The Essence of Being a Muse Volume 1 Makes Dazzling Emotional Art

The Essence of Being a Muse Volume 1 caught me off guard with its emotional range. To say Miyuu Seno has self-esteem issues is an understatement. It’s about pursuing your passions but more, as she struggles to believe in herself with others around her putting her down. Expectations others heap on people—family in particular—can still impact a person years later. Though not laugh-out-loud hilarious, there are funny instances. Moreso, The Essence of Being a Muse Volume 1 is emotionally intense, hitting you in the feels with its familiarity.

Created by Aya Fumino, this gem—that I’d love to see adapted—starts with Miyuu experiencing rejection from the art school she wanted to attend. Translated by Ajani Oloye and lettered by Lys Blakeslee, the Yen Press manga shows her telling her mom as she climbs into the car. Then there’s a time skip of five years. It’s a twenty-three-year-old Miyuu the reader follows now. There are five chapters plus some extra content. Though Miyuu is the primary protagonist, the first volume also focuses on another character. I thought this guy was nothing more than a brief make-or-break moment for Miyuu.

The Essence of Being a Muse Volume 1 Takes a True-to-Life Look at Self-Doubt

Miyuu’s timidity has little to do with shyness. After all, on her group date with some coworkers, she meets Nabeshima and has no qualms about chatting with him. Her past is unclear, but she considers herself mediocre in every way; appearance, style, and art. What little is clear is how her mother treats her. Her mom is abusive and manipulative. Sadly, many people get their first crushing lesson in self-esteem at home—the place that should uplift them. If not, the school steps in to pick up the slack.

The Essence of Being a Muse Volume 1 displays how frail confidence and determination to change are. They are challenging to maintain. Sometimes, one small look or hurtful phrase can shatter it. It spills over to affect other interactions, making Miyuu apprehensive around others. But her fight to claim her life for herself is inspirational.

Perhaps a Love Triangle

The Essence of Being a Muse Volume 1 cover art of Miyuu in pink smiling tearfully with a canvas beside her and her suitcase behind her.
The Essence of Being a Muse Volume 1 cover art. Yen Press

A possible partner setup emerges with Miyuu, Nabeshima, and Souta. However, it seems far away because of Nabeshima. A “pale, pitiful imitation?” Really Nabeshima? This volume makes you want to slug Nabeshima after calling Miyuu that. After showing him as a detestable person, The Essence of Being a Muse Volume 1 goes into his past. It helps to understand him but does not change his actions. I think that’s why they included the additional snapshots at the end with him. Aya Fumino knew folks would hate him. Plus, the last thing Miyuu needs is someone tearing down the shaky foundation of confidence she’s trying to build.

Too many out there find joy in taking their significant other down a peg and reasoning be damned. As temperaments go, Souta’s is better because he supports Miyuu. He praises her art, and artistically inclined people need that. Miyuu, in particular, needs it as she embarks on a journey that has a whirlwind of change. Souta is kind. But I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. Miyuu does not need a relationship right now, regardless of her mom’s assertions. The best thing for Miyuu is to be single as she works on herself—getting to know Miyuu and challenging her.

The Essence of Being a Muse Volume 1 delves into finding yourself and battling the naysayers. It’s a touching tale corralling your emotions and affection for Miyuu. You hope for her success. Sweet, caring people deserve far more than people in the world allow. With hints of possible romance in the future, a young woman trekking on an unknown path, The Essence of Being a Muse Volume 1 wonderfully sets up a world worth reading.

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