Shy vol 1 by Bukimi Miki

SHY vol. 1-3
Writer/Artist: Bukimi Miki
Translator: Ajani Oloye
Lettering: Arbash Mughal
Publisher: Yen Press (print/digital)
Publication Dates: December 13, 2022 (vol. 1), March 21, 2023 (vol. 2), July 18, 2023 (vol. 3)
Rating: Teen
Genre: Manga (Japan), Superheroes, Drama, Comedy

Growing up in the ’90s, I was obsessed with anything and everything to do with superheroes. Spiderman and Batman in particular were two superheroes I consistently gravitated towards. As I grew into my early teens, my tastes began to shift towards series where the main characters faced less fantastical elements and more realistic ones. Oftentimes, these were also series with characters that faced personal issues, like social anxiety, which I could also relate to. At the same time, I also noticed that these themes were also less frequently found in my favorite Marvel or DC comics, novels, TV series, or movies.

Don’t get me wrong, there were also stories that had fantastical elements that I could also relate to, like that one about a young boy in a school for witches and wizards. Looking back now, there were obviously many superhero series that have the elements I was looking for. However, I also didn’t know which ones they were and couldn’t get my hands on the ones that I did know of.

It’s for that reason that when I first heard about the new Yen Press series SHY by Bukimi Miki, and found out that these themes were present in this superhero-focused manga, I knew it was something I just had to read. And sure enough, as soon as the first volume of Shy was released, I immediately picked it up, read it cover-to-cover, and enjoyed every second of it. The same thing happened when I got volumes two and three.

In Shy, we are introduced to a world in which only a few beings possess superpowers. When these abilities manifest in a person, that super-powered person then takes up the mantle as their home country’s Hero. These heroes act as their country’s valiant and brave peacekeepers and protectors, which gives them plenty of popularity and praise from their fellow citizens. This is true for most countries’ heroes, but not for Japan’s hero, the titular Shy. See, in Shy’s case, she suffers from severe social anxiety, negative body image, and has zero self-confidence, which greatly hampers her social media presence and makes her hero-ing duties a lot harder than it needs to be.

Japan’s hero, Shy has a crisis of confidence. SHY © 2019 by BUKIMI MIKI/AKITA SHOTEN

The majority of these issues are due to who Shy (Real Name: Teru Momijiyama) is as a person. That said, another key contributing factor for Shy’s difficulties is that unlike most of the world’s heroes who are adults, Teru is only a 14-year-old middle-school student. But despite dealing with near-constant, crippling anxiety, she also has a burning passion to help others. It’s this passion that helps get her through her toughest of times and is what makes her an inspiring character to follow.

Volume 2 Cover of Shy
Shy vol. 2 – SHY © 2019 by BUKIMI MIKI/AKITA SHOTEN

This exploration of superheroes’ personal issues aren’t limited to Shy, however, as we are introduced to many new side characters and fellow superheroes who are battling their own internal demons.

One example being Spirit, Russia’s hero. Spirit is a very cheery woman and often times mentor to Shy, who may or may not be in denial about her colleague’s alcoholism. While having the Russian hero have a tendency to consume a lot of vodka may sound tacky and almost stereotypical, discussions about this (and other issues) are actually handled by Miki with seriousness and tact.

In Shy Volume Two, we’re introduced to another hero who hides their disability very well. Teru makes a comment to them questioning why they “hate mountains and mountain climbing.” The hero then explains that they were relentlessly teased by kids their age; a revelation that confuses Teru at first. They then reveal that the teasing they received was due to having both of their legs amputated due to an accident  “a long time ago”. It was this teasing, bullying, and people telling them what they could and couldn’t do that pushed them to conquer their disability.

How a manga creator handles these sorts of delicate topics are things that could make or break the series for me, and likely for many others too. For example, in Komi Can’t Communicate, some fans don’t like how Komi’s social anxiety is treated as a comedic hook in the series when this is a serious issue they deal with in real life. Thankfully, Bukimi Miki handles these topics with the proper tact that I believe was needed.

These personal issues and how the characters handle them is the series’ core conflict. It’s these scenes surrounding these conflicts, is where Shy truly begins to shine. Being a fairly action-heavy shonen series, Shy does feature its fair share of battles. So far, they’ve all been drawn beautifully — featuring standout and aggressive sound effects, detailed backgrounds, and crisp, clean linework. The darker and heavier scenes in Shy also feature a much darker tone, and darker effects, while retaining the crisp linework.

Someone with some ill intentions appears. SHY © 2019 by BUKIMI MIKI/AKITA SHOTEN
Someone with some ill intentions appears. SHY © 2019 by BUKIMI MIKI/AKITA SHOTEN

It’s because of all this that Shy is quickly becoming one of my favorite current ongoing series. I find that the important topics it handles, in this fantastical world of superheroes makes it a very refreshing read. If this sounds like something you’d enjoy, I’d definitely recommend giving Shy a chance!

If you enjoyed this review, check out my other articles and reviews on The Beat!

Shy Vol. 1-3 by Bukimi Miki is available from Yen Press. In Japan, Shy just released its 20th volume, where it is serialized by Akita Shoten in Weekly Shonen Champion magazine.

The anime adaptation of Shy had its first episode’s debut on October 2, 2023 on Crunchyroll as part of its Fall 2023 season. You can view the official trailer below.