There are many stories about tomboys, girls with boyish tendencies, but what about the opposite? In fact, what would you call a boy with girly interests? The manga answer is: Otomen!
For those unfamiliar with this series by Aya Kanno, “otomen” is a play on the Japanese word otome (乙女), meaning “young lady” or “mistress,” and the English word “men.” The plot centers around Asuka Masamune, the manliest guy in his high school. However, he has a secret: the things he really loves are sweets, shojo manga, and sewing. He hides this part of his life from everyone until he meets Ryo Miyakozuka, the least feminine girl in school. Volume 13 of the series has just come out and you can read on for the review! (For those interested, you can click here for my reviews of earlier volumes).
Back Cover Blurb
Ryo ends up coaching a high school judo team, but women aren’t allowed at that school! She finds a way around this obstacle, but the real challenge comes when she finds herself facing off against… Asuka?!
With Asuka finally aware of his dad’s true identity, that leaves Kiyomi Masamune’s anti-otomen attitude and Asuka’s never-quite-dating relationship with Ryo as the main plot drivers for this series. In regard to the Asuka/Ryo romance, it’s been dragging for a while. In Volume 13′s opening chapter, even Ryo’s family expresses concern over the lack of progress between her and Asuka. For readers who’ve been feeling frustrated, Kanno-sensei finally delivers with a Ryo-centered arc in this volume.
The story’s set up to create tension between the couple when Ryo starts coaching judo at Odo Boys’ School but doesn’t tell Asuka. Yet despite Juta’s suspicions and the Odo team captain’s crush, you never really feel that Asuka’s relationship with Ryo is in any real danger, especially when Asuka immediately recognizes the “suspicious boy at Ryo’s house” to be Ryo herself, but it does push Asuka into mopey mode as he wonders if there’s truly anything between him and Ryo.
Ryo for the most part is oblivious–as usual–to the feelings of the men around her, but even she comes to the realization that her actions may have hurt Asuka’s feelings. The resolution is almost a parody of shonen “communicating through fists” with the two of them determined to “clash head-on” in the Odo-Ginyuri judo match. Fortunately for the romantics, a last-minute development changes the match from that of a couple wanting to work things out to a duel between boys interested in the same girl. And when Ryo finally does make up with Asuka, she does it in an unexpectedly romantic way. Sadly, Kanno-sensei cuts that scene short, keeping us from seeing Asuka’s response to Ryo’s Christmas gift, but she makes up for it with a Valentine’s Day chapter guaranteed to delight Asuka/Ryo fans.
Finally, progress in Asuka’s relationship with Ryo! Kanno-sensei takes her time getting to it, working around a plot that has Ryo cross-dressing in order to coach a boys’ judo team, but readers get real confirmation of Ryo’s feelings toward Asuka at last. However, Ryo/Asuka fans will be even more thrilled with Asuka’s Valentine’s Day gift at the end of the volume!
First published at the Fandom Post.