My Deer Friend Nokotan - Manga Overview (Vol. 1-3) (6/19/2024)

Any deer-ific fans of anime worth their weight in crackers will have heard some buzz around the upcoming anime adaptation of My Deer Friend Nokotan. Maybe you've taken the one hour endrance challenge with the theme song? With Wit Studio of Spy x Family fame at the helm, it's sure to be a blast! Honestly, I've been watching the trailers over and over since they started coming out. Just prior to that though, I picked up a few volumes of the manga released by Seven Seas. I just had to see what this cute deer girl was all about!

Deer Friend follows ex-deliquent Koshi Torako (Koshitan!) as her perfect high school life gets turned upside-down by, well, Nokotan! The exact nature of Nokotan's existence is a mystery, perhaps even to herself. She says she's a deer, and the rest comes down to whatever comedy demands. Deer Friend is a gag comedy first and foremost, leaving logic and reason behind at nearly all times. Despite the English title coming off as rather sweet, Nokotan and Koshi are a full on funny-deer straight-girl comedy team at odds with each other at every turn.

Other characters start to fill out the cast in Vols 2 and 3, with one or two exaggerated traits to be silly. There's Koshi's sister, Anko, who has some kind of sister complex and mellows out after feeling a fierce rivalry with Nokotan. Bashame is introduced at the end of volume three, who loves rice and wants to be a deer. That's it, that's the character. Wisely, though, there's juuuust enough sincerity between Nokotan and Koshitan as to not have the entire manga be completely divorced from any sense of reality. Sometimes Nokotan is a vulnerable, scared animal, with Koshi as her reluctant but kind caretaker, and othertimes Nokotan is some sort of unknowable eldrtich being or religious figure. Being on your toes is definitely part of the fun here, but it's really just the main two characters who have the dynamic to bring it consistently, at least thus far.

Despite a somewhat shallow cast, Deer Friend does manage to be funny. It's not like explosively funny or clever, mind you. A fair chunk of the manga is simply crazy happening and Koshitan's outlandish reaction. It's more about getting hit in the head with a baseball bat than cleverly playing on characters or situational jokes. Less slice-of-life, more wackiness. If this isn't your first comedy manga, you'll get the gist of the proceedings pretty quickly.

The dramatic faces great lettering to add some punch to the jokes., but the artwork goes beyond Koshitan's shocked face. Author Oshioshio does a great job with other visual gags, the best one being Nokotan's "ability" to morph between various renderings. The fewer lines that are used to depict her, the funnier, and this is something the anime has picked up on as well. Deer Friend can be big when it wants, with an over-the-top presentation that just wouldn't be the same in a 4-koma.

If there's an underlying theme or message in Deer Friend, I haven't seen it quite yet. I don't mean to harp on that point, but I just want to be clear about what the series is before anyone flakes on the upcoming anime. Speaking of...

The anime looks absolutely delightful. I'm a big proponent of comics as their own engaging medium that don't exist solely to be adapted into other things. That said though, I think some sound and motion will do a lot for this series. As of this writing, I only have trailers to go on, but they properly show off the extreme silliness and chaos that's in the book. With the one-hour endurance challenge already going semi-viral ( do we measure viral memes? Is anything real anymore?), I've got some hope as a deer-liker that it'll be a big hit this July.

Do I mostly read Deer Friend because Nokotan is cute? Yes. Am I still a fan? Also yes! If that's enough for me, I suspect most people will find something to enjoy in the manga. I highly recommend the official Seven Seas release for quality purposes, and you can get it cheaper digitally (like I did) if you're curious!

Deer ya' later!

- James