It’s comfortable with exploring ideas within the constraints of its style, but it’s far from some of the stronger episodic manga that I’ve read, which is a bit of a shame. Sasaki and Tayama have some solid chemistry, and there’s a lot of potential in their relationship with how they’re able to soothe one another and offer a reprieve from reality- if only for a brief moment behind a supermarket.

I just can’t shake the missed potential in that regard. Maybe it’ll happen further down the road, and maybe I’m just getting impatient because of the pacing of this first volume. But in spite of both of those notions, I think my point stands. I think Jinushi is a little wary of venturing too far out of this box they’ve formed for themselves, concerned of what may happen if they stray too far or if they take a wrong step. I think that’s perfectly natural and understandable, but it’s something that I really wish they were able to combat. Confidence doesn’t always come naturally, and sometimes success can even make it harder. Regardless of that challenge though, it remains important to call things as they stand. Smoking Behind The Supermarket With You is a series that has a lot of potential. It’s a sign of the ability and creativity that Jinushi possesses, plain and simple. However, several challenges that I’ve laid out in this review lay in front of them. Whether or not they can overcome them and find true success with Smoking Behind The Supermarket With You is yet to be known, but I’ll remain hopeful. As of right now though? I can understand where the hype and reception come from, but I think it falls a good bit short in living up to its accolades.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.