Ah, what a convoluted nightmare this manga is, but engaging at the same time. Nozoki Ana, which literally translates to peephole, is an erotic romance manga about an unwitting college student that finds himself blackmailed into playing a perverse game around a peephole with his neighbor. Kido, who is a pretty average guy, finds himself with an absurd amount of good luck with women. Like most guys, he just wants a happy relationship but ends up trapped in a psychological nightmare with the mysterious Emiru.
“In reality, relationships where you can’t show your true self – make you feel like even trivial matters might cause them to suddenly break. It’s scary…”
Nozoki Ana follows the duo through their friend group, their relationships with other people, and ultimately their strange friendship that is forged by their peeping on each other’s lives. It is a strange and questionable manga, drawing readers in with a wild premise that ends up developing into something more as the reader finds out more about the standoffish Emiru. Kido goes from various relationships, hookups, and other dangerous scenarios under the watchful eye of Emiru, as she orchestrates scenarios that force him into troublesome sexual encounters.
You want to root for Kido to get his act together and build a genuine relationship, or at least give in and get together with Emiru. The amount of cheating that happens in this manga is a serious turnoff and many readers end up understandably frustrated with the main character. Kido is a pushover for a majority of the series and seems to have a serious inability to say no when a girl comes onto him. The few times he does try to resist, he ends up attacked and placed into a situation where he can’t fight back in a few instances of attempted rape. Don’t worry though, Kido isn’t the only character that betrays others; betrayal is everywhere in this manga.
In a way, this manga was like an overly dramatized version of what dating life is like for college students, particularly in the current hookup culture that we live in. There were some surprisingly good takeaways about relationships and the horrible way that people treat each other that speak to true experiences. The story also took a bold turn with commentary about trauma and the ways in which a victim can own their trauma and learn to heal through the very thing that caused so much tragedy in their lives. I had very mixed feelings about this last part in particular; on one hand, it feels like a cheap and easy way to explain the peephole. On the other hand, it also gave me something to think about the ways in which victims of trauma interact with and come to terms with their issues.
I ended up enjoying this manga, despite the abundance of issues and frustrations with its plot and characters. Most of the characters had distinct personalities that I enjoyed, good and bad, and there are times where I found myself laughing and feeling heartbroken while reading. This manga won’t be for everyone, but it’s definitely an experience and I can see why this manga was so popular while it was still being serialized. I have to add also that I absolutely adore Emiru, she is one of my favorite characters from any manga series, so there’s that!
Warnings: explicit sex, violence, sexual assault